Is Your Dog Depressed? 8 Signs Your Dog Might Be Suffering.

July 8, 2021 by The Spot Pack
depressed dog

This post was updated on February 11, 2022.

We adore our dogs. When their behavior or mood is “off” or they seem unhappy, it’s devastating. If your dog seems depressed recently or has struggled with sadness in the past, you know how confusing and frustrating it can be. 

The hardest thing about a sad or depressed dog is that we can’t ask them what’s wrong.

Vets agree that depression in dogs is not uncommon. However, it rarely lasts for a long period of time. Pet parents will learn about depression in dogs, including signs and symptoms, causes of depression, treatments, and what pet parents can do to help improve their dog's life.

How can you tell if your dog is depressed or lonely?  

If your dog seems depressed, there are certain signs and symptoms to look for in your pup. 

Dogs can show signs of depression just like humans do. This can lead to chronic pain, health problems, and a decreased quality of life.

These symptoms may not be as noticeable as a physical illness or sickness in your pup, leading many dog owners to overlook the possibility of their dog being depressed.

Signs and symptoms of dog depression:

Here are 8 signs and symptoms to look for in depressed dogs:

  • Decreased activity
  • Sleeping a lot
  • Loss of interest in things he used to enjoy
  • Change in eating habits (or not eating)
  • Drinking less water
  • Not greeting his owner
  • Hiding or staying in one place for long periods of time
  • Excessive paw licking

If your dog suffers from any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them to the vet for an evaluation. 

Before diagnosing a dog as depressed, your vet will want to rule out all other medical conditions that could cause similar behavior. Taking your pup to a new vet? 

READ: What’s Covered Under Pet Insurance.

What causes depression in dogs?

It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why depression occurs in pups. Here are a few possible causes of depression in dogs: 

Changes in Routine

Changes to a dog’s routine can cause depression. Also, the addition of another pet is a common trigger, as is a new partner, baby, or family member in the house.

Separation Anxiety

There are other mental health issues dogs deal with that may appear as canine depression. For instance, dogs can suffer from separation anxiety if their owners are away for an extended period of time, which may lead to your dog's mood changing.

Your four-legged friend may lose interest in their normal stimuli when you're not there to play with them or care for them like they're used to. Take care when leaving your dog, and try to leave for short periods of time to acclimate your pup to your absence. That way, they'll know you'll always come back.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is one that affects both animals and humans and can make your pup experience anxiety and depression. 

If your dog suddenly appears sad in the colder months when the sun is shining less, SAD might be the culprit.

Loss of a Companion

The most common cause of severe dog depression, though, is the loss of a companion; animal or human. Dogs feel grief and they feel it in their owners as well.

Losing a companion is one of the most distressing events one can go through, and the pain and grief is felt by everyone. Your dog may feel depression or show signs of depression at the loss of another loved one.

Is it a good idea to visit the vet during the grieving time, and give everyone in the family time to adjust to the companion's absence. Your dog may show signs of depression initially, but over time their mood may improve.

Breeds

Based on temperament and personality, certain dog breeds are prone to depression more than others.

Some breeds that are more likely to suffer from depression are:

  • Border Collies
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Basset Hounds
  • Pugs

Is my dog depressed or bored?

Some pet owners might dismiss their dog’s behavior as boredom. If this is the case, try taking your dog out for activities they used to enjoy and see how they respond.

For sad dogs, this might look like taking them for a car ride or out to the dog park. Perhaps bring one of their favorite toys along with you to see if it sparks any new interest. Take note of any changes to your dog's mood—maybe they needed a change of scenery to get out of the blues!

Treatments of Dog Depression

For dog parents looking for solutions to cure depression, medications can help. Here are a few ways to treat dog depression.

Should I put my dog on an antidepressant?

Putting a depressed dog on medication is a personal choice for each dog parent. However, antidepressant medications are prescribed fairly often to dogs who have symptoms of depression and can be highly beneficial to get them out of their slump.

The most commonly prescribed pet med for dog depression is Fluoxetine, the generic form of Prozac, which helps with both depression and anxiety.

Other popular antidepressant medications used for this condition are Amitriptyline, which adjusts serotonin levels, and Doxepin, which helps with depression in dogs, and also treats allergies and skin conditions.

Do these medications have side effects?

Yes, these medications have potential side effects. Your vet may want to run blood tests prior to prescribing an antidepressant and also periodically check your pooch to see how their body is tolerating the medication. Of course, find out the possible side effects of the specific medication your vet recommends before making your decision.

Important things to consider:

  • These medications are not a replacement for training or behavior management.
  • Dog meds for depression may not address an underlying issue.
  • Antidepressants should be used for a short period of time.
  • These medications don’t work immediately and may take a few weeks to help.

Other ways to cheer up a dog?

If your dog has the blues, think about what the cause may be. There are many ways to cure depression without the use of medication. See if there’s something you can do to help, including; 

  • More exercise - consider going on more regular walks, or scheduling time to play outdoors.
  • More bonding time - spend some time doing activities that you know your dog enjoys.
  • Socialization for the dog - get your pup to meet other dogs. Consider visiting the dog park and other dog-friendly places.

When is it Time to Call a Vet?

If these things aren’t working, talk to your vet about possible medication to get your dog out of his funk and back on track to being the best good boy there is.

If medication is recommended by your vet, consider investing in a dog insurance policy that helps cover the cost of your pup's medical care. It'll help you budget for life's unexpected expenses, plus, it'll help Fido feel his best.

Get a quote today and help lower costs of prescription medication to treat depression in dogs!

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