Like humans, dogs can experience a wide range of emotions. From anxiety and depression to grief and fear, canine’s have the ability to feel deeply.
Although a dog’s version of depression may not be as clinically complex as it is in humans, and they rarely suffer from it long term, it isn’t uncommon for dogs to suffer from bouts of sadness and lethargy.
Before we discuss ways to get your pup back to that tail-wagging, cuddle-loving furry friend you love so much, it’s important to understand how to identify signs of dog depression and what might be causing it.
Signs & Causes of Dog Depression
Everyone — including dogs — has bad days. But there’s a difference between one “off” day and evidence of more severe depression.
There are some tell-tale signs that your pooch may be suffering from a bad case of the doldrums.
Common signs of depression in dogs include:
If you start to notice any of the above patterns, it’s possible that your dog is suffering from depression. Because our dogs can’t speak to us, it can be hard to tell exactly what’s going on or determine the cause of the behavioral change. It can be helpful to think about any recent life changes that have occurred and see if there may be a correlation.
There are a number of potential causes of depression in dogs. These include but are not limited to:
- Loss of family member or pet companion: Evidence shows that dogs can grieve both humans and animal companions. If your family suffered a recent loss, this could be what’s causing your pup to appear depressed.
- Illness: A wide range of physical illnesses can cause depression in dogs, so it’s important to rule this out early with your vet.
- Environmental changes: Any significant changes in their environment can contribute to pet behavior. Like humans, dogs can experience seasonal depression in the colder, darker months. If you recently moved or underwent a large renovation, this could also cause Fido to feel out of whack. In these situations, time is usually the best healer. Be patient with your pooch as they work through the adjustment period.
- Owner illness, mood, or behavioral changes: Believe it or not, dogs pick up on a lot of cues from their owners. If you are suffering from a mental or physical illness, have been out of the house more often, or are acting differently for any number of reasons, your pup can reflect that energy and it may cause behavioral changes.
How to Help Dog Depression
If you suspect your dog is suffering from depression, it’s best to work with your vet to understand the underlying cause and determine the best course of action.
There are, however, some simple home remedies that may help get Fido back to his old self again.
Physical exercise releases chemicals and hormones that can help improve mood, serving as a great way to increase your dog’s energy levels.
Especially during the winter months, it can be hard to find opportunities to let your pup stretch his legs. Get creative and try to give your dog more play time, whether it’s in your basement with a ball or in the snow at the park. Engaging your pup in fun games and even training exercises can take their mind off things and help get them back on track.
Make sure your pooch is getting the attention and social activity he needs. You can do this by involving other family members in your play time, and if it makes sense, even schedule a few playdates with other pups. Dogs were meant for companionship, so it’s important to make sure that they feel connected.
Sometimes, anxiety and depression go hand in hand. Anxiety in dogs might look like:
- Whining and barking when you leave (a sign of separation anxiety)
- Barking or growling at any small noise or disturbance
- Shaking or trembling around strangers or noises
- Terror around loud noises, car rides, and vet visits
- Increased accidents in the house
- Restlessness and pacing
- Drooling, panting, or salivating
If you notice that your pup is anxious in addition to being depressed, a calming treat just might do the trick. Choose a calming chew that contains soothing ingredients like hemp oil, chamomile, ginger root, valerian root, and passion flower. These will naturally help your pup feel at ease when they’re anxious and can help increase focus and decrease destructive behavior like chewing and barking.
No matter what your pup may be experiencing, as dog owners, it’s vital to pay close attention to their behavior and ensure that they’re getting the love and care they need to thrive.