What to Know About Depression in Dogs

young golden retriever under a gray blanket

Your dog experiences the same range of emotions as you do. They can get excited, be happy, and approach something with curiosity. At the same time, they can become frustrated, get upset, feel scared, and can also experience anxiety and depression. Here’s what to know to know about depression in dogs:

Is Dog Depression Real?

Dogs often experience and process more than we give them credit for. So, can a dog really go through the experiences and process the information necessary to experience situational depression and can your dog have a mental illness like depression?

Medical science says yes. It’s true – your dog is susceptible to depression just as you are. Although long-term depression in dogs is rare, it can happen. And, there are a lot of things that can cause a dog to feel depressed.

Whether it’s a matter of a change of scenery, an event that leads to grief, or simply a chemical imbalance on your dog’s part, your dog is capable of feeling depressed and also having depression.

What Can Cause Depression in Dogs?

There is a difference between feeling depressed due to a specific cause or event and feeling depressed due to depression. If your dog is feeling depressed due to depression, it is due to a chemical imbalance.

If your dog is feeling depressed on a situational basis, it can be caused by a variety of things. Dogs are incredibly social creatures that form strong relationships with the living beings they spend a lot of time with. If they recently lost a dog friend, an animal friend, or a human friend because they passed away or moved away, they could be feeling depressed because they are grieving the loss of their friend.

Big changes in their environment and some medical conditions can also cause bouts of depression. Moving to a new home, adding another dog to the household, a new person or baby in the house, a big change to the dog’s schedule, and more can all cause a bout of depression in your dog. Dogs also pick up on their human’s emotions, so if you are feeling depressed, your dog may react by matching it.

Is My Dog Depressed?

One of the biggest signs of depression in dogs is extreme lethargy. If it seems that your dog has lost their initiative and energy and they need to be prodded into doing much of anything, they may be depressed.

When a dog is feeling depressed, they will also often withdraw, sleep more, lose interest in playing, and appear sad. Additionally, they tend to lose their appetite and will eat much less than normal or stop eating entirely. They also only drink minimal amounts of water.

This can cause depressed dogs to lose weight and may also result in secondary medical ailments. Symptoms of dog depression also overlap with several other illnesses and issues, which is why they are some of the symptoms you should never ignore in your dog.

What to Do if Your Dog is Depressed

If your dog’s depression is situational and you can pinpoint the cause, there are some things you can do to help them feel better and help make your dog happy again. Oftentimes, just spending more time with them, playing with them more, and making sure they get more than enough exercise can help your dog work through feeling down.

It’s important to stick to a normal routine as this will give your dog a sense of security and confidence even when they are feeling down. And, it’s important not to lavish attention and treats so much more than normal that they think you’re rewarding their depressed behavior. A little more than normal is fine, but too much coddling can lead to your dog prolonging the behavior to continue getting more attention or treats.

If the behavior persists, is accompanied by other symptoms, or you think your dog’s depression is due to a chemical balance, you’ll want to take them to a veterinarian. From there, they will be diagnosed and you and your vet can come up with a plan for treating the cause of your dog’s depression.

If the depression has a physical root and is caused by another medical problem, your vet will be able to help. If it’s situational, your vet will be able to provide some tips for more things you can do to help your dog cheer up. If it’s a chemical imbalance that requires medication, your vet can prescribe the right dose and type of anti-depressants for your dog.

Bouts of depression are normal for your dog, especially when big changes occur in their life. But, they don’t have to go through it alone. With this information about depression in dogs, you have everything you need to help your dog get back to their normal self.