Humans are generally pretty confident that they know how to meet their dogs’ needs. Fresh food and water, regular exercise, belly rubs, and the assurance that he is, in fact, a very good boy, often feel like the only things our four-legged friends need. However, what many pet owners don’t realize is that, much like their human counterparts, pets can suffer from a long list of emotional troubles, depression included. “Dogs experience a full range of emotions, ranging from happiness to sadness and even depression. Some of the signs of depression in dogs are very similar to symptoms exhibited by depressed people,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack of NYC’s Animal Acupuncture.
“Depression in dogs can usually be attributed to a major life change including moving to a new home, a new roommate (human or furry), loss of a companion (human or animal), major changes to their typical routine, and/or a traumatic event (such as an injury), among other things. Depression can also be due to an underlying medical condition. Should you suspect your dog to be depressed, consult your veterinarian to help determine the underlying cause and what changes can be made to get your pup back to being their usual happy self.”
So, how do you know if your Fido is simply in need of some R&R, or if they’re struggling with more serious depression? These veterinarians dish the real dirt on how to tell if your dog is depressed. And if you’re thinking of getting a puppy of your very own, check out the 10 Things You Need to Know Before Adopting a Shelter Dog.
If your dog has suddenly gone from a total softie to lunging at every person or animal they see on their walk, this may be a sign of depression, according to Dr. Barrack. If your pet is suddenly expressing some newfound aggression, it’s worth talking to your vet about as soon as possible. And for more information about your four-legged friend, discover the 20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Your Dog!
While a thunderstorm can make any animal run for cover, if your dog is suddenly nowhere to be seen for the better part of the day, don’t be surprised if your vet diagnoses him or her as depressed. Hiding is yet another surprising sign that your dog isn’t feeling like their usual self. And for more surprises about your furry friend, check out the 15 Secrets Your Veterinarian Won’t Tell You!
Leave your dog without regular walks and you’re not unlikely to find yourself dealing with an accident or two. However, if your dog is suddenly treating your whole house like one big bathroom, depression may be to blame. And when you want some inspiration to bring home a Spot of your own, discover the 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet!
While freshly-chewed shoes may be a rite of passage for puppy parents, in adult dogs, it could be a sign that something’s amiss. If your pet becomes destructive seemingly out of nowhere, it’s time to talk to their vet about potential depression. And for the funny side of pet parenthood, check out these 20 Celebrities Who Look Like Their Pets!
Are those sit, stay, and shake commands your dog was once so eager to show off now getting ignored? It’s time to talk to your vet about whether or not Fido is suffering from something more serious than a willful teenage streak. And for the lighter side of pet ownership, discover the 30 Funniest Celebrity Pet Names!
Lack of Appetite
Most animals—even those fed on a regular schedule—will virtually knock the can out of your hand to get to their food sooner. However, if your dog is no longer interested in eating all of a sudden, it may be a sign that they’re dealing with depression. Unfortunately, a lack of appetite can also be a sign of other serious medical issues, so this is one symptom you can’t afford to ignore. Think that’s bad? Just check out the 20 Signs Your Pet Hates You.
Have those greetings your dog gives you gone from kisses to growls? Aggressive vocalizations, like growling, can be a sign of depression, too. And for some more lighthearted pet behavior, check out the 30 Funniest Celebrity Pet Moments!
A Lack of Interest in Their Toys
If your furry friend has gone from begging you to play to treating their toys like old news, it’s time to find out if depression could the source of their distress. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to play with them. “More time together, exercise, training activities, and/or an additional companion can all be extremely helpful,” advises Dr. Barrack. And for more insight into your pet’s mind, discover the 20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Your Cat!
That insomniac act your dog is suddenly pulling? It could be a sign they’re suffering from depression. However, sudden inability to sleep may also be related to physical pain, so make sure you get them to a vet quickly if this symptom appears out of nowhere. And when you want to want to know more about your pet preference, find out Why You’re a Dog Person or Cat Person!
Sleeping Too Much
Much like their human counterparts, dog depression and an unwavering desire to be in bed tend to go hand-in-hand. And while many pets already sleep for a significant portion of the day—up to 14 hours for dogs and 16 hours for cats—if they’re snoozing more than that, it’s time for a visit with the vet. And when you want to improve your own sleep routine, start with the 20 Nighttime Habits Guaranteed to Help You Sleep Better!
Unwillingness to Play
If those pet playdates you’ve set up for Fido no longer hold allure, he might be struggling with depression. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying. “Once your veterinarian has ruled out a medical condition, try spending more time doing things your dog enjoys, like walks in the park or playtime with a favorite canine friend,” suggests Dr. Kelly Ryan, DVM, the Director of Veterinary Services at the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America.
Those long, mournful howls from your dog aren’t just their way of showing off their vocal range. New vocalizations are often a sign that your dog is depressed. They can also be a sign of injury, so make sure you get your dog checked out if they’re suddenly howling on a regular basis.
If your dog is suddenly grooming like it’s their job, it may be worth discussing with your doctor. “Most people are not aware, but excessive licking (or chewing) can be a way of self-soothing,” says Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary health expert with Rover.com. “If you notice any of these signs, call your vet and schedule a check-up.”
If those playful nips have turned into full-on bites, it’s time to take your furry friend in for a checkup. Aggression is a common sign of depression in animals, according to Dr. Ryan. And considering the potential ramifications if your pet bites someone other than you, it’s essential that you have this behavior addressed.
Responding Poorly to Affection
While non-stop affection is enough to put anyone off, if your pet is suddenly wincing or running away when you try to touch them, it could be depression at play. And if you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, from extra time at the park to a pheromone collar, don’t feel bad if your dog ends up prescribed something for their condition.
“Talk to your veterinarian about a prescribed antidepressant,” says Dr. Ryan. “While it isn’t a long-term solution, it may help your dog get through a particularly rough patch.” Fortunately, even when they’re giving you trouble, dogs still make our lives better—just one reason they made our list of the 100 Ways to Live to 100!
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