For most of us, depression is something very real. If you haven’t suffered from a bout of depression yourself, you probably know somebody who has. Mental health should be taken very seriously – even in your pets.
The idea of your dog getting depression might seem laughable. After all, dogs are perky and happy all the time, and often go a long way to getting us out of our low moods. We know that animals don’t process experiences, changes, and emotions the same way humans do, so is it even possible for dogs to get depressed?
Let’s find out the truth about dogs and depression – as well as what you can do about it.
Do Dogs Get Depressed?
For humans, depression is usually caused by some change in circumstance, grief, or some other loss. It can also have no visible cause at all, and this is known as clinical depression.
While dogs don’t suffer from clinical depression as we recognize it in humans, dogs can show signs of low mood, grief, and disinterest in the activities that they loved.
You might want to keep an eye on your dog after some serious life changes, like moving house, a death in the family, the loss of one of your dogs, or an illness. Let’s take a look at some signs that your dog is depressed.
Signs Your Dog Might Be Depressed
Just like with people, depression might show itself differently in different dogs. It’s also worth remembering that the causes of depression will affect how your dog acts. For example, a dog feeling out of place or unhappy in a new home after moving will behave differently from a dog who’s missing a family member.
Keep an eye out for mood changes, disinterest in favourite activities, and more. Here’s a list of what to look out for:
Lethargy or sleeping more frequently
Dogs are meant to sleep a lot, so you may not immediately notice that your dog is sleeping more than usual. You might also notice that your dog prefers to lie on the couch and sleep and seems to be drained of energy.
Loss of appetite
A loss of appetite can indicate that your dog is depressed. However, it can also be a symptom of other health conditions. Be sure to get these conditions ruled out by a vet before you assume that your dog is depressed.
Acting clingy or needy
Your dog might suddenly demand more affection, following you around the home or even displaying symptoms of separation anxiety. They might want to sit on your lap more frequently or start trying the get on the couch or the bed even if you’ve never let them on the furniture.
Peeing and pooing in the home
If a dog starts going to the toilet in the house after being toilet trained, it’s always a cause for concern. It can be due to separation anxiety, illness, or even anger, but it can also be a symptom that your dog is depressed. You might also notice other regressive behaviours, like disobeying simple commands.
Barking, howling, crying, etc
Vocalization in dogs isn’t necessarily a bad sign, but sudden barking, howling, crying, or whimpering in a dog that isn’t noisy can be a sign that your dog is depressed. However, vocalization can be due to other factors, so be sure to rule these out too.
Withdrawing is usually seen alongside disinterest in food, walks, and attention. A dog that withdraws from the family or other dogs needs attention quickly, as this can also be a symptom of an illness. Your dog might also hide in the house.
Loss of interest in favourite activities
You might notice that your dog no longer seems interested in walks, food, or playtime. While older dogs will probably get less energetic and interested in walks and playtime as they age, a sudden burst of disinterest isn’t normal and should be investigated.
Unusual, sudden aggression
Aggression in dogs is always worrying, and when it appears in an older dog, there’s always a cause. Illness or pain can cause a dog to lash out, but so can depression. If your dog is starting to act aggressively towards their family or other dogs, seek a vet’s advice as soon as possible.
Depression – and boredom – can make a dog act almost like a puppy again, destroying things in the house, or even peeing and pooing in the home.
Causes of Depression in Dogs
Depression in dogs is usually caused by some sort of change, whether internal or external. Here are some changes that might affect your dog’s mood.
Chronic pain or illness
Dogs display pain differently from humans, and they can’t tell us where it hurts. In fact, symptoms of pain in older dogs can actually be mistaken for depression.
If a dog is isolated – for example, kept in a crate after an injury or surgery, or kept in a kennel for a period of time – they lose socialisation skills and became withdrawn and depressed. Dogs are like humans – we’re both social animals.
Trauma, whether from abuse, an accident, or an illness can make a dog nervy and depressed. You might notice trauma depression in a dog that’s recently had an accident, or one that you’ve adopted from a shelter.
Change in household routine
Moving house or significantly changing your household routine will have an impact on your dog. For example, if your dog is used to you being around all the time during the lockdown, they may struggle to readjust to you going to work every day again. This will make your dog feel lonely, bored, and depressed.
Change in household members
Losing or adding a household member – whether four-legged or not – will also have an impact on your dog. Dogs can grieve for the loss of a family member and may become depressed if a companion pet dies.
Should I See A Vet?
If you suspect that your dog has depression, consult a vet. Symptoms of depression in dogs can also be symptoms of pain or illness, and it’s important to act quickly to get a definite diagnosis.