Animals, including dogs, can experience depression just as humans can. Several methods exist for figuring out if a person is depressed. They might stop eating or eat more to dull the pain. They may cry a lot more, perhaps even out of the blue. They may begin to isolate themselves, refusing to spend time with loved ones and even missing work. And they might say they’re sick to avoid answering our questions. Signs your dog is depressed are a bit different, though.
Even though our dogs don’t have a choice, that doesn’t mean they can’t be unhappy or depressed. There may not be as much scientific evidence of canine grief as there is of human grief (for understandable reasons), but there is still considerable anecdotal evidence. Stories like the one about the dog that goes into hibernation and spends his days sleeping in a dark cupboard after another dog in his pack die to seem more plausible. Some are more subtle, such as when a dog’s owner notices “moping” or “mood swings” after a move. The question then becomes, “How can you know whether your dog is experiencing canine depression?”
If your dog changes its sleep habits
When their owners aren’t home, dogs tend to sleep for long periods. But if you leave your dog for a long time, like for work, and he continues to sleep when you get home, barely noticing your presence, something is probably wrong. The same is true if he stays curled up and doesn’t come to the window or door when things that used to interest him, like visitors or a passing dog. So be sure to make the apartment or home life with your dog easy and fun.
Leaving food or not eating
A dog’s unhappiness can mirror that of its owner, so if you’ve noticed that he’s not eating as much lately, it may be because he’s feeling bad. Decreased appetite or weight loss are both signs your dog is depressed, according to experts. In addition, it could upset you. Dogs notice the slightest changes, so if you have a move to Manhattan planned, be sure to get them ready for this because that big of a change is sure to influence them.
Asking for more attention than usually
It’s only natural for your dog to come to you for comfort when feeling down. Experts say this is typically when feelings of pain, illness, isolation, or boredom link to sadness. You may find your dog’s dependence annoying or startling, but they may actually be sad. Spend some extra time and attention on your dog.
A depressed dog could snap at you or tear up the couch if you pet it. Experts say that the countenance of grief is not frequently the sad, forlorn face that looks like a basset hound. Even if your dog has a history of aggression, despair shouldn’t be your first line of defense if your friendly pet suddenly becomes irrational.
Not playing with you
Sadness in dogs is a major problem, sadly. A depressed or unhappy dog will have much less energy and will not want to play or exercise as much. Experts think throwing a tennis ball may have once been the patient’s favorite activity, but this preference has since changed. It’s possible that your dog is too sad to play with its favorite squeaky toy if it no longer excites it like it once did.
Things that are easy to confuse as dog depression
Unfortunately, the signs your dog is depressed can be similar to those of some of the deadliest diseases dogs can get. People may mistake an older dog’s constant pain for depression, and the emotional stress of being sad can make health problems worse.
Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD), it’s something that happens when the dog’s brain gets old, which is bad for the dog’s awareness, memory, and ability to learn, and function in daily life. Some people with CCD experience feelings of sadness or despair. Consult your vet about CCD. If your pet is about eight years old, these symptoms should be of concern.
If you notice any signs your dog is depressed, especially if something that might cause it has happened, you should talk to a veterinarian.
What causes dog depression?
Experts think a dog’s mental health could suffer if its life is drastically altered. These changes may happen once the family moves, gets married, have a child, or gets a new pet.
However, the loss of a companion animal or the death of the owner is the two most common causes of extreme canine grief. And be sure the dog isn’t just reacting to people in the home. Dogs are highly-sensitive to human emotions. So if its owner has passed away, the dog may feel the grief of those around it.
How do you help a depressed dog?
How to get your dog to pay more attention
Extra attention is one of the best ways to calm a stressed-out puppy. Experts in Canada advise giving your dog “time and space to cope with their emotions at their own timetable,” so giving them a little more attention is fine.
It’s essential to keep your dog active
Your dog would probably be happier, just like you, if it got out more. Taking your dog for regular walks is good for its health and well-being in many ways, including physical and mental. Exercise is very important for dogs as well. So be sure not to skip outdoor playtime.
Dogs are inherently social animals, so encouraging them to connect with other furry companions may precisely be what they need if they feel gloomy.
Keep a regular schedule
It’s helpful for recovery if your four-legged pal is aware of the daily routine. Whether it’s going for a stroll at the same time every day or knowing when they can expect to have supper, consistency in a routine might help them perk up.
In the end
Avoid jumping to conclusions that your dog is depressed, even if all of the signs your dog is depressed are present. Often, physiological causes lie beneath the surface of seemingly emotional circumstances. Taking your dog to the vet should be your first step if you notice a change in his behavior.
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BIO: Betty W. Zook is a devoted wife, mother, and veterinarian. She is committed to spreading awareness about pet issues and wants to make life better for pets and their owners. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her three dogs.
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