Dogs are such free spirits that keeping a dog happy is usually one of the easiest things in the world to do. But occasionally, dogs can suffer from depression, just like humans do. In fact, according to a study conducted by Guide Dogs UK, 74% of Britain’s dogs show signs of depression or anxiety, with 18% showing symptoms every week.
Perhaps even more surprising than those high percentages is that the study also revealed that just 36% of UK dog owners are able to identify the signs of depression in dogs, with 24% admitting they didn’t even realize that dogs could suffer from depression.
If your pup hasn’t been acting like herself lately and you want to know how to tell if your dog is depressed, here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of canine depression to keep an eye out for.
Canine Depression Symptoms
Canine depression hasn’t been as thoroughly researched as depression in humans, but by and large, the two share similar symptoms. The most common signs and symptoms of depression in dogs include:
- Lack of interest in activities or toys they previously enjoyed
- Loss of appetite
- Destructive behavior, such as chewing things they shouldn’t
- Overly needy behavior
- Withdrawal from family members and other pets
- Increased irritability
- More frequent accidents
- Changes in sleep patterns
Knowing how to tell if your dog is depressed or sad is one thing, but things get a little murkier once you are forced to try and determine what is causing your pet’s depressive mood.
What Causes Dogs to Get Depressed?
Dogs are sensitive to a wide range of factors, so there can be many different reasons why your dog might suddenly start showing signs of depression. In fact, because dogs are highly empathetic and responsive to the moods of their parents, it’s not uncommon for some dogs to develop depression if their pet parent is depressed.
The most common triggers for canine depression include:
- Loss of an owner
- Loss of a canine companion
- Environmental changes (i.e., moving, rehoming, or bringing a new baby or pet into the home)
- Major changes in your dog’s schedule
- Lack of physical or mental stimulation
- Trauma or physical pain from an injury, disease, or abuse
- Being restricted by a chain when outdoors
- Being socially isolated for long periods
How is Depression Treated in Dogs?
Before your dog’s depression can be treated, it is important to find out what is causing her to be depressed. For instance, if a dog is suffering from a painful condition or illness, once the illness is diagnosed and treated, her depression symptoms will usually recede. This is also why a dog that has been abused or isolated for lengthy periods will eventually regain her happiness once she’s rescued and adopted by a family that socializes the dog and showers her with love.
If you notice your dog is exhibiting signs of depression, your first step should be to take her to the vet, so a complete physical examination and lab work can be performed to rule out any underlying health problems. If your dog is still depressed despite having a clean bill of health, then something in the home or in her environment may be triggering her depression. Some things you can do to try and help alleviate her depression include:
- Increase the frequency of her daily walks
- Give her toys that are designed to dispense treats when being played with
- Provide her with more social interaction
- Engage in activities designed to stimulate the senses, such as playing games where your dog has to “sniff out” hidden treats
- Set aside more time for playtime
- Reward her for her positive behaviors
- Consider training, if necessary
If your dog is showing signs of depression, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something serious is wrong. A dog can be in a depressed mood for one of many different reasons, not all of which are serious. But regardless, if you think that your dog might be depressed, it is always best to speak to your veterinarian. Your vet can rule out any underlying health issues and help you develop a suitable treatment plan for your dog. And if needed, they can also refer you to a certified veterinary behaviorist in your area who might be able to help you further.