Did you know that like humans, dogs can occasionally suffer from bouts of depression?
If your usually cheerful dog starts to seem a little off, it’s possible they may have the blues.
Because they can’t use words to tell us how they’re feeling, it’s important to be aware of the potential causes and warning signs to recognise if your dog may be depressed.
Here is our guide to understanding dog depression and what you can do about it to help them get back to their happy, tail-wagging selves.
Causes of dog depression
There are a number of different causes of depression in dogs, especially relating to any major changes in a dog’s life. Some of these may include:
- Environmental changes – moving into a new home, house renovations, changes in their routine or the owner’s routine
- Grief – loss of a companion animal or the loss of an owner
- Changes in the home – a new dog or pet, or the addition of a new baby, spouse or roommate in the household
- Weather and seasonal changes – changes in seasons or extended periods of bad weather can have an impact on your pets’ moods. Just as the onset of winter can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in some people, it can also have an effect on dogs.
- Owner – if you are feeling sad or depressed, your dog may be able to recognise that. They may also become depressed if their owner is gone a lot.
- Health issues – they may be in pain or have an illness or medical condition that needs to be diagnosed by a vet.
How to recognise if your dog is depressed
Some of the symptoms of depression in dogs can include:
- Changes in sleeping habits – sleeping more than usual, continuing to sleep after you get home, not reacting to your presence etc.
- Changes in appetite – loss of interest in food leading to weight loss, or alternatively, eating more for comfort, resulting in weight gain.
- Lack of interest in activities they normally enjoy – being less active, not interested in playing or going for walks etc.
- Paw licking – depressed dogs will often lick or chew their paws which is soothing for them.
- Hiding or isolating – wanting to be left alone.
- Howling or whining – howling can be a symptom of separation anxiety or depression if your dog is left alone for long periods of time.
- Looking sad – if you’re in tune with your dog’s body language, you can likely tell if your pet is sad. (This can be harder to determine if you have a breed like a Boxer or Basset Hound.)
What to do if your dog is depressed
- Get some sunshine – in the colder months your dog may not be getting outdoors as much as in the warmer months. Try taking your dog on more walks or play with them outside in the sun to help cheer them up.
- Give it time – most dogs will pull themselves out of depression with a little time and understanding, you just need to be patient.
- Give them some extra attention – dogs are happiest when they’re around people. Give them some extra cuddles, spend a bit more time with them, or consider taking them to a doggy daycare if you’re unable to give your dog as much attention as they need.
- Get another dog – if your dog is depressed due to the mourning of their fur-sibling, perhaps you could consider bringing another dog into your family.
- Take your dog to the vet – illness can make your dog feel sad so taking them to the vet is the best way to make sure there are no underlying health issues at play.
- Medication – this may be a last resort but, in some cases, your vet may suggest medication as the best option.
While depression in dogs will often resolve on its own after a short time, it’s important to be proactive in helping your dog to overcome depression. Remember to always seek advice from your veterinarian for the best way to proceed.