Depression in dogs can happen at any time in their lives, the same as with humans. Normally depression is brought on because of a major life change and this can be depressing for your canine companion.
Life events can bring on depression for your furry friend, events such as: moving home, a new relationship/person in your life, a baby or a traumatic event such as an injury. Dogs are very intelligent and they pick up on emotions and sometimes if their owner is suffering from a slight bout of depression, so will their dog.
Dogs can also suffer from depression if they’re not receiving enough attention or the same amount of attention they once received.
In some cases your dog can suffer from depression because of an underlying medical condition. If your dog hasn't experience any significant changes or been through any traumatic events recently, then you should take your dog to the vets as soon as you can.
If your vet finds that there is nothing physically wrong with your dog, then the best action to take is to relook at the routine your dog has and increase the attention that they receive.
You should aim to keep their feeding time and the amount of food they eat, the same every day. Take them for lots of lovely long walks, so they can stretch their legs and interact with nature and other dogs. A tired dog is a happy dog! Play lots of activities indoors, increase their mental stimulation with some ball games or learning them a new trick.
If you’ve tried all of the above and your dog is still showing signs of depression, then its worth another visit to the vets as they might need some medical treatment. Dogs can be prescribed antidepressants just like humans. However, dogs are able to get over depression with lots of love and attention.
Classic symptoms that your dog is suffering from depression
Has your dog's appetite changed? Are they refusing to eat or eating too much? Keep an eye on their eating habits as this is a sign that your dog may be suffering from low mood. You will need to make sure that you’re feeding them the same time every day and feeding them the same amount of food. You could also look to buy them something really yummy as a treat and see if that entices them to eat. Dogs love scrumptious food, so it's worth spoiling your dog a little and see if that wets their appetite.
Sleeping too much
Have you noticed that your dog is sleeping more than normal? Dogs do tend to sleep on average 12-14 hours during a 24 hour period. Sleeping patterns also differ depending on the dog breed and age of the dog. If your dog is sleeping way more than this, then this could also be a sign that they’re suffering from some form of sadness.
Is your dog constantly licking themselves? Dogs do love to lick and will often lick themselves clean. However, if your dog is constantly licking their paws or some part of their body, then this could be a sign of depression or nervousness.
Unusual hiding or avoidance
Has your dog started to hide in unusual places? Or, are they avoiding you when you call them? If your dog has always acted on your commands and is now showing no interest when you speak or give a command, then this could be a sign that they’re not feeling themselves. We all know that dogs get very excited when their owner gives them attention or when they return home from work, or even when they’ve left the room for a couple of minutes. If your dog is showing no enthusiasm to your interactions or their hiding somewhere where they wouldn't normally go, then this is a definitive sign that they’re feeling low and need attention.
Exhibiting naughty behaviour
Is your dog showing signs of naughty behaviour? Dogs that are not receiving enough attention may exhibit signs of naughty behaviour, such as doing their toilet business in the house, going into rooms or areas they’re not allowed, destroying your slippers… This is a classic sign that your dog wants your attention and being naughty is the only way they know best. Instead of shouting at them and ignoring them even more, you should acknowledge them and let them know what they did was wrong but then also give them lots of love and attention. You will soon see that their naughty behaviour stops and they hopefully go back to their normal selves.
Treatments for dogs with depression
Spend more time with your dog
If your dog has shown signs of low mood, then all they might need is some love and attention. We can all get wrapped up in our day-to-day activities and responsibilities, but we should never ignore the needs of our dogs. Spend time to stroke them, cuddle them and play games. A gentle pat on the head when you walk into the room and tickle of their ear will go a long way. Talk to them, let them know you love and adore them.
Playing games with your dog will increase the bond between you both and in return make them happy. You can play ball in the park, fetch a stick, hide and seek and lots of suitable games indoors. If you’re busy and your dog needs entertaining, you can purchase them a treat ball which will engage them for hours and increase mental stimulation.
All dogs need at least 2 walks a day, minimum of 30 minutes each. Depending on the dog breed, some may need longer walks than others. Your dog loves the outdoors as they get to run around, sniff, take in the fresh air and play with other dogs outside. This is especially important make them tired and fulfil their doggy needs.
If you don’t have time to walk them, then you should look to hire a dog walker or call on a friend, family member or neighbour to help you whilst you’re busy.
Reward your dog for good behaviour
If your dog has exhibited good behaviour then you should reward them as soon as they do. Let them know that they did good and make a little bit of a fuss. A reward doesn't always have to be a treat it can also be a healthy reward such as a stroke and cuddle.