Dog Science Series: How to Identify and Help a Depressed Dog

Is your dog depressed? You may not realize it but dogs can suffer from depression just like we do. To learn how to recognize a depressed pet and what you can do to help, check out the information below.

Understanding Dog Depression

Depression can strike a dog at any age, although older dogs suffering from chronic pain are probably the most vulnerable to it. It can also strike dogs who have experienced upheaval in their family dynamics or living circumstances and are desperate to feel safe and secure again.

Common Causes of Depression in Dogs

  • Chronic pain or a chronic illness
  • A traumatic injury
  • Being kept in a crate when they're not accustomed to that kind of isolation
  • Boredom caused by not receiving enough quality attention and mental stimulation
  • Enjoying less outdoor play and exercise (and decreased dopamine levels) as a result of bad weather
  • Insufficient physical exercise (especially in high-energy dogs like those from the working and herding groups)
  • Not being able to do what they were bred for (breed-related behaviors like tracking, hunting, herding, guarding, etc.)
  • Changes in the household routine (moving, renovating, adding a new family member or pet, kids going back to school after the summer break, starting a new job with different hours, etc.)
  • Grieving the death of a family member (either human or animal)

Dogs can also experience depression through empathizing with a depressed family member. Dogs are very adept at reading human facial expressions and body language. If you're depressed, your dog will know it and will probably be depressed right along with their beloved human!

What Are the Signs of Depression in Dogs?

A depressed dog's body language will tell observant pet parents what they can't express in words. You just have to know what to look for. Learning to read your dog's body language is an important skill to know when your pet isn't feeling well physically, too.

Pet MD lists these common symptoms of depression in dogs.

  • A decrease in appetite or (rarely) eating more than usual as a source of comfort
  • Lethargy or sleeping more than usual
  • Staring into space for hours rather than sleeping
  • Hiding from people or acting withdrawn or subdued
  • Wanting more attention than usual
  • Acting clingy or needy
  • Unusual or increased vocalizations like barking, howling, or whining
  • Licking or chewing body parts as a form of self-soothing (especially if it's new or it's happening more than usual)
  • Acting unusually aggressive towards people or other animals
  • Forgetting their housetraining (urinating and defecating inside)
  • Becoming unusually destructive (unless they're a teething puppy!)
  • Exhibiting escape behaviors like digging, jumping the fence, or darting through doors
  • Acting uninterested in playing or other normal activities like walks

A dog displaying loss of appetite, lethargy, or other unusual behaviors might be suffering from something other than depression. If your pet is exhibiting these symptoms, it's worth a trip to the vet to get expert advice and rule out other health problems.

How Can You Cheer Up a Depressed Dog?

Fortunately, making even small lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on your pet's emotional state. Behavior modification training can help tremendously with both separation anxiety and depression.

  • Thundershirts act like a giant hug and can calm and soothe an anxious dog.
  • Classical music acts as a natural sedative for many dogs.
  • Puzzle toys and other enrichment activities give dogs something challenging to do. Focusing on solving the puzzle will often take their mind off their anxiety.
  • Providing a doggie safe space where your pet can relax with a dog blanket for their comfy bed can help them feel more relaxed.
  • An orthopedic pet bed may help a painful pup rest more easily and wake up in less pain. Tucking a few small orthopedic dog beds around the house will let your dog choose a place to rest where they feel the most comfortable and the least anxious.
  • Diffusers filled with pheromones and calming supplements can help soothe an anxious dog.
  • If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety, it may be helpful to enroll them in doggie daycare.
  • After ruling out medical causes for your dog's depression, your vet might prescribe medication and supplements along with behavioral modification.

Proper socialization is key to developing a resilient dog that can handle a wide variety of situations without stressing out over them. If your dog wasn't socialized as a puppy, you can still help them learn to handle what life throws at them. Just take baby steps in socializing an older dog in order to get them comfortable in handling new situations.

FAQs:

Read on to learn more about dog anxiety and how you can recognize it.

What can cause sudden anxiety in dogs?

Fireworks, thunderstorms, and other sudden loud noises can often trigger dog anxiety. So can changes in their normal routine or living situation.

What are the first signs of anxiety in dogs?

You'll probably notice symptoms of anxiety such as unnecessary panting or pacing restlessly at first. Other early symptoms include repeated yawning, lip licking, excessive drooling, and shivering.

How does stress affect my dog?

Extreme stress can cause your dog's behavior to change until they're almost unrecognizable as your pet. This level of stress can also ruin your poor dog's quality of life unless it's treated properly.

If your anxious or depressed dog could use a little extra pampering, you've come to the right place. At Animals Matter, we love dogs and want them all to live their best doggie lives possible. That's why we carry luxurious dog beds and organic dog spa products for your much-loved pet.

Contact us to learn more about the many amazing products we carry for your cherished pup.

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