Dog Science Series: What Are the Signs of Depression in Dogs?

5 min read
Dog Science Series: What Are the Signs of Depression in Dogs? - Animals Matter, Inc.

Many people decide to become pet parents to dogs because they think they're fun-loving, attention-giving, and loads of entertainment. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with owning a dog, however, such as making sure they're up-to-date on shots, have a healthy diet, and keep up with vet checkups. Your pup's mental health is just as important, however.

Believe it or not, your beloved companion may be suffering from depression or dog anxiety. It's hard to imagine, but even dogs can get down in the spirits. But how exactly do you know if your dog is depressed exactly?

Understanding dog depression

Even though you give your dog everything they could want and more, depression can still hit them. It may not be as extreme or as obvious as it is in humans, but the fact still remains that your pup may have something weighing them down.

According to Review 42, "Characterized by feelings of sadness, loss of interest, and fatigue, depression can affect even dogs, as sadness found in the core of depression is among the Eight Core Emotions (anger, sadness, fear, trust, disgust, surprise, anticipation, and joy) that dogs are said to experience. Although dogs don't experience the same type of sadness as humans due to supposedly having the emotional capacity of a two-year-old, they can still suffer from depression and anxiety."

Dog depression can be brought on by a wide range of factors, such as missing an owner who is away on a trip, failing to go on their beloved walk, to the loss of a companion. But how do you know if your dog is suffering from depression, and not something more physical in nature such as arthritis, growing older, or something more serious? Here are some clues to help you gather more information before going to see the vet.

What are the signs of depression in dogs?

Like humans, there are multiple signs of depression in pups, and many of them may be warning signs of other diseases. With that being said, if you're concerned about your pooch, a checkup with the vet should be a top priority. This will take much of the guesswork out of knowing why you suddenly have a sad dog on your hands.

According to PETMD, here are 11 dog depression symptoms that your once fun-loving maniac may display.

  1. They're sleeping habits have changed drastically, and they're snoozing more than normal
  2. They aren't tearing into their food like usual
  3. Your pup may appear more clingy than normal with loved ones
  4. They've always been vocal, especially when that sneaky squirrel tries to steal nuts from trees, but now they're howling about the wind blowing through the grass
  5. Your once peaceful dog is snapping and growling at others, or displaying signs of excessive paw licking
  6. They're pooping and peeing in the house, even though they've been housebroken for years
  7. When guests come over, instead of coming to sniff around to see if they're a cat or a dog lover, they head for their sanctuary
  8. When you come into the room, they hide
  9. From their toys to your beloved throw pillows, anything is open game, and your pup is on a path of pure destruction
  10. Forget the walks, they'd rather curl up under the table while giving you the stink eye
  11. They're spending a lot of time where their beloved playmate hung out before passing away

How can you cheer up a depressed dog?

This is probably the question every dog owner wants to know. How do you make your pooch happy again?

Unfortunately, the answer isn't that simple. It really depends on the cause of depression, to begin with.

The simplest method is to give your pup some extra attention, according to the AKC. Take them on their favorite walk, head to the dog park, or change it up by heading to the lake. Try giving extra pets if they're willing, and increase the playtime. It may not seem like much, but for many dogs, it can help pull them out of the grasp of depression.

This doesn't work for all dogs, unfortunately. For some pups, the depression may be so great that a game of Frisbee won't fix it, especially if they've recently gone through a major life change. So what do you do in this case?

For those who may have a past that left them scarred both mentally and physically before they became a family member, it may take a bit more to help them push through it. Training with a behaviorist who is familiar with dog depression may work wonders. They'll be able to identify some of the factors which may be leading to your dog's depression, such as separation anxiety, as well as more individualized methods specific to your dog.

This is less about training your dog, and more about helping them learn to manage the things that stress them out. In other words, it's about evaluating your dog's behavior, and going from there.

For example, let's say you have a dog who is terrified of thunder. The behaviorist would work to help your dog learn to curb their fear by finding a safe place to hide where they feel safe when storms hit. This could be in their favorite pillow, or perhaps under a table which has a distinct den feel to it.

This could also be true if this is a new home for your dog, and they're still getting used to you. A new environment can be a truly distressing event, but once they learn that this is their forever home, your dog's mood should greatly improve.

Your vet may also be able to offer assistance. While it's not always recommended to put dogs on antidepressants, for severe cases, it may be necessary. Your dog's vet will be able to determine if this is an appropriate option for your pup and prescribe the right medication.


How do dogs behave when they are depressed?

Dogs who are depressed will show behavioral changes that are outside their norm. This can include common signs such as hiding from you or guests, acting more territorial, or even being aggressive. They may also avoid play time, and aren't as enthusiastic about eating their food.

All these signs can also point to serious medical conditions, so it's always a good idea to schedule a vet appointment to make sure.

Do depressed dogs need medication?

That's something you'll need to discuss with a vet. There are dogs out there signs of dog depression who may benefit from medication. Still, others may benefit from some extra love and affection. Behavioral guidance is another option to try before placing your dog on medication.

In many cases, it's a combination of these three types of treatment which will benefit your furry friend the most.

What's an easy way to support a depressed dog?

Start with the simplest methods, and work your way up. You can meet your dog's needs by giving them extra cuddles and pets, increasing their activity levels, and taking them on the most epic walks of their life. Also, speak to your vet. For many pets, it's all about knowing that you're there. If all else fails, a new pet may be the answer. Friends have a way of lifting our spirits, after all, and having another companion animal to hang out with while you focus on other factors like work, family, and other responsibilities may be exactly what your pup needs.

Sometimes having a new item may be enough to cheer up your pet. Whether it's dog stairs to help them get on the couch for extra cuddles or a new hoodie to show off to the other dogs around the block, Animals Matter has a wide array of items designed specifically with your pup in mind. Contact us to learn more about what we offer, as well as any questions you may have regarding the ultra-high quality materials we use in each and every product we sell.

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