How to Deal With Dog Depression
Dogs, like people, can suffer from depression. Unfortunately, your dog can't talk about their problems, so you have to discern what is wrong from their behavior. Some common markers of depression in dogs include:
- Lethargy: A depressed dog will often be very tired and become exhausted easily.
- Apathy: Many dogs will lose interest in what's going on around them. Depressed puppies may appear unnaturally calm.
- Lack of appetite: Your dog eats little and infrequently.
- Rapid weight loss: Some dogs eat so little when they're depressed that they begin to waste away.
- Reduced drinking: Many depressed dogs drink very little.
- Lack of interest: Some dogs lose interest in the favorite activities they used to enjoy, such as fetch or tag.
- Unwillingness to exercise: Your dog might resist when you try to take her for a walk, and lag behind while you're out with her. Your dog might be reluctant to move about at all.
- Clinginess: A formerly independent dog will suddenly start hiding between your legs, constantly sitting in your lap, or become very sad if you have to leave.
- Aggression: Some depressed dogs go through drastic personality changes and suddenly become very aggressive toward other dogs, people, or even members of their own family.
- Whining and howling: In some extreme cases, dogs will vocalize their sadness by whimpering, whining or howling.
If you notice any of the above signs, take your dog to the veterinarian. Some dog diseases can cause similar symptoms, and should it turn out to be depression, your veterinarian can often help.
Causes of Dog Depression
Many things can cause depression in a dog. One of the most common is grief.
- Grief: If another dog or human that your dog was close to passes away or moves, this can cause intense feelings of sorrow. If this dog or person lived in the same house as your dog, this can be particularly problematic, but even the loss of a neighborhood playmate can cause depression in some dogs.
- Depressed Owner: Most dogs are also very receptive to the state of their owners. A dog whose owner is ill or depressed for a prolonged period of time will often develop depression as a result.
- Changes in The Home: Dogs are often very sensitive to change. Moving to a new area or getting a new owner can be a traumatic experience for a dog. In puppies, the transition from living with the mother to living with people can be a cause of depression.
- Chemical Imbalance: In some cases, depression in dogs, as it is in people, is a cause of a chemical imbalance. If, for some reason, certain neurotransmitters aren't being used appropriately in the brain, this can result in depression.
Because dogs can't explain how they're feeling, it can be difficult to diagnose depression. Usually, your veterinarian will try to eliminate all possible physical causes of your dog's changed behavior. Having excluded these causes, the veterinarian will ask you about your dog's behavior and any recent changes in her life, in order to figure out if they have depression and what may be causing it.
Dealing with Dog Depression
Depending on the cause of dog depression, there are several different options to improve mood and quality of life.
- Introduce them to Friends: If your dog's depression is due to the loss of a companion, consider getting another dog. If this is beyond your ability, take your dog to doggy daycare or set up play dates with neighborhood dogs.
- Address Your Own Happiness: If you think your dog's behavior is a reflection of your own, seek help for your problems. This will allow you to live a better, more fulfilling life, and your dog will perk up when she sees you feeling better.
- Provide Reassurance: After a move, help your dog adjust by spending more time with her and doing things she enjoys. Keep her close by for a while so that she can feel reassured by your presence. If your puppy is depressed, give her time to get over her initial grief at being separated from her mother. Give her plenty of attention, but if she isn't responding, give her some time on her own. Puppies usually recover on their own time frame.
- Exercise: Exercise is helpful no matter what the cause of your dog's depression.Take her out for long walks, have her run around in a park, and play games of fetch or tag with her.
- Medication: In severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend prescription medication such as antidepressants to treat your dog's condition. This should always be a last resort. Never give your dog medication except under the supervision of a veterinarian.