Symptoms of Dog Depression

Symptoms of Dog Depression

There are all kinds of ways to tell if people are depressed. They might stop eating — or eat more to dull the pain. They might cry a lot more — often unexpectedly. There’s a good chance that they’ll start withdrawing from life in general by avoiding friends and family members and possibly even calling in sick to work. And, of course, they can simply tell us that they’re not feeling good.

Our dogs don’t have this option, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t feel sad or even depressed. While there’s not as much research out there as there is for humans (for obvious reasons),

Environmental Changes

As with people, events going on around your pet can cause him to feel depressed and anxious. Dr. Beaver also states that changes in a dog’s environment or living circumstances can trigger depression and anxiety. For example, dogs can experience depression and grief when another pet or human member of the household is ill or dies. This is also true when a family member moves away or changes schedules. When summer ends and your dog is suddenly alone most of the day after having children around all summer, symptoms of depression triggered by separation anxiety and loneliness can occur.

Weather and Seasonal Changes

According to Elaine Pendlebury, Senior Veterinary Surgeon for the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), changes in seasons can have an impact on pet moods, as do periods of extended bad weather. For example, the moods of dogs that live in areas where hurricanes occur can be impacted by the change in atmospheric pressure. Additionally, just as the onset of winter can lead to seasonal affective disorder in some people, it can also an impact on dogs.

Clinical Depression

Canines can also suffer from chemical imbalances that lead to chronic depression. Treatment for chronic dog depression is no different than treatment for similar problems in humans. According to Karen Sueda, DVM, your veterinarian can prescribe antidepressant medication to regulate the symptoms. These might include:

  • Prozac
  • Clomicalm
  • Zoloft


Common Signs of Depression in Dogs

depresion in dogs

Appetite changes

When some dogs are extremely sad, they lose interest in food and often lose weight. Alternatively, there are dogs that seem to use food as a kind of solace when they are depressed and want to eat more, leading to weight gain.

Sleeping all the time

Dogs sleep a lot. That’s old news. But typically this happens when their owners are gone. If you leave your dog for a long time (say, for work) and he continues to sleep after you get home, barely reacting to your presence, something is probably wrong.

Check for physical problems first, but if you can’t find anything and the symptoms continue, he may be depressed. Also know that this can work in the opposite direction, with your pup having trouble sleeping and becoming restless.

Paw licking

Excessive licking or chewing may be rooted in physiological or psychological issues. Depressed dogs will often lick or chew their paws to soothe themselves

Loss of interest

If your dog suddenly loses interest in playing, going for walks, and other things that would normally excite her, take note. Dogs who become less active, slow down, or seem to lose purpose may be suffering from dog depression.

Avoidance and hiding

Above I mentioned the story of the dog hiding in a closet because he was depressed. This kind of behavior typically means one of two things: illness or injury (with depression falling under the “illness” category). Dogs that suddenly hide or want to be left alone behave that way because something is bothering them. If it’s not physical, it’s likely emotional.

Helping your dog cope

As soon as you notice your dog is experiencing unexplained or prolonged symptoms of depression, contact your veterinarian. It’s important to verify whether or not your dog is sick or has a chemical imbalance that should be treated with medication. Once you’ve made sure that your pet has received proper veterinary care, you can begin looking at environmental factors that might have an impact on your pet’s mood and see what you can do to improve those situations.


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