Dogs are man’s best friend, and they do so much to make us happy. While cats are typically thought of as mysterious and brooding, dogs are loving, playful animals who live to please their humans. However, what happens when your dog isn’t happy and playful?
Dogs can get depressed, just like humans. Major life events, changes, and loss can all affect your puppy’s emotional state and can lead to dog depression. Thankfully, most dogs can quickly recover from their depression, with your help, of course!
Signs of depression in dogs
How do you identify dog depression? Unlike humans, you can’t sit down to have a conversation about how your dog is feeling. Instead, it’s up to you to notice changes in your dog’s behavior.
Every dog is different, and depression can present itself in many different ways. Here are some signs that may be signaling a problem with your dog’s mental health:
- Your dog is withdrawing, spending time alone, and avoiding touch and affection.
- Your dog is hiding from you or others or sleeping in small, dark spaces.
- Your dog is eating more than usual or refusing to eat.
- Your dog is sleeping more and avoiding any activity while awake.
- Your dog is no longer interested in activities they used to love, like going for walks, playing fetch, or cuddling on the couch.
- Your dog is showing unusual physical symptoms, like shaking, crying, or licking its paws incessantly.
- Your dog is having accidents in the house even though they are potty trained.
Any of these could be a sign that your dog is depressed or that there is another issue. As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to know your dog’s behavior and habits so that you’ll know when something is off and can get help as soon as possible.
Causes of dog depression
You may be wondering how and why dogs get depressed. After all, they don’t have to deal with human stresses like money, social pressures, and work.
However, there are plenty of other things that can contribute to depression for both humans and animals. In dogs, depression is often caused by major life changes. You have no way to explain these changes to your pooch, so it may take them much longer to adapt.
Some examples of changes that could affect your dog’s mood are moving or even remodeling your home, a family member moving out, a neighbor dog or human friend moving away, the death of a pet or human in the family, or a drastic change in the home’s schedule.
Dog depression can also be caused by a medical issue. If your dog is presenting any of the symptoms above, you should bring them to the vet and have them check for any medical issues that may be causing these reactions.
Unfortunately, dogs can also become depressed because of the emotional state of their humans. Dogs are very in tune with your feelings, and they will notice if you are upset, grieving, stressed, anxious, or depressed.
How to help if your dog is depressed
We love our pets, and it can be so difficult to watch them suffer and feel helpless. The good news is, most dogs with depression bounce back on their own with time. It’s normal for dogs to need a period of adjustment or mourning if their situation changes.
The time-frame for this adjustment can vary a lot from dog to dog. Your dog may seem sad for a week or a few months, but they should be able to return to their cheery self with the right care and attention. Here are some tips for dealing with a depressed dog.
- Try to maintain a routine to offer your dog stability. It can be hard to get into a routine if you just moved, but it will help your dog adjust if you try to keep the same routine you had at the old place.
- Encourage your dog to get outdoor exercise. This will look different for every dog, depending on how their depression looks and on their own personality. If your dog will go on short walks, keep them consistent, but don’t push it! If your dog doesn’t want to go for a walk, you could try taking them on a short car ride or even carrying them outside to spend some time in the sun.
- Spend lots of time doing your dog’s favorite activities. Go slowly at first as you find your dog’s limits and test out what things still make them happy. If they used to love playing fetch, you could try gently rolling the ball back and forth for an easier way to do this activity. If your dog loves spending time with you, give them plenty of pets, even if it means you have to sit on the floor and pet them as they curl up in the closet.
- Set up regular visits to your vet. It can be difficult to know what’s best for your dog, but the vet is a professional who can work with you and your dog.
- Make sure your dog is getting lots of attention from you and be careful not to reward this behavior. Don’t just give your dog a treat when they are showing signs of depression. Instead, wait until they are being active or engaging and then give them treats and affection.
- In some cases, getting another dog can cure your dog’s needs, especially if they are depressed because of the loss of another doggy companion. Of course, you don’t want to immediately bring in a new puppy and should first spend some time around other dogs to see if that cheers yours up.
Can dogs get depressed? Yes. However, you can also help protect your dog from depression by creating a stable routine and socializing them in many different environments so that a change in their normal environment is less of a shock.
Always be aware of your dog’s behaviors and attitude so that you will notice subtle changes that may signal depression.