As devoted dog guardians, we cannot live without the unconditional companionship and love that our dogs provide us. Dogs are not just pets. They are our family members, our kids. Sometimes they are more than just kids. One thing we cannot see is our dogs being sad. Like humans, dogs also experience a range of emotions. Like us, they can also feel depressed and go through depression. Thus, it is crucial for dog guardians to know about the signs of dog depression.
Understanding and providing for the emotional health of your dogs is crucial for their happiness and well-being. Depression in dogs is as real as it is in humans. Unfortunately, in most cases, dog depression gets ignored or misunderstood. Since dogs cannot verbally communicate their feelings, it is crucial for dog guardians to pay high attention to the non-verbal cues and expressions of their pooches as well so they can know the moment something goes wrong.
In this blog post, I will discuss depression in dogs, starting with the signs of dog depression, and how to help your dog get back to his normal self as soon as possible. If you learn to recognize the signs of dog depression during the early stages, you can take proactive steps to ensure that your dog gets over this difficult time as soon as possible and starts to act as his normal self again.
Topics covered in this blog post
Understanding the causes of dog depression
All dog guardians wish for one thing unanimously. To have their pups live a happy and healthy life with no stress or anxiety. However, as surprising as it may sound, dogs suffer from anxiety, stress, and also depression. If your dog is displaying symptoms like lethargy and sadness, you need to rule out the chance that your pup may be suffering from depression. As I mentioned before, dogs cannot verbally communicate their feelings. Thus, as a dog guardian, you should be aware of what’s normal behavior in your pup. Any behavior that digresses from the normal pattern is an indication that something is wrong and must not be ignored. Let’s study the causes of dog depression before I discuss how you can help your dog.
Major life changes
Dogs are creatures of habit. They find comfort in surroundings that are familiar to them. This also includes family members. If there is a sudden life change; for example, the death of a family member, a family member moving away or leaving for college, or even a sudden move to a new surrounding, such situations can throw them off balance. This sudden disruption of their familiar surrounding can make them feel anxious, stressed, and disoriented. These factors are the most common ones contributing to signs of dog depression.
Pain and health issues can also cause dog depression
Dogs cannot vocalize their problems. Whether it’s pain, discomfort, or sadness, dogs do not have any way of telling their guardians what they are feeling. If your dog is suffering from any kind of physical issues like pain, chronic illness, or any stiffness in any part of the body, he may appear withdrawn on display signs of dog depression. Thus, as a dog guardian, you must put extra attention to your dog and his behavior.
Loss of a companion
Dogs do not change sides. If they have a favorite person, they will be loyal and completely dedicated to the person they love. Loss of this person/people can negatively affect your pup and he may show signs of dog depression. Whether they lose their favorite guardian, playmate, sibling, or friend, it has a huge negative impact on the psyche of your dog and may cause depression.
Changes in environment/ routine
As I mentioned before, dogs are creatures of routine. They need to go on their daily walks and have meals and playtimes at specific times. However, if for any reason, the schedule changes, it disturbs your dog in more ways than you can imagine. You may have a pup who does not throw tantrums on a schedule change. However, this does not mean that he is not bothered by it. Changes in schedule severely disturb your dog even if he cannot vocalize it. Schedule changes can also have an effect on your dog’s physical health, leading to heightened chances of acidity, ulcers, and other physical ailments. Signs of dog depression is another factor you obviously have to worry about The stress of change can trigger depressive behavior in your pup.
Absence of mental stimulation
Dogs are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet. They need high levels of mental engagement for them to stay happy and engaged. If you do not provide your dog with training activities, mental games, treasure hunts, interactive toys, etc. they will be bored and unhappy. Imagine just sitting all day long and not indulging in any work. Even you would start to feel depressed. It’s the same for your dog as well.
Absence of socialization: another contributor to dog depression
Dogs are social animals, just like humans. They need to engage with others. If they are not provided with an apt amount of engagement, it will make them feel lonely and in turn can lead to signs of dog depression.
I have discussed separation anxiety in my previous blog posts. Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety may also start to show signs of dog depression if they are left alone for long periods of time. Such dogs are constantly afraid of being left alone, away from their humans. This boosts the feeling of anxiety and distress.
If your dog has experienced abuse or neglect previously, he may still harbor emotional scars from his previous trauma. There is a high chance that these scars may manifest as signs of dog depression. Unfortunately, such experiences can also contribute to long-lasting fear and anxiety in such dogs.
Signs of dog depression
Now that I have discussed the causes of dog depression, let’s turn our attention to the signs of dog depression. As a responsible dog guardian, you are responsible for the emotional well-being of your dog. The only way to know if your dog is showing signs of dog depression is by staying tuned and being in the loop regarding your dog’s normal behavioral pattern. This is the only way you will know if your dog is showing any abnormal behavior. Thus, a word to the wise, if you haven’t been paying attention to your dog’s behavior when your dog is spending time by himself, start now. This will come in very handy in the future if your dog even develops depression, stress, or anxiety.
Changes in the normal behavioral pattern
This is one of the first and primary signs of dog depression. If you notice a sudden change in your dog’s behavior in the absence of any physical ailments, your dog is probably stressed or showing signs of depression. The most common change observed is that the dog who was playful and full of life is suddenly withdrawn and sullen. He is not playing, or interacting with his toys or is less enthusiastic about playtime. All of these are signs of emotional distress.
Lack of energy and lethargy: another of the signs of dog depression
One of the signs of dog depression is a reduction in energy levels and constant lethargy. You may notice that your dog is spending more time in bed/crate than usual or seems aimless and disinterested in things that were important to him.
Changes in appetite
when humans are depressed, they either stop eating or start eating too much. It’s the same case with dogs as well. If you notice sudden appetite changes in your dog, like not eating, eating too less, picky eating, or eating too much, you must pay attention and try to get to the bottom of the problem as soon as possible.
Increased vocalization or banking
Different dogs express depression in different ways. Some dogs may start to seem quiet and withdrawn or they may start to display excessive vocalization behaviour. Increased vocalization means constant banking howling, growling, etc. This is your dog’s way to express his displeasure or try to seek extra attention from you to feel better.
Emotional and social cues
As I mentioned before, dogs are extremely social creatures. They love to interact with humans and other animals. The changes in the way your dog interacts with you, your family members, or other animals can tell you a lot about their mental and emotional state. If your dog suddenly starts to avoid your touch, tries to stay as far away from you as possible, reduces interaction with other animals, and prefers isolation over interaction, it can be one of the signs of dog depression. Alternatively, if your usually highly-independent dog seems to be overly reliant on you and asks for extra attention, it should also be considered a red flag and investigated further.
Excessive hiding is another common symptom of dog depression
Another sign of dog depression is that your dog may look for hiding spots in the house. Sudden social withdrawal and staying hidden in dark corners of the house is an indications that your dog is under stress and looking for refuge. He prefers to be alone rather than engaging in activities he likes.
Changes in grooming habits
Depression negatively affects all aspects of your dog’s life. If you notice a sudden change in the grooming habits of your dog, for example: if it seems that your dog is neglecting his everyday grooming routine, it may be a sign that your dog is suffering from depression.
How to reduce the signs of dog depression?
If you notice the signs of dog depression, you need to act proactively and help your dog as soon as possible. Once you have recognized the signs, the next step is to provide your dog with adequate support so he can come out of depression and lead a happy and positive life. One thing you must know about your dog’s depression is that your attention and love is the biggest balm for your pup’s aching heart. Nothing can replace your presence in your dogs life. You will always be the first, foremost and most important creature for your pup. Here are some additional strategies that you can use to further help your pup:
Get in touch with a veterinarian
The first step in helping your dog is to consult your veterinarian. The signs of dog depression you notice can also occur because your dog is facing an underlying medical condition. Thus, going to the vet should be your first step. Your veterinarian will help you understand if any medical issue is at the center of the depression. If there is a health issue, proper treatment and medication will help your dog feel better and in turn reduce the signs of dog depression.
Providing a supporting environment reduces signs of dog depression
A nurturing and loving atmosphere is crucial to help your dog feel secure and safe again. Start this by maintaining a routine and sticking to it for your dog. The routine should include playtime, feeding time, and exercise. If you find it hard to remember the schedule by yourself, you can set reminders on your phone for the same. A consistent routine will allow your dog to get back the stability he needs. You must also make sure that there is a cozy, quiet, and comfortable place where your dog can rest up and retreat when needed.
Engage in exercise and proper playtime
Physical exercise is the best way to bring your dog out of depression. Adequate levels of exercise boost the mood of your dog and reduce stress. The interactive playtime should involve using your dogs favorite games and toys. Whatever your dog likes, do it. If it is a walk in the park, playing fetch, or tug of war, make sure your dog gets playtime to his heart’s content without over-exhausting him. Regular and adequate exercise like runs or walks in the park will not only benefit his physical health but also boost his mental stimulation.
Providing affection and comfort can lift signs of dog depression
There is no better remedy in this world than hugs, cuddles, and kisses. When you are sad, stressed or tired, being with your dog releases endorphins (happy hormones). We instantly feel better. Similarly, when you spend time with your dog, your dog also feels happy and relaxed. Give your dog plenty of kisses, cuddles, and hugs, and speak softly to him, assuring him how much you love him. Do not punish or scold your dog for acting out while he is depressed. Such actions can worsen the mental health of the dog.
Mental enrichment and stimulation
One of the best ways to heal from depression is to engage in mental activities. Since boredom is one of the causes of dog depression, you should focus on providing mental engagement to your pup. For this purpose, you can use interactive toys, treasure hunts, treat dispensing toys, puzzle toys, etc. Such activities challenge your dog mentally and boost his problem-solving skills. These activities also prevent dementia when your dog reaches advanced years of life.
Companionship and socialization
It could be that your pup is showing signs of dog depression because he is lonely. This problem can be easily sorted out. You can either get your dog a playmate or arrange playdates with his friends a few times a week. Take him to dog parks and allow him to socialize with other dogs and humans. Such activities will strengthen his emotional well-being.
Get professional help
If the above-mentioned options do not work out in your favor, consider getting professional help. Seek guidance from someone who is a certified dog behaviorist, trainer, or psychologist. Professionals can design a tailored plan to help your dog overcome the stress, anxiety, and signs of dog depression. Work with professionals if needed. There is no shame in admitting that guardians cannot do everything by themselves. All is well as long as you get your dog the help he needs.
Our dogs mean the world to us. Just as we mean the world to our dogs. There are various reasons behind the signs of dog depression like medical causes, loneliness, loss of friends or family, change of environment, etc. To alleviate depression, provide your dog with a loving environment, lots of toys, cuddles, hugs, support, and finally professional help if that’s required. A bit of support from you can help your dog come out of depression easily and soon.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the common signs of dog depression are the absence of appetite, reduction in energy levels, withdrawal from friends and social interactions, sleeping too much or too little, changes in behavior, etc. If you notice these signs, you should start by taking your dog to the vet so that any underlying health conditions can be ruled out
There are many factors that can act as causes behind signs of dog depression like major life changes, lack of mental stimulation, illness, changes in environment and routine, etc. If you notice your dog behaving differently from normal, take him to the vet and rule out any underlying health issues.
In case you notice your dog is showing signs of dog depression. there are a few things you can do to make your furry friend feel better. Some of these are mental stimulation, adequate exercise, playtime, extra cuddle sessions, and finally spending a few extra moments with your pup every day.