We adore our dogs so when their behavior or mood is “off” or they seem unhappy, it’s devastating. If your dog has looked 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, fortunately, though, it rarely lasts for a long period of time.
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 with your pup.
Dogs show signs of depression just like humans do.
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.
Some symptoms of dog depression are:
- Decreased activity
- Sleeping a lot
- Loss of interest in things he used to enjoy
- Change in eating habits
- 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?
What causes depression in dogs?
It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why depression occurs in pups, but 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.
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.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is one that affects both animals and humans and can make your pup experience depression.
If your dog suddenly appears down in the colder months when the sun is shining less, SAD might be the culprit.
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.
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!
Should I put my dog on an antidepressant?
This is a personal choice, of course, for each individual dog owner. 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 medications used for this condition are Amitriptyline, which adjusts serotonin levels, and Doxepin, which helps with depression 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
How do you cheer up a dog?
If your dog has the blues, think about what the cause may be. See if there’s something you can do to help; more exercise, more bonding time, socialization for the dog, and so on.
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.