If your normally happy, energetic pup suddenly seems withdrawn and unusually unhappy, you might wonder if your dog could be depressed.
Certain events—like the loss of a family member, or a move—might cause your dog to become withdrawn or simply to act a bit differently than you’re used to.
Here’s how you can help support your friend through life’s ups and downs, and when to know if the issue requires professional attention.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Can dogs get depressed?
- Signs of depression in dogs
- What causes depression in dogs?
- When to see a vet for your dog’s depression
- How to treat depression in dogs
- Tips for caring for your dog’s mental health
Can dogs get depressed?
Yes, they certainly can.
While dogs don’t experience depression quite like humans do, they can experience feelings of sadness. In some cases, those feelings of sadness last for long periods of time, and that sadness can become “dog depression.”
It’s also possible that your dog might be mirroring your own feelings. Dogs are highly sensitive and tuned into their humans’ emotions. If you’re experiencing depression or sadness, your dog might express similar feelings and behaviors.
Signs of depression in dogs
Symptoms of depression in dogs can vary depending on what’s causing your dog’s depression. For example, if your furry friend is grieving the loss of another dog, they’ll behave differently than a dog who is depressed as the result of a major life change, like the addition of a new baby or a move to a new home.
Common signs of depression in dogs may include:
- Decreased appetite
- Increased sleep or a change in sleeping habits
- Being unusually clingy
- Barking more than usual
- Unusual aggression toward people or animals
- Pooping or peeing in the house
- Hiding or withdrawing from social situations
- Destructive behaviors like chewing furniture
- Loss of interest in playtime
Keep in mind that some of these symptoms of dog depression can also be symptoms of physical issues. Decreased appetite, increased lethargy, and even pooping or peeing in the house are somewhat common symptoms of health conditions like pancreatitis, kidney disease, diabetes and urinary tract infections.
If you notice unexplained changes in your dog’s behavior, it’s important to consider not only mental, but also potential physical causes.
What causes depression in dogs?
Getting to the root of your dog’s depression can help you to get your best friend feeling better. There are many potential causes.
If you take your dog to the vet for a checkup, they’ll often begin by asking about any recent changes to your dog’s lifestyle. This is because depression can be caused by major changes like a move to a new home, the addition of a new baby, or even bringing home a new pet.
Major changes in your dog’s schedule—for instance, if you get a new office job and aren’t able to take your pup on afternoon walks anymore—can also prompt feelings of sadness.
Loss of either a canine companion or an owner is a major and common cause of depression in dogs. If your family has experienced a recent loss, your dog may be mimicking the sadness that the humans in the house are displaying.
Other factors can contribute to depression, too.
- Chronic pain and illness can leave your dog feeling down
- Isolation, such as leaving your dog home in a crate alone all day, can cause depression
- Boredom and lack of physical activity can also make high-energy dogs depressed
When to see a vet for your dog’s depression
It’s a good idea to seek veterinary help if you notice changes in your dog’s attitude and overall well-being. During the appointment, your vet can perform a physical exam and do a blood workup to rule out any underlying medical conditions, and can also help to confirm if your dog is depressed.
Your vet may also be able to help you identify the causes of your dog’s depression so you can better treat it and support your dog. Additionally, your vet may prescribe medication to help manage their symptoms.
If you sign up for Lemonade Pet insurance and opt into our behavioral add-on before they start feeling blue, this coverage could help cover the costs of vet-recommended medication or therapy for behavioral issues caused by anxiety, depression, and more.
How to treat depression in dogs
Many dogs manage to come out of a canine depression with a little extra support from their pet parents. Start by trying to spend more time and bond with your pup each day. Focus on trying to engage your dog in activities that they typically enjoy.
For example, if you know that your dog loves car rides, try taking multiple, short rides each day and reward your pup with a treat and praise when they’re happy and enjoying themselves.
If you suspect your depressed dog is mourning another furry friend, getting another pet may help. Just make sure to choose a new pet that’s a good fit for your whole family, and introduce them slowly to your current dog.
While some extra attention will often lift a dog’s mood, in more extreme situations, dogs may benefit from prescription medication. Some dogs take medications like Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, which are used to treat human depression, too. Clomicalm can also help to manage separation anxiety.
Tips for caring for your dog’s mental health
Caring for your dog’s mental health doesn’t have to be difficult. Making small, simple changes in your dog’s life can make a big difference for your four-legged friend’s wellbeing:
- Create a daily routine and stick to it. A schedule can be reassuring to your dog.
- Provide mental enrichment to keep your dog’s mind busy. Puzzle toys and training are great forms of mental simulation.
- Give your dog plenty of exercise. Lots of walks and games of fetch can keep your dog entertained and help to burn off excess energy.
- Focus on your dog’s physical health. Watch for signs that your dog is in pain, and treat those underlying physical issues to support your pup’s mental wellness.
- Pay attention to what your dog loves. Whether that’s trips to the dog park or extra-long walks, try to spend plenty of time doing activities that you and your dog both enjoy. It’ll help them reawaken their inner dog.
Before we go…
If you suspect that your dog is depressed, there are many ways that you can help.
Starting off with a vet checkup is a great idea, but there are also plenty of small changes you can make at home to support your best friend’s mental health. Chances are that with some time and a bit of extra work on your part, your dog will be back to their normal, happy self soon.