Many humans struggle with mental health, but what about their four-legged best friends? And dogs really be depressed? If so, what are the causes and what can we do to help our beloved dogs get better?
So, can dogs struggle with depression? Unfortunately, yes they can. Our four-legged best friends can get the blues; however, their depressions are treatable. Some dogs might recover without taking medications, while others will be prescribed antidepressants.
It is very important to be able to see and recognize the signs of depression in dogs early on, so continue reading to know what signs to look for and how you can help your dog become better.
Can dogs get depressed?
Just because our four-legged best friends don’t have the same reasoning abilities as us humans, that doesn’t mean that they can feel the blues and get depressed. It is true that depression in dogs isn’t the same as in people.
In humans, depression is a very complex clinical disorder that could take years to treat. However, all of that doesn’t change the fact that dogs can actually experience depression.
Six Reasons Dogs Get Depressed
1) Your dog feels like they’re being ignored
Sometimes, a dog just needs a little bit more attention and love to help them overcome their depression. If for some reason you’re not spending as much quality time with your dog as you used to, then they might start losing interest in playing and eating.
They might start displaying destructive behaviors, stop greeting you when you return home or even have potty accidents inside the house
Tip: Try to spend at least one hour per day with your dog. Whether it is grooming them, petting them or playing with them, it is going to help both of your spirits.
2) They’re not getting enough exercise
Sometimes, dogs who don’t get enough playtime sessions with their pet owners or adequate exercise sessions begin isolating themselves. They could also start minimizing the amount of interaction they have with their family.
A lot of dogs require more physical activity then what they usually get. Depending on what breed they belong to, you can figure out how much exercise they actually need.
But as a general rule of thumb, try to engage them in physical exercise for at least half an hour every day.
3) Your dog is suffering from an undiagnosed medical issue
When you start seeing a change in your dog’s behavior, always take them to their veterinarian right away. What might appear to a sign of depression could turn out to be a sign of an undiagnosed medical problem.
For example, your dog might be not interested in going on hikes with you because they’re experiencing joint pain.
Other behavior changes such as potty accidents, oversleeping, not sleeping, and displaying sudden outbursts of aggressiveness could all be signs of different undiagnosed medical conditions.
4) The dog is being punished for displaying unaccepted behaviors
Some dog owners make the mistake of training their dogs to learn a specific behavior by punishing them for their mistakes.
This is absolutely wrong and considered to be animal abuse; it could also be the reason why those dogs are struggling with depression.
Instead of punishing these lovely dogs, those pet owners should train their dogs using positive reinforcement techniques.
Positive reinforcement is basically rewarding your dog for displaying good behavior and turning a blind eye to whenever they do something that they weren’t supposed to do.
5) One of their pet siblings or owners just passed away
Dogs do grieve the loss of friends and owners that they have formed a strong bond with, so this cause shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you want a scientific proof to explain this, then you could look up what veterinarians are saying.
Some of them believe that dogs feel the same emotions like us humans, like fear, happiness, anger, sadness, and grief.
If your dog is mourning the loss of someone, then it is quite common for them to experience depression.
Dogs signs of depression also tend to be similar to that of humans. This means that they might be over or under eating, walking slowly, and losing interest in what used to excite them.
Try to engage your dog with activities that they usually enjoy to distract them until enough time has passed for them to heal and go back living their lives normally.
This could take anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months, so you must be patient.
6) Their pet owner is depressed
Our four-legged best friends are such sensitive and caring creatures who are capable of detecting and feeling your sadness by just observing the way you talk and move.
Have noticed how it is always suggested that you stay calm during nerve-racking situations, so your dog doesn’t feel your anxiousness and freak out as well? Well, dogs can get the blues the same way they get nervous when they sense you panicking.
They truly succeed at what humans fail at that. Unfortunately, this could make them depressed, as well.
How to treat depression in dogs?
One important thing that I need to point out before I start discussing how you can treat your dog is that you must take them to vet as the symptoms of depression might actually have an underlying physical illness behind it.
Here are four ways you can treat your dog’s Depression
1. Create a meal schedule and stick to it!
When you’re dog gets used to eating their meals at the same time every day, they will automatically feel hungry when it is time for them to eat. However, depression could mess up their appetite, which is why you should switch up their meals with their favorite foods.
If they’re eating canned, wet food, then try heating it a bit, so the smell helps to improve their appetite.
2. Create a daily routine for your dog
Humans aren’t the only creatures who thrive on having a consistent, daily routine. Dogs do too! Actually, many pets thrive when they can expect what is going to happen the next day. Schedule things like meals ( which we discussed in the last point), their exercise sessions, and their grooming sessions.
Exercise is a mighty thing that is going to aid in improving your dog’s mood because it increases your dog’s endorphins, which is the hormone that makes them feel good.
3. Don’t reward their behaviors when they’re depressed
I am not saying that you should ignore your dog when they’re depressed; however, when you give your dog so much attention when they display undesired behaviors, they could end up demonstrating that behavior more often because it earns them your attention.
Instead, stick to taking them on scheduled walks and playing with them during their playtime session and only rewarding them with treats when they do engage with whatever you’re attempting to engage them in. Positive reinforcement is always the way to go.
4. Be patient
Your dog’s depression isn’t going to disappear overnight. It might take weeks or even months before they start getting better. However, if a couple of days pass by and your dog isn’t improving, then take them to their vet as soon as possible to see if there is an underlying undiagnosed medical condition causing their depression.
If your dog indeed turns out to be depressed, your dog’s veterinarian might recommend you do what’ve mentioned above. If nothing seems to be working, they might prescribe your beloved dog antidepressants.
Please remember that antidepressants could take a couple of months before and effects become visible.
Thankfully, dogs usually get better within six to twelve months of taking the prescribed drugs, unlike us humans who could remain on antidepressants for many years.
How to diagnose depression in dogs?
Here are some of the signs of depression in dogs:
- They become very aggressive
- Potty incidents happen often
- They engage in destructive behaviors
- Your dog starts ignoring your commands
- They are having issues with their appetite
- They start losing interest in playing with their toys
- They begin having sleeping issues
- Your dog stops responding to your affection
1) They become very aggressive
If your dog is a gentle creature who never attacks anyone or any passing animal, then they suddenly start being aggressive and start attacking people and other animals, then this could be one of the signs of depression in dogs.
2) Potty incidents happen often
If you’re still training your dog or puppy only to potty outdoors or in their potty areas, then potty incidents aren’t considered to be a sign of depression in dogs.
However, if they have been potty trained for a while and you suddenly discover that your dog has been peeing inside of your house multiple of times, them depression is most like the reason why they’re acting out.
3) They engage in destructive behaviors.
Just like the potty incidents thing, if your dog is trained to behave appropriately and they’re no longer in their teething phase, then them biting multiple house items could be a sign that your dog is depressed.
Chewing things isn’t the only destructive behavior your doh might display, though. Any sort of destructive behavior that your dog doesn’t usually engage it, and they start doing it often, then that it is a sign that your dog is struggling with depression.
4) Your dog starts ignoring your commands
If your dog is well trained to follow commands like come, sit, stay, and jump, yet when you command them to do these, they just ignore you then this could be a sign that your dog is struggling with depression.
It is always essential to take your dog to the vet to make sure that nothing serious is going on.
5) They are having issues with their appetite.
Like humans, appetite issues could be one of the signs of depression in dogs as well. These issues vary from one dog to another. One dog might be eating a lot due to an increased appetite, while another might stop eating due because they lost their appetite.
Again, lack of appetite could be a sign of an underlying undiagnosed disorder, so make sure you take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
One other thing, your dog overeating or underrating could lead to physical issues, so a visit to the vet is a must. I keep on repeating the part where you should take your dog to the vet because many people ignore the signs, and their dogs end up being very sick.
6) They start losing interest in playing with their toys
When your dog goes from continually asking you to play with them with their favorite toys to not even touching their favorite toys, then that is yet another sign that your dog might be struggling with depression.
Please don’t stop trying to get your dog to play with you, though. Keep on trying and don’t give up on your four-legged best friend.
7) They start having sleeping Issues
Like with the appetite issue, sleeping issues could also be divided into two things. Your dog might be oversleeping or insomniac.
It is not that abnormal for your dog to enable to sleep once upon a blue moon; however, if they suddenly start being unable to sleep often, then take them to the vet. This could ever be a sign of an underlying undiagnosed medical issue or a sign of depression.
8) Your dog stops responding to your affection
When your dog who is always craving love and attention stop being interested in being petted and run away whenever you try to shower them with love, then this could be a sign that your dog is struggling with depression.
Before you start forcing your affection on your depressed dog, make sure you consult your vet about what you should do and how often you should attempt to pet your dog while they are in such a bad mental state.
Depression in humans vs. depression in dogs
Like we have mentioned earlier in this post, depression in humans isn’t the same as depression in dogs. But where exactly do these differences lie?
When it comes to humans, clinical depression branches into many different subtypes. General Depression is a subtype where depression may or may not be related to an external cause.
Those who are struggling with generalized depression often speak about how their symptoms occur when there isn’t anything wrong going on in their daily life. Once they recognize the signs and start seeking help, they get diagnosed by speaking with the doctor.
Because we can’t just sit down with our beloved dogs and talk to them or even make them speak to a professional, it is really hard to diagnose dogs with depression clinically.
When we say that a dog has depression, what we’re actually doing is referring to a dog who is showing and exhibiting behavioral changes that appear to look like they’re decreasing their levels of daily activities and family interactions.
Playtime is no longer fun, food is no longer something that they get excited over, and even hellos aren’t said to greet their pet owners when they walk into the house.
How to prevent depression in dogs?
While some factors that could lead to your dog getting depressed are out of our control, others are entirely manageable.
Try to keep your dog active and stimulates as much as possible to help prevent them from feeling lethargic. You can do so by taking them on walks, playing frisbee with them, and entertaining them with their favorite toy.
Make sure that you’re grooming and petting them regularly. It might seem like it wouldn’t make much of a difference to you, but in your dog’s eyes, you’re actually spending more quality time with them.
Try not to leave them home alone all day. Try to hire a sitter to entertain them, or at least give them with a kong toy and some of their other favorite toys to keep them entertained.
Finally but not least, make sure you take them to the veterinarian regularly for check-ups.
Can dogs suffer from other types of mental illness?
Yes, dogs can struggle with different types of anxiety, such as separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety happens when a dog has a dysfunctional attachment to a specific person. This makes the dog have terrible anxiety attacks when they’re separated from the person whom they’re attached to or when they’re left alone.
If you want to learn more about separation anxiety in dogs, then make sure you read my Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training blog post.
That’s it for today’s post. You should now be able to see and recognize the signs of depression when your beloved dogs start displaying the symptoms.
If you have any questions regarding depression in dogs or if you want to share with your personal experiences, then feel free to leave a reply in the comments section down below.