If you’ve noticed that your usually energetic pooch is seeming a bit down and restless recently, it could mean that they are depressed. In fact, more than 70% of dogs are prone to anxiety which can also lead to depression. It is believed that depression in dogs isn’t that different from depression in humans.
In this article, we will cover the main symptoms to look out for if you have concerns that your dog could be depressed.
What are the symptoms?
As mentioned above, according to John Ciribassi, DVM, past president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour, dog depression symptoms are very similar to those in humans.
The main things to look out for include:
- Your dog becoming withdrawn
- Your dog seeming less active and energetic than usual
- Their eating and sleeping habits changing
- They don’t participate in or pay attention to things they once loved
- Licking their paws more often
It is worth noting that some of these symptoms could also be linked to other medical conditions. For example, sometimes if a pet is moping around and refuses to go for a walk they could simply have arthritis.
The recommended advice, however, is that your first cause of action should always be to get them checked over by a veterinarian.
What are the main causes of depression in dogs?
Try to think of significant events or life changes that could cause a dog to get down. Perhaps you’ve just had a new baby, or you’ve moved house. Major changes in a dog’s life can lead to periods of depression.
Here are a few:
- Change of routine – Dogs easily settle into a routine, and if this has changed recently, then they may not be aware of the reasons why.
- Loss of a companion or owner – If a dog is around a grieving person, then they can pick up on this emotion and also respond to the grief.
- Lack of attention – Dogs are needy creatures and need a lot of love and care. The lack of this could cause their stress levels to rise, making them feel down and withdrawn.
- Being bored – All dogs need some sort of exercise and attentiveness, so when left alone they are stuck with nothing to do. This can produce severe boredom and lead to behavioural problems, including depression.
Try not to panic, as all of these causes are easily treatable.
What can you do to help your dog?
The main thing is that you have recognised the first signs of depression, and can therefore take steps to resolve this.
It is recommended to carry out a simple canine mental health assessment on your dog:
- Has anything changed in your dog’s life?
- Is your dog getting as much exercise and stimulation as usual?
- Is your dog getting as much contact with you as usual?
- Are you spending enough quality time with your dog?
- Is your dog bored?
- Does your dog have any other behavioural issues?
Answering these questions can give you a potential solution. For example, if you aren’t spending enough quality time with your dog, then taking them for an extra walk can make up for your loss of time.
Can you treat depression in dogs?
If you can identify the issues with your dog, then yes, depression can be cured within a matter of a few days or months.
It is important to praise your dog when they seem happier and realizing not to encourage negative behavior by lavishing them with treats or attention.
If your dog has shown signs of moping because of the loss of another pet, then sometimes it can help to introduce them to a new furry friend.
However, if none of this is working then there are medications your dog can take to help with depression. Medications used for depressed dogs are often the same as those used by depressed humans: Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.
Clomicalm, an FDA approved drug, can also be used for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs.
According to Bonnie Beaver, DVM, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviourists, it can take up to two months for drugs to become effective.
But, unlike people, she says, who often remain on antidepressants for years, most dogs can get better in six to 12 months and then be taken off the drugs.
The biggest thing to remember is that signs of your dog being depressed could be symptoms of another illness or problem, and it is always best to get your pooch checked out at the vets first.
The important thing is that you’ve noticed the signs and the things you can do to resolve their depression are pretty simple.
Most dogs usually bounce back from depression, so hopefully, it won’t be long before they’re back to their old energetic selves!