Some people don’t believe that dogs can experience emotions to the same degree as humans. But I think they can. When I am sick, my dogs will curl up next to me in bed. When I’m sad, one of them will put his head in my lap or lick my hands or nuzzle up to me. If my dogs can sense my emotional and physical pain, then certainly they can feel their own.
How do you know if your dog is depressed?
Canine depression can mimic symptoms of more serious conditions, such as distemper or corona-virus. So it’s important to rule out other problems before looking into depression as the cause of a dog’s symptoms.
Let’s look at the warning signs of canine depression:
- Moping around
- Sleeping more
- Weight loss
- Eating less
- Changes in personality
We usually know when our animals are off the mark, and if your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms or just behaving differently, it’s a very good idea to have him checked out. The veterinarian may want to do some blood work or other testing to try to pinpoint the source of your dog’s problems.
If the vet finds nothing conclusive, he may suggest that your animal is suffering from depression. Just like people, animals are emotional creatures. Depression in canines is not uncommon, and occasionally the veterinarian will prescribe a short course of anti-depressants to help your dog feel normal again. Occasionally, a dog may have to undergo anti-depressant treatment for a longer period of time.
Why do dogs get depression?
Canine depression is usually triggered by an event. If a dog has trouble adjusting, his brain chemistry can become imbalanced and result in clinical depression.
Sometimes the loss of a companion dog might set off depression in the surviving canine. Dogs mourn just like people do. Even the moving away of your dog’s next-door, under-the-fence buddy could be enough to trigger canine depression. If your dog is attacked by another dog or injured somehow, this can make him more susceptible. A child going away to college or your moving to a different house can stress your dog.
The good news is that there are interventions you can do at home to help him.
Here are some suggestions:
- Get your dog some new and different play toys.
- Walk your dog with a friend/fellow dog owner after work each evening.
- Take him to the dog park a few times a week so that he can socialize with other dogs.
- Spend some extra time playing with him in your own yard.
- Take your dog for daily walks. (Exercise triggers the release of the chemical, dopamine, which is the pleasure neurotransmitter in the brain.)
- If your dog is alone all day, you might consider hiring a professional dog walker a couple days a week to exercise him and provide canine companionship.
- You even might look into doggie daycare for your pup, if he needs companionship while you are away from home.
- Getting a second dog as a companion for your depressed dog may be just what he needs.
The unsettling thing about dogs is that they can’t really tell you where they hurt. But with a little bit of effort and experimentation, your canine will most likely be back to his old, playful self in no time.