5 Warning Signs: What to Do When a Dog Is Depressed

Posted by Katherine Ripley
Golden Retriever Dog

Dogs get depressed just like people do.

Have you noticed lately that your dog's energy level has dropped, his sleeping and eating habits aren't the same, or he's not as interested in the things he used to be interested in? It's possible your dog is depressed.

Canine depression can often be triggered by the loss or departure of a family member, either a human or another pet. Depression can also be triggered from major changes in the dog's routine whether it is a new baby, new pet, or even moving into a new house.

Separation anxiety is very common and could also be addressed with a veterinarian. If some of the major changes are triggering anxiety and you've put your finger on the source of the problem - try working with your veterinary behaviorist or a trainer on techniques that decrease these triggers. You may find that some shorter-term techniques quickly change your dog's behavior. Also, consider natural remedies including flower essences and a calming essential oil diffuser. Your vet will help you rule out any health issues or physical problems.

If you're concerned about your furry companion, look out for these five warning signs of depression in dogs:

1. Appetite Changes

Golden Retriever

When dogs become depressed, they often eat less or even stop eating. There are also some dogs who will eat a lot more when they get depressed, because dog food can serve as a comfort to them.

If your dog has experienced extreme weight loss in a short amount of time, there might be a chance there is a chemical imbalance caused by clinical depression.

2. Changes in Sleeping Habits

Sleeping Cavalier Dog

Like humans, when dogs get depressed, they often sleep a lot more than they usually do. You might come home from work and find that your dog doesn't want to get out of bed.

Excessive sleeping could signify depressed behavior.

3. Loss of Interest

Sad Dog

A major symptom of depression in dogs is no longer showing interest in going for walks, nor in all the other activities your dog used to enjoy. Again, these depression symptoms are remarkably similar to humans.

4. Avoidance or Hiding

Dog Peeping From Under Blanket

If your dog suddenly starts hiding from you or wants to be left alone, that's a strong indication that something is bothering her. It could be a physical injury, or it could be purely emotional.

5. Excessive Licking

French Bulldog

Depressed dogs will often lick their paws to soothe themselves. If it seems like your dog is displaying excessive licking or biting behavior, he may be depressed.

What to Do?

So what should you do if your usually happy dog has the symptoms of depression? As we mentioned previously, first, take your dog to the vet to make sure these symptoms are not caused by a physical ailment.

If the vet finds that your dog is physically healthy, the best thing you can do is maintain the routine that you and your dog had before the traumatic event, to get her back to a sense of normalcy. Keep feeding times and amounts the same, and take her on plenty of walks so that she can get enough exercise. Continue to try to engage her with activities she used to enjoy, like going to the dog park, and make sure you pay her extra attention.

Dog At The Beach

If several months go by and your dog is still depressed or experiencing anxiety, a vet might prescribe medical treatment. Antidepressants like Prozac are only given to dogs with severe cases of depression, and usually for short periods of time. Canines are usually able to get over dog depression on their own, with loving attention from their owners.

If there isn't an underlying medical condition, then I'd try increasing my dog's activity levels as a way to ensure my dog's mood improves. I've found that a loss of family member can be extremely stressful and a cause of depression. I would do anything to turn my dog's sadness around!

Has your dog ever gone through depression? Tell us how you handled it in the comments below.

READ MORE: What Can We Learn from Pets with Mental Illnesses?

WATCH NOW: Pets Lead to Good Health

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5 Warning Signs: What to Do When a Dog Is Depressed