Depression is a condition that so many people experience every day. People deal with depression in different ways. Some stop eating, or overeat. Others withdraw from life, while some people turn to drugs or alcohol in hopes of feeling better. Because this condition is so widespread, it is only natural to wonder if depression exists in other animal species as well. Specifically, many people who have dogs may question, “Can dogs get depressed too?” Although there needs to be more research conducted on the subject, at this point experts agree that the answer is yes.
Signs of Depression in Dogs
While it is relatively easy to spot depression in humans, it takes a bit more attention to spot a depressed dog. Here are some signs to look for, according to Cesar Millan.
A Change in Appetite
Just like humans, dogs who are depressed may express it through their eating habits. Some dogs lose interest in mealtime and lose weight. Other depressed dogs can’t seem to get enough chow, which leads to weight gain.
I’m sure you already know that dogs sleep a lot. Dogs do most of their sleeping when their owners are at work. When their owners get home, most dogs enjoy spending time with their owners, visiting and playing. On the other hand, a depressed dog may continue to sleep after you get home and may barely react to your presence. With that being said, it is wise to check for any physical problems first before assuming your dog is depressed.
Loss of Interest
Perhaps your dog used to get excited about going on walks or playing catch. Did that stop? Do you see very little excitement or enthusiasm in their demeanor? If your dog has lost interest in the things he used to enjoy, he may be depressed.
If your dog has begun excessively licking or chewing, experts warn this type of behavior could be caused by psychological or physical issues. Dogs often find this activity to be soothing and comforting to them.
Hiding from You
Does your doggie just want to be left alone? He or she may find a special hiding spot to do just that. If your dog suddenly becomes a hider or doesn’t want your attention, something may be bothering them. Again, keep in mind that this type of behavior could also signal a physical problem instead of depression. Having your dog checked out by their veterinarian is always a wise choice.
Common Causes of Dog Depression
Experts agree that the most common reason that dogs become depressed is because of major changes in their life. This could include moving to a new home, adding another person to the home such as a spouse or a baby. If another pet is added to your home, this could also cause your dog to become depressed. Even a change in an owner’s schedule can trigger depression in a dog. An example of this is if an owner used to work out of their home and now they go to the office to work every day. Perhaps the biggest change that could happen to a dog would be losing their owner or an animal companion. A dog may also react to the sadness of others around them if the owner has died.
How to Help a Depressed Dog
It turns out that the best prescription for a depressed dog is a little more TLC in their life. Try to keep the dog engaged by helping them get more exercise or playing with them. When the dog seems happier, reward him. For example, if you take your dog on a car ride and he seems to enjoy it, reward him. You can take him for a series of short car rides each day. Just be sure to praise and reward him when he appears to be happy.
Be sure to not reward your dog with attention and treats when he is showing sad and depressed behavior. This will cause the dog to think you are rewarding him for being that way.
If you can’t seem to help bring your dog out of his depression, there are medications available that your veterinarian may choose to prescribe. It turns out that depressed dogs can be prescribed many of the same medications as humans, such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. The FDA has approved a medication called Clomicalm to help dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. In many cases, dogs who are prescribed antidepressants only need to be on them for 6 to 12 months and then they don’t need them anymore.