I have a friend with a young adult dog that was recently diagnosed as having clinical dog depression by her trainer. Apart from the fact that veterinary behaviorists are the ones who are best qualified to make such a diagnosis, do dogs actually get depressed?
In people, a diagnosis of depression is reached after careful questioning about their mood and whether or not they are enjoying life. This doesn’t work for dogs because they can’t give us a yes or no answer to the questions.
This means you have to look at your dog’s behavior to get an idea of how he is feeling.
Dogs do show signs of a low mood – loss of appetite, lethargy and disinterest in their usual activities. However, this dog depression can occur for a couple of reasons. You will need to work out what is causing it to be able to treat it properly.
Two Primary Reasons Dogs get Depressed
- Your depressed dog may be feeling down because he is physically unwell. Many medical conditions ranging from an upset tummy to cancer will make him feel this way. Before you start to treat his mind, make sure there is nothing wrong with his body by taking him along to your veterinarian for an examination.
- If there has been a major change in the household, your dog may show changes in his behavior that look like he is depressed. This is particularly the case if his canine companion or a much loved family member passes away. In a sense, dog depression associated with grieving is a normal response, but it can go on for some time.
Treating Dog Depression
If your dog is showing signs of being miserable and is refusing to play with you or even eat his dinner, then it’s important that you have blood and urine tests done to rule out a medical cause.
If all is well, then think about what has changed in his environment that may have affected his mood, and resulted in this undesirable dog temperament.
Some dogs become miserable and anxious after a visit to the grooming parlor, others become sad when your adult children move out of home.
Sometimes you can so something about this, such as find a groomer that will come to your home. Other times, you can’t resolve the situation so you need to work with your dog to help him to brighten up.
7 Suggestions That Can Help Your Depressed Dog:
1. Stimulate Good Mood
Dog appeasing pheromone products such as a diffuser or collar can make your dog feel more relaxed and make him feel better.
2. Feed Him Fun Treats
Use your dog’s absolute favorite treat that he doesn’t get very often to encourage him to come out for a walk, or to have a game with you. Diced chicken, hot dogs, cheese or semi-dried liver are popular choices; one of them is sure to appeal to your dog.
3. Add New Activities and Reward Good Behavior
Consider taking him out to structured activities such as obedience classes and reward him well for participating.
4. Avoid Reinforcing Negative Behavior
Don’t inadvertently reward your dog for having a blue mood. If you cuddle and pat him when he is sad, it can reinforce his behavior. Instead, talk to him normally and reward him and interact with him when he is not acting depressed.
5. Add Another Dog Companion
If your depressed dog is grieving for a lost companion, you may find he’ll respond well to the company of a new canine playmate.
You may want to foster a dog for a local animal rescue group and if it works out, you can then adopt him. If your dog doesn’t take to his new companion, the rescue group will be able to find him a new foster home.
6. Medication Can Jumpstart a Recovery Program
Using medication for dog depression can be helpful for a short time, just to lift your dog’s mood and get him started on the road to mental recovery.
Drugs or medicine are not a long term solution and shouldn’t be used on their own – combine the medication with a plan to encourage your dog to get out for walks and to start to interact with his family members again.
Don’t Wait… Talk To You Vet
Try some of the suggestions listed above and you may just see him start to brighten up. But if you don’t notice change and he isn’t his usual happy self, have a chat with veterinarian.
Just like Separation Anxiety, dog depression can make life miserable for both you and your four legged family member.
You can also find some more tips here that might be help alleviate dog depression though they are more geared to relieving anxiety.