Have you noticed the activities your dog loves typically doing are suddenly not as interesting to them? Is your dog playing fetch with you for only a round or two when they usually would have played for hours and days if they could? Dogs can feel various emotions, including happiness, sadness, and depression. Depression is a mood disorder with feelings of severe despair, sadness, and loss of interest. While we can’t ask dogs about their feelings, we can recognize signs that dogs can certainly experience their emotions. Dogs like humans can suffer from depression, and the symptoms are pretty similar. So how to tell if your dog is depressed?
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Symptoms of Depression in Dogs
- Decrease in appetite;
- Change in eating habits (often eating substantially less or not at all)
- Refusing treats or snacks they once loved;
- Sleeping more than usual or appearing lethargic;
- Demanding more affection or being clingy/needy with their parents;
- Being around the areas where their companions spent the majority of their time;
- A change in vocalization (barking, howling, or whining more than usual);
- Unusually aggressive behavior towards other people, dogs, and animals;
- Inappropriate elimination in the home;
- No interest in social interactions with other dogs and people;
- Avoiding or hiding;
- Increase in destructive behaviors;
- Not wanting to participate in activities they once enjoyed;
- Behavior training regressing;
- Anxiety symptoms;
- Excessive licking or chewing, especially to their paws;
- Flattening of the ears;
- Bored or frustrated;
- Weight gain or weight loss.
What Causes Depression in Dogs?
Physical Illness or Injury
Chronic pain or illness can cause depression in dogs, so it is vital to take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out any medical condition or injuries.
Like people, dogs can mourn the loss of a human or animal companion. Dogs will grieve over the loss or death of their parent(s), another dog in the house, or because their neighborhood dog is deceased, away on vacation, or moved.
Dogs can suffer from depression from having a fear or phobia. There are many typical dog fears. They include strangers, men, children, dogs, other animals, thunderstorms, fireworks, car rides, veterinarian visits, going up and down the stairs, specific objects such as a vacuum, fear of being left alone (separation anxiety), and many more.
Significant lifestyle changes such as a new move, renovation in the house, a new baby or dog, a child they’ve grown up with have gone to college, and even weather changes. They can negatively impact their mood.
Change in Your Schedule
Changing a pet parent’s work schedule can make a dog feel depressed. For example, a parent who once had an extended stay at home and returned to work can affect the dog’s mood. They feel lonely because their parent is gone for a long time during the day.
Dogs, especially the working breeds or types, can produce severe boredom, resulting in all kinds of behavioral problems, including dog depression.
Lack of Exercise
A lack of exercise in dogs, especially those crated or confined to small areas for many hours, can be problematic. Find out how much and what types of activities are appropriate for your dog’s breed and age so you can make sure your dog gets the exercise they need regularly.
Just Their Personality
All dogs have different temperaments and personalities. Some dogs are bouncy and happy all the time, while others are more reserved. It is essential to be aware of your dog’s normal resting mood state and do some research on what they may enjoy doing so you can help enhance their life and mood.
How to Help Your Dog
1. Show a Little Extra Affection
Showing your dog a little extra love, attention, and affection can go a long way. When you arrive home from being away for a long time, take some time to show your dog that you love them. It will help them to feel better about being lonely.
Dogs feel happier when they are mentally and physically active. So take your dog out to get some fresh air and sunshine. Go out for pleasant walks on your favorite trails and get your dog to stay active.
When your dog is feeling down, encourage them to play with their doggy friends. Set up a playdate with some of your family and friends who have dogs. You can also drop your dog off at a doggy daycare so they can socialize, interact, and play with other dogs.
4. Bond with Your Dog
Along with making sure your dog gets lots of physical exercise and affection, take some time to bond with your dog and engage in fun activities. It could be teaching basic obedience, playing games, or teaching fun tricks!
Take Immediate Action
If you notice your pup is down or you suspect your dog is depressed but can’t find any reason for why, contact your veterinarian or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. Discuss a treatment plan so your dog can get the care they need for their depression. Treatment plans can include behavior modifications, a change in environment, or medications. Always support and encourage them during their treatment plan, help boost their confidence, and mood and be the one to cheer them up!
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