There is no doubt that a dog with depression can be melancholy and mopey. It is not uncommon for pets to get down, “get the blues” or show obvious signs of discontent; especially during periods of change or uncertainty that affect their lives.
But it is rare for a dog to suffer from a long-term state of depression compared to the clinical depression exhibited by people.
Whether the problem is a pet parent leaving for work causing separation anxiety or the loss of an animal companion, we know that pets, and dogs in particular, can exhibit behavioral changes consistent with depression.
Although dogs do not have the same capacity for reasoning as we humans, it doesn’t mean they cannot experience an emotional state of depression. In dogs, depression is not exactly the same complex clinical disorder that it is in people. However, dogs can certainly experience bouts of depression.
Can Dogs Get Depressed?
Dogs are truly sensitive to those around them and can respond dramatically to upsetting changes in their lives. When major life changes occur such as a family move, divorce or relationship breakup, or the death of another pet in the house, it is not uncommon for dogs to have an observable period of mourning and depression.
Positive changes to a home environment, like the addition of a new baby, can also illicit negative behavioral changes in a family pet that reflect a somber, despondent mood.
Even minor life changes that you might not pay much attention to as a pet parent can dramatically affect a dog. Things like rearranging furniture, introducing a new pet to the home, or a change in an owner’s work schedule can change the routine enough to throw a dog off-pace and cause some signs of depression–if only temporary.
Signs Of Dog Depression
Dog depression symptoms are very similar to those in people. When dogs are depressed, they often appear sad, lethargic, and withdrawn. They become inactive. Their eating and sleeping habits often change. Some dogs will stop eating or eat much less than usual. They may drink only minimal amounts of water and lose interest in play. Activities they previously enjoyed with vigor and passion are now avoided.
Eventually, some depressed dogs can lose drastic amounts of weight and can develop a variety of physical illnesses from long-standing depression.
Why Do Dogs Get Depressed?
Causes Of Depression In Dogs
There are several potential causes of depression in dogs. As a pet owner, the first step in helping your dog is to recognize the problem exists.
Some of the common causes of canine depression are the following:
- Changes to Environment – two of most common triggers of severe dog depression are the loss of a companion animal or the loss of an owner. Even a change in the dog’s schedule, for instance a stay-at-home owner who takes a job, can cause a dog to get down. Moving to a new home (or being re-homed), a general change of scenery (home renovations), or even the weather outside can adversely affect a normal happy dog. It usually takes time, potentially weeks or months for your dog to adapt and adjust to new surroundings or sudden environmental changes.
- Grief – dogs will mourn the loss of a human or animal companion just as we do. The parting of a house-mate or loss of a close fellow dog, due to death or even for short vacation, can cause separation anxiety and depression. A child that the dog grew up with that has grown up and moved out can cause a dog to grieve. Be aware that dogs pick up on our emotions, so if the owner has died, the dog could be responding to the grief of others.
- Physical Illness – many health related problems will cause a dog to act depressed, so it’s important to first rule out any physical illness or medical problem for a dog’s abnormal behavior before focusing on a mental/emotional reason. Physical pain is the most obvious culprit for a dog’s lack of desire or willingness to engage in playtime.
- Fear or Phobia(s) – a dog that reacts with fear to loud noises like fireworks (audio phobia) can make him seem depressed. Dogs show fear in different ways and sometimes a dog may be trying not to appear scared since that might make them seem more vulnerable, so instead, the dog retreats from normal activities as a means to protect himself.
- The Owner (YOU) – studies show that a dog will take on the attitude (and behavior) of it’s owner. Are you sick or depressed? Angry or indecisive? Are you consistent in your training approach as to not give your dog “mixed-signals” or conflicting commands? Your dog will pick up on not only your verbal commands but how you feel and the energy you put out. Your dog will pick up and mirror your own fears and feelings of depression so be sure to clear your own negative feelings that can influence your pup’s behavior.
- Unknown Cause – in some cases, there is no obvious reason for a dog’s depression which can be very frustrating for you as the owner and primary care taker.
Symptoms of Dog Depression
Some of the common symptoms that are often correlated to canine depression are the following:
– Decreased appetite
– Regression in housetraining/ increased accidents in the house
– Sleeping more hours than usual
– Lack of interest in exercise
– Sudden onset of aggression
– Acting disoriented or lost at home
These symptoms can also indicate a dog has a more serious medical problem, so the first course of action should always be to have a full checkup by a veterinarian. Any pet that shows a change in behavior, mopes around or no longer wants to go for walks could simply be in physical pain or have an unrecognized illness or injury.
As we’ve seen, changes in a dog’s life and routine could lead to periods of depression. Here are some of the warning signs of to be aware of if you suspect your dog may be depressed:
Appetite Changes – when some dogs are extremely sad, they lose interest in food and often lose weight. Alternatively, there are dogs that seem to use food as a kind of solace when they are depressed and want to eat more, leading to weight gain.
Sleeping all the time – dogs sleep a lot, usually more than 12 hours a day. But this typically happens when their owners are gone. If you leave your dog for a long time (say, for work) and he continues to sleep after you get home, barely reacting to your presence, something is probably wrong. Check for physical problems first, but if you can’t find anything and the symptoms continue, he may be depressed. Also know that this can work in the opposite direction, with your pup having trouble sleeping and becoming more restless.
Loss of Interest – if your dog suddenly loses interest in playing, going for walks, and other things that would normally excite her, take note. Dogs who become less active, slow down, or seem to lose purpose may be suffering from “doggie depression”.
Paw Licking – depressed dogs will often lick or chew their paws to soothe their emotional state. Excessive licking or chewing may be rooted in a physiological or psychological issues.
Avoidance / Hiding – dogs that suddently hide or want to be left alone behave that way beccause something is bothering them or causing unneccessary fear-response. If it’s not physical, it’s likely emotional. The biggest thing to remember is not to assume that your dog is depressed right off the bat.
Often, behavior issues that seem emotional really stem from physical, medical causes. The first thing to do if you notice a change in your dog’s behavior and activity level is to have your pup checked by a veterinarian.
Dog Depression Treatment
A slow deterioration and loss of initiative are definite clues that something is bothering your dog. If this is happening to your dog, you need to address it right away and start to make life fun again!
Once you have ruled out a health problem, an increase in your dog’s activity level is the next step to helping your dog. By keeping them engaged, doing more of the things they like to do and getting them a little more outdoor exercise they will perk-up and begin to show their unique personality again.
Try to engage in fun activities with your dog, like games, fun tricks, and general training. Take some time to bond with your dog. You may also consider letting your dog play with other dogs or go to doggie daycare for new experiences.
It’s natural that you’ll want to pay more attention and give close comfort to your dog when he is depressed. That’s what caring parents do–but try not to coddle or overly comfort your dog. Too much coddling and comforting on your part may actually reinforce the sad, depressing behavior.
And don’t forget to reward them when they show signs of happiness. If the only thing that still gets a little tail wag out of your dog is a car ride, then take him for a series of short rides each day, praising and rewarding him when he appears happier and more joyful.
Just be careful not to encourage the “negative behavior” by lavishing a depressed dog with attention and doggie treats while he is moping, The dog will think you’re rewarding him for that type of behavior.
It’s also very important to try your best to stay on schedule and stick to your normal routine. This can give your dog a sense of security and boost his confidence.
Medications For Dog Depression
As a loving dog owner, you will be relieved to learn that you can actually help your dog with mental depression.
Without any medical intervention most dogs bounce back from depression within a few days to a few months with just a little extra TLC.
If patience and proper engagement doesn’t work, medications can help dogs get past their depression. According to the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, medications for depressed dogs are the same as those used by depressed humans.
In severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend a medication such as Paxil, Prozac (fluoxetine) or Zoloft to help your pet through an especially difficult time or rough transition. Some vets will prescribe Clomicalm, an FDA approved drug for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs.
However, some pet parents are concerned about the lasting effects and addictive nature of these anti-depressant drugs for their dog.
CBD Oil For Dogs Depression
If you notice your pet is skittish, anxious or overall, not acting like themselves, it is normal to worry. Much like humans, dogs will experience various ebbs and flows in their mood–all caused by a variety of factors.
No matter the underlying cause, changes in your dogs behavior are worth further investigation. Whatever we can do to ease our pet’s stress, anxiety and depression is worth considering.
CBD Oil Is A Natural Anti-Depressant For Dogs
CBD oil from hemp has shown to have anti-anxiety properties that can extend to our four-legged friends during times of stress and emotional adjustment. This natural, plant-based cannabinoid can help your dog feel more relaxed, at ease and better able to adapt to changes in his immediate home environment.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psycho-mimetic compound derived from hemp that induces anxiolytic- and antipsychotic-like effects in animal models. More specifically, the effects of CBD may be mediated by the activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors.
CBD exerts fast and maintained antidepressant-like effects and recent findings indicate that CBD could represent a novel fast acting antidepressant drug, via enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signalling through a 5-HT1A receptor-dependent mechanism. Through it’s 5-HT(1A) receptor activation, CBD may induce antidepressant-like effects similar to those of anti-depressant drugs…but without the negative side-effects or addictive potential.
Similar to the actions of conventional antidepressants, CBD can enhance bio-chemical signaling of serotonergic and noradrenergic transmission in parts of the dog’s brain responsible for the stress response axis. And CBD appears to contribute to some of the neuro-adaptive alterations attributed to prescription anti-depressants.
Dogs And Depression
New Approaches To Canine Mental Health
If you want your dog to be happier, healthier and more confident during those temporary transitional times when our fast-paced lifestyle puts added stress on our canine companions, there is a more natural, less harmful way to support your dog’s anxiety and reduce the impact of depression.
CBD oil from hemp can be a better treatment option for dogs with mood disorders and depression without the negative side effects or long-term addictive properties from traditional presciption anti-depressant medications. Your dog deserves to be happy–And CBD can help!