Is Fido just not acting like himself? Does he spend more time lying around than he used to? The possibility exists that he may be suffering from depression.
People who are depressed commonly report feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability or hopelessness. Some lose interest in participating in activities that they normally enjoy. According to Dr. Wailani Sung, pets do not feel depression to a human degree, but they do experience depression in their own way.
Some suspect that their pet may be suffering from depression, based on the way they are behaving around the house. Firstly, it is important to rule out any underlying medical condition. Secondly, look for changes in their activity level, sleep cycle, appetite, and the way they interact with their owners.
Dr. Sung says that a pet may become depressed after a profound loss of a housemate or owner, for example. This may also happen when a pet is given away to adoption in a shelter environment, or to another home to live in. He says that even events like the arrival of a new baby or moving house can trigger depression in pets. Any time when there is a period of adjustment involved, there may be a period of time when they experience depression.
Dr. Sung recommends taking your pet to the veterinarian if you suspect they may be depressed. The reason for doing this is that you first need to rule out any possible health issues which may create similar behaviors as depression. For example, if a dog has arthritis, he may be a lot less active, which is one a symptom of depression.
Signs of Depression in Pets
If your pet usually has a healthy appetite but suddenly loses interest in eating, he or she may be depressed. For example, if your dog usually cleans his bowl and asks for more, and now he eats only half of what you give him, this is a sign. It becomes more obvious if your pet isn’t even interested in his favorite treats. It is important to notify your veterinarian of this, as a change in appetite often accompanies different types of medical conditions and diseases.
Pay attention if your pet usually is quite active, but now spends a lot more time sleeping or lying around. If your dog normally follows you around the house but now he barely even lifts his head to look at you, this could be a sign. It is easier to spot a decrease in activity in a younger pet than an older one. Due to normal aging, an older dog may take longer to get up and get going.
If your pet used to spend a majority of his time following you around or staying in the same room with you but he now is spending an increasingly long amount of time by himself, this is another sign. If your pet is depressed, she may not even come to greet you when you come home, like she did in the past. You may also find that your pet stays away from you, curling themselves up in a corner in their bed a lot of the time.
How to Help
Dr. Sung says that there are a few things you can do at home to help a depressed pet. The first thing you can do is to work on providing more structure for your pet. His daily schedule should include predictable and enjoyable activities and interactions.
Make a point to encourage your pet to engage in activities that he used to enjoy. You shouldn’t give up just because your pet needs more encouragement to participate in activities. To get your pet interested again, it is a good idea to do things like taking your dog to a new area to walk. You can even take him for a special car ride to a new location.
Interact with your pet physically by touching him or talking to him as much as you can. Try bringing home a new toy for your dog or cat. Now is a good time to work on some basic training exercises that your pet already knows. Try using new food rewards to stimulate your pet. Try to avoid putting your pet in situations where they may fearful or stressed.