Does it seem like your pooch is feeling blue lately or he/she is not acting like their happy selves? Maybe you just moved, brought home a new baby, or there has been some other significant change in their environment. Whatever it may be, your dog can indeed feel and suffer from depression just like humans do.
Actually, depression in pups is quite similar to that of human depression. So, if your fur baby has become withdrawn, listless, and seems to be down in the dumps, you can take actions to help them through this tough time.
Signs That a Dog is Feeling Depressed
The good news here is that dogs typically don't suffer from long and extended periods of depression like humans can. Instead, they may go through shorter bouts of feeling blue. There are a few signs to keep in mind and look out for if you feel as though your pooch may be suffering from depression.
The first step is to identify if there has been any significant change in their life - i.e. a move to a new home, bringing home a new baby, having another animal in the house pass away, or other major events. These are the most likely triggers for dog depression. Once you try and pinpoint the cause, you can then move on to defining the signs that may suggest they are depressed.
Appetite changes are one of the biggest signs of depression in dogs. They will often eat much less or stop eating altogether. However, on the other hand, some pups will eat a lot more because food offers comfort to them - much like humans. This will vary from dog to dog, so keep an eye out for any eating changes that are abnormal to your dog.
Sleeping habits will often change as well. Excessive sleeping may signal they are feeling blue. Maybe they won't want to get out of bed when you come home or when you ask them to go for a walk. This leads to another sign, which is a loss of interest in activities they once loved, like going for a walk or for a ride in the car. They will often no longer have interest in these fun activities.
Avoidance and hiding can also suggest depression. Hiding or always wanting to be left alone, even when it comes to belly rubs, means they are showing signs of depression and feeling sad. A slightly less apparent symptom of dog depression is the licking of their paws and legs. Some dogs will excessively lick their paws as a way to soothe themselves.
History of Dogs and Depression
This is an important topic to discuss and consider if you have a dog or are thinking about getting a puppy. A dog comes with a lot of work and effort, like feeding, walking, playing, loving, grooming, and much more. But we often don't think about how your pup may suffer from emotional turmoil from time to time - with that comes a lot of responsibility and care. It is important we are able to understand our dog's emotions when there is something wrong.
Centuries ago, scientists believed that animals were like machines. They had a body and would appear to experience emotions, but in reality, they were only programmed to have "emotions" and were essentially just bodies with no feelings. This was widely accepted and supported by the Church and famous scientists and theorists like Rene Descartes.
Today, we now know from many studies on dogs that they do indeed feel real emotions, and that includes emotions like feeling depressed. It is common for many dog owners to believe their dog has some type of medical ailment they are suffering from and bring them to the vet to make sure they aren't seriously sick. There are numerous stories of people rushing their pups to the vet only to find out they are depressed.
For instance, many people claim they had two dogs that were very close and when one passed away, they remaining dogs would show all of the signs of depression and sadness. It is very common and happens more often than one may think.
Science Behind Dog Depression
There is quite a bit of science behind dog depression and how dogs experience depression. Although it is more common for dogs to have short bouts of depression, some dogs can experience longer, more drawn out periods. Dogs have the same kind of hormonal changes that humans experience when they get depressed.
Dogs will secrete higher amounts of steroid hormones and experience a weakened immune system. Dogs have the same brain structures as humans do and they also have the same hormones and experience the same chemical changes in the brain when they are going through periods of depression and other emotions.
Training for Depressed Dogs
Although you cannot train your dog to not be depressed or not to get depressed, there are ways you can help them through these tough emotional periods so it can be avoided in the future.
If you have found that your dog is depressed and there is no underlying medical issue, one of the best things to do is keep their mind busy and focused on something that that love and brings them joy. This will train their brain to remember that an event like walking, playing, fetching, or riding in the car brings them joy, happiness, and excitement.
Getting your pup to exercise more, be outside, or providing them with a few special treats throughout the week will keep their happiness levels up to help pull them out of their funk. Keeping up their normal routines as consistent as possible may help as well. Dogs are creatures of habit and if they have a schedule they will know what to expect from day to day.
If your pup is having a very hard time pulling themselves out of their depression, it may be time to look at medications to help them. You can talk to your vet about possible medications that can help them. A great approach is to focus on natural supplements to help them, as these will have minimal to no side effects and are much safer than conventional medications. However, sometimes all your dog really needs is time - time to recover from their depression, heal, and feel better. Dogs are resilient creatures.
By a Samoyed lover Kayla Costanzo
Published: 01/29/2018, edited: 10/11/2022