Everyone gets the blues, even your dog – here’s what you can do about it
By Nicole Simone
There is still some debate if canine depression is a diagnosable illness, if only for the reason that dogs can’t talk to us directly and explain how they’re feeling. That being said, there are signs to tell if your dog is feeling down in the dumps and they should be taken seriously. Here are the top signs that your dog might be depressed and what you can do about it.
First it’s important to know the general symptoms of canine depression – unsurprisingly it’s very similar to depression in humans. Look out for the following signs:
- loss of appetite
- little desire to play
- not very social
- sleeping substantially more (or less)
- declining to participate in activities they usually love
The causes of suspected canine depression can vary, but they seem to be either lifestyle or health-based. Unlike human depression, there hasn’t been a substantial amount of scientific research on this topic. It’s certainly a field that could use more exploring through canine behaviourists and we’ll like be hearing more about it in the years to come. For now, here are some of the suspected causes:
1. Health – If your dog starts expressing a lack of interest in socializing, food, or play, something might be amiss. Since dogs can’t say things like “Hey, my stomach is really hurting,” they often communicate by withdrawing from their regular routine. Behaviour like this means a trip to the vet as soon as possible. Doing regular blood work and having a physical exam may reveal just why your pup isn’t feeling his status quo.
2. Changes – Cue the David Bowie song – changes can be just as hard on your dog as they are on you. New environments, new people in (or out) of the house, and changing schedules can really put your dog off and give them something to worry about. Figuring out what in your dog’s life has changed and how you can help your dog adjust to those changes is key. Hiring a dog walker if you’re working longer days, or giving your dog some quiet time in a new house full of children could really ease your pup’s mind.
Treatment of canine depression entirely depends on the cause. If it’s something medical related, your veterinarian will guide you in the right direction. If it’s behavioral, there are several options:
1. Consult a Behaviorist – Reaching out and getting an assessment from a behaviorist can be extremely beneficial in situations like this. Having someone outside of your canine-human relation evaluate your relationship might give you valuable tools and other ways to stimulate your dog to get them through their depression
2. Exercise – Just like humans, dogs get a buzz from being active. Increasing walks, play dates and dog park time could make a positive impact on your dog’s depression.
3. Diet – Changing your dog’s diet might be worth examining. Some research suggests that dogs who aren’t the healthiest of eaters might be more prone to weight issues and depression. Cutting back on treats or human snacks could make a great impact.
4. Antidepressants – These are often a last resort for most dogs but Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft – yes, just like the ones humans take – are used to treat canine depression.
Mood changes should be taken very seriously in our dogs and other pets. Your responsibility as an owner is to give your dog a voice – so speak up when you see your dog feeling down in the dumps. Some of the changes that can make your dog happier might just make you happier too!