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Dog Depression:  Is your Dog Making You Sad?

By Janice Jones     |Last Updated January 30, 2020

Is dog depression real?  It is sad to think our four-legged family members may be depressed.  They provide us with so much love and companionship, and we want only the best for their well-being. 

Dog Depression:  Is it Real?Dog Depression, Is it Real?

Our canine relationships have deepened to where dogs who were once relegated to the dog house outside now shares our home, our time and even our bed. 

For many of us, the relationship we share with our dogs is akin to our human relationships whether we admit it or not.

When we share such a close relationship, human or canine, it isn’t difficult to observe subtle changes in their personality. 

When humans are sad, anxious or depressed, they will likely tell you so.  With dogs, the signs may not be readily apparent. 

Animal behaviorists have shown us many psychological disorders that occur in dogs and how to treat them. 

We know that dogs can suffer from phobias, anxiety, PTSD, separation anxiety, and more.  Depression, it would seem is another disorder that dogs are not immune too. 

Is Depression common in dogs?  Scientists say yes.

In a 2013 British study, researchers found that one in four British dogs were suffering from some form of depression because they were being left alone while their owners worked.

Symptoms of Dog Depression

Consider the type of symptoms people exhibit when they are depressed:  Sadness, lethargy, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, withdrawal behaviors, even anger. 

People do not obtain the same pleasure in daily activities that they did before the onset of their depression.

Dogs that are depressed can also show many of these same symptoms. 

A dog that is less active or even withdrawn, have a change in their sleeping and waking behaviors or changes in appetite may be depressed. 

These symptoms could also be the result of a medical problem, so if your dog does begin to show some of these symptoms, it is important to take him to your vet for a complete checkup.

Signs of dog depression may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive sleeping or sleeping less
  • Withdrawal
  • Clingy behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Refusing to participate in activities they used to find enjoyable
  • Whining or crying
  • Changes in behavior (nor wagging his tail as much, greetings less exuberant
  • Weight loss

Causes of Dog Depression

Causes of Dog Depression

  • Change in Daily Routine
  • Loss (either human or canine)
  • Overwhelming Stress

Our dogs are vulnerable to many of the same triggers that cause depression in people.  As is the case in humans, change can bring about sudden bouts of depression. 

A change in their daily schedule, the loss of their primary caregiver, or a relocation can bring on depression in dogs.  Owners that were home most of the time return to work or our vacation plans that require our dogs to be boarded can be stressful and trigger depression.   Unless your dog is used to travel, vacationing with your dog could cause stress, anxiety, and possibly depression due to the change in routine.

The addition of a new family member, a new baby or even a new pet may change his overall comfort level and plunge him into a state of confusion and sadness.  Even when the dog does not experience any noticeable changes in their own life, our overwhelming stress can carry over to them. 

Sometimes we humans fail to see the dog’s pain because ours is so great.

When Jane’s Lab mix died, her cocker mix, Josey refused to do anything that this generally active happy dog enjoyed doing.   

Jane reported that the dog stopped eating and reduced the amount of water intake.  In the evenings when she sat down to watch TV, her dog would wander into the bedroom and not interact or cuddle on the sofa as was her previous routine. 

Josey even gave up her favorite game, Fetch. 

Jane may have missed the signs altogether because she too was grieving the loss of her other dog but she was observant enough to realize that her cocker was just very lonely. 

The addition of another dog helped Josey snap out of her depression.  It took about a week of adjustment, but now the two dogs are best buds, and Josey is back to her usual self.

Treatment Options For Dog Depression

Treatment Options for Dog DepressionTreatment Options for Dog Depression

Extra TLC and the elimination of stress may be all that is required to have your dog bounce back to his usual happy self.  More serious depression, however, will need medication and even therapy.  If extra love and attention are not enough, it is time to seek veterinary evaluation. 

According to Dr. Jane Bicks, author and authority on the holistic treatment of animals suggest that home therapy is right for your dog and also for you.

“Renew your commitment to exercise with daily walks … the sunshine and fresh air can do wonders for both you and your dog. Plus, you’ll be adding a little adventure to your dog’s day.”

Beyond daily walks, there are other things you can do to cheer your dog and help him recover. 

Begin a new socialization program.  Take him to places you haven’t been in a long time.  If your dog is grieving the loss of a canine playmate, take him for playdates or arrange a visit to the dog park.  You may eventually want to get another dog, but you need to heal first so don’t jump into new dog ownership until you feel ready.

Extra time and TLC.  Sometimes all it takes is more time with your dog.  Play games and reward with food treats when he is acting happy and energetic.  Avoid extra treats when he moops.

Karen Sueda, DVM, board-certified Veterinary Behaviorist, said medications for depressed dogs are the same as those used by depressed humans -- Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft or Clomicalm for separation anxiety. 

The good news for dogs suffering from depression is that is relatively short lived.  Removing or fixing the underlying cause is usually sufficient to help your dog snap back.  The type of chronic depression that affects people’s lives is not as common in dogs.





About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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