Can dogs be depressed, and should I be worried about it?

Updated August 28, 2020

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There may be times you look at your dog and wonder what he or she is thinking. Other times you may get the feeling that your dog is anxious or feeling out of sorts. This may lead you to feel that your dog is depressed. Unfortunately, this is possible. Keep reading for information on depression in dogs, details on how serious it is, and what can be done to help you and them.

Signs Of Depression

When it comes to dogs, there are some signs you can look out for, which will give you a clue that your pup isn’t feeling like they should. See below for some signs you should watch for:

  • Low Energy. If your dog used to be full of energy and suddenly doesn’t even want to move, this could mean they are depressed.
  • Changes in eating habits. Some dogs experience issues where they start overeating, or they will not eat at all. If your dog is doing either of these things, keep an eye on them.
  • Mood differences. Dogs may avoid you or just don’t seem happy anymore. If you think this is happening, look out for other symptoms.
  • Sleeping too much or not enough. Just like with humans, a depressed dog may sleep too much or not enough. Either one of these can be an issue for your dog’s health.
  • Not wagging their tail. When a dog doesn’t wag its tail, this may be a huge clue that something isn’t right. If yours stops wagging their tail, it could be time to check in with your dog’s vet.
  • Relieving themselves inside. At times, a dog may not have enough energy to go outside to urinate. If they keep going in the house and not even getting up when you are trying to take them outside, this is likely not a good thing.

Causes Of Depression

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Like with most issues, there are causes or reasons that a dog is depressed. This may be able to help you pinpoint what happened, which also gives you a better chance to treat the problem.

  • Ailments. If a dog has pain or is suffering from a disease or illness, this can contribute to depression.
  • Depressed owners. Dogs are sometimes able to pick up on many things around them. For this reason, it is thought that a dog can become depressed if its owner is depressed.
  • Weather changes. When there are sudden temperature changes or the weather changes quickly, it can affect a dog. It may signal that there won’t be long walks or that they can’t go outside as much.
  • Loss. Much like a human grieving a death or loss, a dog may do the same. If you have recently lost a pet, loved one, or haven’t seen a good friend in a while, it can be affecting your pup.
  • Loneliness. Some dogs are more social than others, and they need to be able to play with other dog friends. It is a good idea to research your breed to see if that is the case. Try and find a dog park nearby, and bring your pup to socialize with other dogs. Otherwise, look into possible doggie daycares – you can bring your dog to doggie daycare once a week to ensure he or she gets plenty of playtime with fellow canine friends.
  • Age. A dog may get depressed as it ages, as it could understand that it can’t do all the things it used to do, like playing.
  • Improper Care. When a dog has been abused, or its needs aren’t being met, this can contribute to depression.
  • Depression. In some cases, dogs may be depressed due to chemical imbalances in their brains. Fortunately, there are effective treatment plans available for dogs struggling with depression, just like there are treatments available for humans.

What Should I Do If My Dog Is Depressed?

It should concern you if your dog is depressed, but there are things that you can do about it as well. Many possible root causes can be addressed. Here’s a look at possible solutions.

  • Attention. Regardless of what is causing the depression in a dog, a good rule of thumb is to pay more attention to him or her. Perhaps you want to take your pup for longer walks, or just hang out more. You can also give them more attention in terms of petting them or staying in more frequently with them. Remember, as humans, we tend to have larger, more complex social circles, but your dog’s main source of social interaction is only with you.
  • Get a new friend. If you suspect that your dog is depressed because of the loss of a loved one or another pet, you may want to consider getting a new dog. Be sure that your household is ready for a new dog before you make a big decision like this since it might harm your dog worse if it doesn’t work out.
  • Playdates. Another great bonding experience is taking your dog to play with other dogs. If there is a dog park nearby, take your puppy there when you can, and let him or her make new friends. This can also be a good form of exercise.
  • Be patient. It may also be necessary to give your dog some space, so they can start to feel better. Don’t try to boss them around too much or get angry with them. If they are nearing the end of their life or they have lost a friend, it may take a long time for them to feel better. Be kind to them and show them you love them, but don’t get mad if they don’t act the same as they used to.
  • See a vet. If your dog is showing any of these symptoms for a significant amount of time (one week or more), you should make an appointment to talk to your veterinarian about your options. A professional is more equipped to help your dog find joy again.
  • Help yourself. A great way to help your dog is to help yourself. If you are depressed, consider getting treatment. This may keep your dog from feeling depressed as well. There are many options available to help you.

What Else Can I Do?

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It is important to note that you should not coddle your dog when they are depressed, as this can signal to them that you want them to continue with this behavior. After all, their depression may have nothing to do with you, so you can’t necessarily fix it. You have to let them work through it, but you can show them you love them. It is still perfectly fine to rub on them, hang out with them, and give them treats. They should know that they are not alone.

It is also a good idea to start a routine if you do not have one. Dogs value their routines, and when things mess them up or interfere, they can get upset. If you used to have a routine that has since gone by the wayside, just establish a new one. This is a good rule of thumb for all dogs and not just when a dog is depressed.

Did I cause My Dog’s Depression?

There’s no way to know for sure what caused your dog’s depression, so there’s no reason to suspect that it is your fault. However, if you have an issue with depression yourself, you might want to seek out treatment. This may also help your dog, and it can help you start to feel better.

What Can I Do About My Own Depression?

When it comes to treating your depression, everyone’s circumstances are different. If you have already been diagnosed, you may want to talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you have not, you might want to visit a psychologist first, to be checked out.

If traditional options haven’t worked out for you in the past or cause you anxiety, you can trust the experts at BetterHelp to help. BetterHelp is a service dedicated to online therapy, where you can talk, text, or video chat with a professional, all without leaving your home. Non-traditional types of therapy are much needed and maybe a better resource for some.

It may be just what you need to begin to feel better, so check out this valuable service when you feel you may be able to use it. You can talk to a counselor about your life or even about what is possibly going on with your dog. Either way, they will be able to help you.

Outlook For Depressed Dogs

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Since there are so many reasons why a dog is depressed, there’s no clear answer as to how quickly your dog can start to feel better. They may have a mild case or a severe case, so it is important to continue to love and support them and allow them to have their space and time to grieve as well if need be. When you get them the care they need as soon as you start to notice it, they have a better chance of feeling better sooner.

Another imperative thing is to make sure that you are taking care of yourself properly as well. If you suffer from depression, it may be time to talk to someone and start working on your own mental health. Do it for yourself, and do it for your dog.


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