How to Help Dog Depression
A depressed dog is not only distressing to see, but can be a sign of many problems your dog might be going through. As a pet owner, it’s important to help a depressed dog as otherwise they will lose interest in doing the things they enjoy and could end up having health problems. This article will work to help explain what exactly causes dog depression how you can help treat it.
Can Dogs Get Depressed?
Canine depression is a very common thing among dogs. Dogs can become depressed for many reasons, such as a new move or schedule changes. While there is no scientific proof that dogs can get clinical depression, they can act very mopey and sad, which leads many veterinarians to believe that they can be. While depression in dogs will vary compared to human depression, both exhibit similar symptoms, such as a lack of interest in activities or extreme lethargy.
How Dogs are Diagnosed with Depression
If you’re concerned that your dog might have depression, you need to take them to your vet. Unfortunately, veterinarians don’t have depression criteria they can use for dogs, but they can work to tell whether or not something has changed in their attitude or if they have a serious health problem. Usually, your vet will ask you about any changes in their interests or appetite as well as if there have been any other strange symptoms that could be a sign of depression. Your vet will then be able to take this information and decide whether or not your dog might in fact be depressed.
Why is My Dog Depressed?
There are many reasons why your dog might be sad and depressed. Below are some common things that cause depression in dogs.
They Don’t Like Their New Surroundings
A common reason for dog depression is that they don’t like their new surroundings. For instance, if you’ve moved, your pet might not enjoy their new house or yard. This is because it could cause stress to them and make them a bit scared which can eventually lead to depression.
There was the Loss of a Loved One
Another cause of possible depression in dogs is that there has been a loss of a loved one, like a fellow family member or pet they interacted with often. Because they don’t know how to deal with the loss, it can lead them to have depressive spells.
They Can’t Handle a New Family Member or Pet
Sometimes a new family member, like a baby, or pet can seem like a betrayal to your dog as they were once your center of attention. They can feel a bit jealous and as if they are alone which can cause them to feel depressed.
You are Acting Different Toward Them
If you’re having medical issues or are feeling down, it can reflect on your dog. While dogs tend to be very happy, when they see that you are sad or don’t want to pet and be around them a lot, it can confuse them and eventually make them feel very sad.
This can be especially so if you have post puppy depression. Puppies can be very energetic and require a lot of attention and care. While it might not be so bad in the beginning, eventually it can take a toll on your mood. You might feel bad and not want to be around your puppy anymore, which is something they can feel and realize. Because of this, they might feel a little depressed because you aren’t as happy to see them or want to spend time with them.
They Have a New Schedule
While not always, sometimes a new schedule can make your dog stressed which can lead to depression. When a dog doesn’t have their specific schedule (such as certain walking and eating times) it can puzzle them and cause stress. Eventually, this could lead to depression because they don’t know how to deal with the change.
They are in Pain
Sometimes dogs can become depressed if they are in pain, This is especially so if they are older dogs and suffer from chronic illnesses, like arthritis. The pain can make it hard for them to move around and even cause spasms when they’re sleeping. Because of this, it could cause depression because they don’t know how to deal with the pain and lack of being able to function normally.
They are Gaining Weight
While some dogs will lose their appetite, which can cause weight loss, other dogs might end up overeating which can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Lack of exercise and giving them many treats to help try to cheer them up can lead to this symptom causing severe obesity which can impact their health in many ways.
They are Scared
Dogs often can have phobias and fears, such as storms or fireworks, which can cause them to become depressed. While this might seem like a strange way to express their fear, keeping themselves in a safe spot and not moving or wanting to do things is a way to help them protect themselves from what they might be scared of.
They are Overcorrected with Their Behaviors
Dogs often aim to please, although they sometimes can act up, such as urinating inside or chewing on things they shouldn’t be. Many owners often chastise their pets when they do so, but often this can cause your dog to become depressed because they don’t want you to be upset or have a punishment.
Dog Depression Symptoms: Signs of Depression in Dogs
If you’re not sure if your mopey dog is just having a quick sad spell or is actually depressed, you’ll want to keep the following symptoms in mind. They are common signs that your dog might be depressed.
Changes in Appetite
A common sign of depression in dogs is that they have a change in appetite. This can range from them not eating their normal amount of food, extreme weight loss, and trying to eat their food but being unable to do so.
Lack of Energy
Another sign of depression in dogs is that they have a lack of energy. If you find your pet doesn’t want to go for walks or play, it could be a concerning thing as they have a lack of interest in the things they more than likely once enjoyed doing.
Excessive Paw Licking
If your dog is suddenly licking their paws a lot, it could be a sign of depression. While sometimes this can be caused by other medical conditions, like a yeast infection, most of the time, paw licking is a way for a dog to help soothe themselves. Because of this, it can point to possible depression as your dog is trying to find ways to help keep themselves calm.
They Tend to Hide Themselves
While sometimes dogs like to get away from others and hide in corners for naps, sometimes doing so can be a concerning sign, especially if they start to do so often. This is concerning because dogs are pack animals so they usually like to be around other animals and people. When they go off by themselves, it shows that something might not be right as they don’t want to associate with others of their “pack”.
They Sleep All the Time
Another concerning sign of dog depression is excessive sleep. While dogs will usually sleep for about 12-14 hours per day, longer amounts of time are a concern. It can also be a concern if your dog sleeps and doesn’t get up to eat their food or even acknowledge you after not having seen you all day.
How to Treat Dog Depression
Thankfully, there are a few ways to help treat a depressed dog. Below are some things to consider to help your sad doggo.
Veterinarians are often able to prescribe human-designed antidepressants for dogs to use. A common medication vets use for dog depression is Prozac. It helps to balance out the serotonin levels in your dog’s body while also working to reduce symptoms of anxiety which can be caused by depression.
Another medication that might be prescribed is Doxepin. Doxepin is used to help treat many depressive symptoms and could also help your dog with other health problems, like severe allergies. Your vet could also decide to give your dog Fluoxetine which is often prescribed as an alternative to Prozac as it’s a bit milder. It also works to stop common symptoms, like paw licking.
However, sometimes veterinarians are limited in what they can prescribe for dogs as they are unable to truly know what’s going on in a dog’s mind. Because of this, natural methods might be recommended by them before they decide to give a dog medications. Most of the time, vets will only prescribe medications for a depressed dog if their symptoms are severe.
CBD oil has become a so-called miracle medication as it’s used for many different health problems for animals and humans alike. CBD oil has been proven to help with depression as it tricks the brain’s receptors working to calm them down. This will not only help boost your dog’s attitude, but also stop many other symptoms of depression, like a loss of appetite.
This natural antidepressant for dogs also works to help balance out the serotonin levels in their body. Serotonin is a natural chemical produced in the body, mainly the brain, which helps to create positive emotions. When depression strikes, serotonin levels can lower which can remove these emotions. CBD oil works to help balance out the serotonin in your dog which keeps them calm and happy.
CBD oil also works very quickly which means you might be able to see results within a few hours. It also doesn’t have many side effects making it a very safe way to manage dog depression. Because of this, it’s ideal to give a dog with depression.
There are a few ways to give your dog CBD oil. The first is that you can rub some of the oil on their skin which it will then absorb. It’s usually very safe to apply to the skin as it’s anti-inflammatory so it won’t typically cause breakouts or rashes even on dogs with the most sensitive of skin. You can also buy some CBD oil treats to give them as a snack.
Try to Get Them to Exercise
While it might be a bit difficult at first, encouraging your dog to get out and exercise can be one of the best ways to help them release stress. Moving around and even just taking a quick stroll around the block can help to keep their immune system healthy while also releasing endorphins which can make them feel a bit better.
However, exercise doesn’t have to just be outdoors. Exercise can also be you giving them a new toy or a bone to chew on. This will help them to keep their mind on something else than what is causing them to be depressed while also moving their body to keep it active.
Spend Some Time with Them
Sometimes just spending time with your pet, like snuggling with them or petting them, can be a huge help. While you don’t want to overdo it, as this could cause them more stress or irritate them, just showing them that you love them and are there for them can help to boost serotonin in their body and make them feel a bit better. In fact, studies have shown that spending time with your pet can boost their oxytocin levels which is what produces happiness in the body.
Try to Get Them to Socialize
If you think your dog might be depressed over the loss of a family member or fellow pet, try to get them out to socialize. This will help them to meet other dogs which can boost their mood if they’re feeling lonely. You might also consider getting a new companion for them or signing them up for a doggie daycare. These can help them to get out in new surroundings while also interacting with other people and dogs.
Make sure to take it slow though. Sometimes immediately putting your dog into new surroundings and situations can worsen the problem.
Add Omega-3s to Their Diet
Omega-3s are important fatty acids to have as they help to keep your dog healthy in many different ways, like giving them hydrated skin and good heart health. These fatty acids also have been proven to help with soothing symptoms of depression due to their anti-inflammatory properties which can calm the brain. This eventually can lead to their body producing and releasing serotonin and endorphins which can make them feel happier and more energetic.
If you want to give them Omega-3s, you can use fish oil pills and mix the liquid into their food or find chewy treats that contain this important fatty acid in them.
Use Herbal Supplements
Another way to help sad dogs is to give them herbal supplements. One to consider giving your sad dog is lavender. Lavender is known for helping to calm the central nervous system, a part of the body that is believed to cause depression when out of balance. Sometimes you can use essential oils on your dog which will then seep into their skin, or use chewy supplements they can eat. Other ingredients you might find in herbal supplements are chamomile, green tea, alfalfa, and aloe vera juice.
Besides helping depression, herbal supplements can also work to ensure that their body stays healthy. They will improve their immune system and also help them feel better overall as well.
However, make sure to check beforehand with your vet to ensure that the herbal supplements you plan to use are safe for your dog. Otherwise, you might unintentionally cause more pain to them.
Keep a Strict Schedule
It might be hard to do, but sometimes keeping a strict schedule, such as with feeding and exercise times, will help your mopey dog feel as if they have a schedule they can stick to and give them something to look forward to. This can help them to look forward to things which can help to lower symptoms of their depression.
Give Them Time
Some dogs just need time to get over their depression and need a few days to themselves. While many dogs can eventually get over their depression themselves, not all can. Because of this, if you find they still haven’t improved over a week, it might be time to try another way to help them out.
Depression in dogs can be a very concerning thing. Not only does it make your pet feel terrible, but it can change the dog you love in many ways. While a veterinarian can prescribe medications to help with symptoms of depression, there are many other ways you can do so as well, like use CBD oil and spending extra time with them. By doing so, it can help them to feel loved and comforted which can significantly help depression symptoms.
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
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The Innovet Team
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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