How to recognise signs of depression in dogs

There's no doubt that dogs are a loving and delightful addition to any household. However, like people, some dogs can experience mental health problems from time to time. If you're worried that your dog may be suffering, there are signs of depression in dogs that you can look out for. 

According to some experts, dogs may even be more susceptible to depression than people are. That's because they're more in tune with their emotions and can express them in ways that humans cannot. If you're concerned about your dog's happiness and well-being, keep reading to find out more.

Understanding depression in dogs:

Sad Dog Showing Signs of Depression - By Ryan Stone on Unsplash

Can dogs get depressed?

We all know that dogs can suffer mental health issues such as anxiety, but did you know they are also capable of suffering from depression?

recent study by the Guide Dogs charity shows that nearly ¾ of the UK dog population show signs of poor mental health, with 8.8 million dogs exhibiting behaviours indicating anxiety or depression. 

These findings also discovered that 1 in 4 dog owners were unaware that dogs could suffer poor mental health, with many believing that they are in a good mood and happy emotional state all of the time. 

Without them being able to communicate their emotions, it’s difficult to know whether or not they suffer from depression the same way that humans do, but it is believed that the causes and symptoms of dog depression can be very similar to those experienced by people.

 

What can cause depression in dogs?

There are a number of factors that can trigger depression in dogs - changes to routine, environment and socialisation, the majority of the time it will coincide with a major change in the dog’s life.

  • House move: Even something that may seem insignificant like building work or a change in environment can leave your dog feeling a little down and confused
  • Introducing a new family member: Whether that’s a baby, partner or a new pet
  • Spending less time at home: Family members moving out, or new work schedules that mean you aren't as home as much. Dog’s aren't able to understand why people leave, so it can hit them hard  
  • Trauma: Including abuse or injury

Depression in dogs after the death of another:

One of the most common triggers of severe dog depression is the loss of a companion.You may not realise it, but just like people, dogs can grieve the loss of close furry friends or human family members.

It’s important to understand that all dogs react differently to grief and mourning; some dogs may show no signs of distress, while others can suffer deep depression. 

It's likely that their companion played a large part in their day to day life, so ensuring that they are not left alone to become bored and anxious is vital.

You may want to rush to get another companion for them, but take it slow. Are you ready for another dog? Just because your dog loved their companion does not necessarily mean they will love another dog the same way. 

If you do consider getting another pet, it can be a good idea to take your dog with you to help you choose. Many shelters will let you bring your current dog to socialise with the rescue dogs, to help you see which would be the best fit for your family. Let them pick their new best friend.

 

Common signs of depression in dogs:

The symptoms of depression in dogs are not far away from those experienced by humans, however unlike humans, they can’t tell us they’re not feeling good. 

There are still several signs of an unhappy dog that you can look out for, common dog depression symptoms include:

  • Low energy levels: You might find that they’re sleeping more than usual
  • Withdrawn: They are more subdued and no longer want to do things they once enjoyed
  • Changes to eating habits: Usually eating less or nothing at all
  • Paw licking: Excessive chewing or licking paws is a common way that dog's sooth themselves
  • Behavioural changes: These changes can range depending on the dog - from regression in training habits to an increase in aggression

 

How do you cheer up a depressed dog?

Understanding the reason for your dog’s depression is the first step in solving it.

Has your dog gone through a big change? Are they bored? Are you spending enough time with them?

If you can pinpoint the reason for your dog’s low mood, then this should help to give you a good idea of what your dog needs most from you. Great ways to cheer up dogs that are feeling down include:

  1. Keep active: There are so many benefits of walking your dog daily for you and your pup. And similar to humans, being outside in the fresh air can really help boost your dog’s mood. 
  2. Socialisation: Encourage your dog to play with their furry friends, take them for a day at doggy daycare or join a training class. Our dog’s are social animals so a little time with their friends could be all they need. 
  3. Extra TLC: Sometimes all your pup needs from you is a little extra attention to get them out of their low mood. Do more of their favourite things and reward them when they show any signs of happiness. 
  4. Keep your routine:  It’s really important that you keep your routine and ensure your pup knows what they are doing everyday. Whether it’s when they are expecting to be fed, or heading out on walks around the same time everyday, maintaining a stable routine is essential to helping lift their spirits. 

 

Should I seek help for my dog's depression?

If you see signs of depression in your dog, such as a sudden change in their mood or behaviour, it’s important that you first seek advice from your vet

Sudden behavioural changes could indicate the initial signs of an illness, medical condition or physical injury, so it is important that your pup is checked for any ailments before anything else. 

If they have been given a clean bill of health and you’re still not sure on what is causing your dog’s depression, you could consult an accredited dog behaviourist. They can help you better understand your dog’s issues and guide you towards transforming your dog’s mood. 

 

Is there medicine for dog depression?

There are many natural supplements on the market that can be used for stressed or anxious dogs, but they should never be used as a substitute for training and behaviour management. 

For severe cases of dog depression, you can speak to your vet about potential prescription medication, similar to antidepressants in humans. 

 

Why is it important to consider a dog's wellbeing?

With Mental Health Awareness week fast approaching, it couldn't be more important to take into account your dog’s mental wellness as well as their physical health. 

Prioritising your dog’s wellness can help prevent health problems developing in later life, as well as providing a number of other mutual benefits for you and your pup:

  1. Boosts self-confidence 
  2. Helps with socialisation 
  3. Reduces anxiety and stress
  4. Increases levels of dopamine
  5. Improves physical fitness and energy
  6. Better behaviour and coping mechanisms

 

 We hope this helps your furry friend feel better and regain their sense of wellbeing. 

 Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below! 

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