Depression can be a serious mental illness. Its severity and symptoms vary, but in all cases, it should not be taken lightly. You’re sick – just not with a common cold – and there are treatments and ways to help. The same is true for dogs. Canine depression is not as well-studied as human depression, but what we do know is that dogs may exhibit similar behaviors as people when they’re down in the dumps.
Some causes of doggy depression may be moving to a new home, introducing a new family member (human or canine) or a change in the owner’s schedule. However, the most common trigger is loss of a close companion or owner.
How should you react if your pooch isn’t him or herself? The most important thing to do is always pay attention to your dog. Fido cannot talk, but he can still tell you how he’s feeling.
Rule out other ailments
Behaviors like moping or hiding do not necessarily signal depression. Dogs may become less interested in walks and general physical movement if they are experiencing pain from arthritis. They might also hide in reaction to fear, anxiety, or a more serious medical problem Keep an eye on your dog if you notice any abnormal behavior and call your vet for more information. A vet visit might offer a quicker fix than anticipated, but at the very least, it will help you begin diagnosing what is wrong.
Sleeping a lot
Dogs will sleep more when they are not given stimulation (like when the owner is gone from the house all day or on vacation). This is natural. But if your presence and attempts at engaging your dog’s interest are still met with sleeping and laying around, it’s time to find out what’s bothering your pup.
Change in appetite
This is one of the more common signs of canine depression. Just like people, dogs can either avoid food or eat more when depressed, so be aware of both reactions.
Excessive paw licking
Your dog might be licking, or even chewing their paws in efforts to soothe themselves. This could mean a physiological problem, or it could signal that your dog is dealing with a psychological issue. Rescue dogs may have a history of abuse or trauma, so it’s likely that they will exhibit this behavior if distressed.
Decreased interest or excitement
If the usual methods of play and activity don’t perk up your pup, keep depression in mind as a possible reason why. Canine responses to depression may not be too different from ours, so it’s good to pay attention to more subtle signs.
What can you do?
Give your pup the attention he or she needs and maintain a friendly relationship with your local veterinarian. For many dogs, depression can be a passing phase caused by temporary stress or grief. However, if your dog’s doldrums persist, talk to your vet about different treatment options, like medication.
Dogs are intelligent animals – that’s part of why we love them so much. This means they can have issues which take time to heal or diagnose. Anecdotally, dogs also can mirror their owner’s behavior. If you yourself are feeling down or depressed, your dog may pick up on it and display similar symptoms. It’s important for you to take care of yourself and your dog, and what better way to begin feeling better than spending time with floppy ears and furry paws?