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What is Acting Sad?

The signs of sadness and depression in animals are similar to those you may see in humans. Some of the signs indicating that your dog is sad include sleeping more than usual, not wanting to play or exercise, hiding from you, laying around a lot, not eating as much, staying close to your side but not wanting to be petted, pacing, aggression, and whining. Some of the most common reasons for sadness in dogs include:

  • Illness
  • Loss of someone (member of the family or pet)
  • Addition in the family
  • Moving to a new home
  • Clinical depression

Sadness is usually not serious unless your dog is sad because of an illness or injury. In some cases, sadness may be one of the only symptoms of an underlying condition, so you should always try to figure out why your dog is acting sad. If you cannot figure out what the problem is and if it lasts longer than a few days, you should see a veterinary professional for advice.

Why Acting Sad Occurs in Dogs

Some dogs are just not as excitable as others. However, if your dog is normally active and happy and he suddenly becomes sullen and sleepy, he may be sad or depressed for some reason. There are many reasons your dog may seem sad or depressed such as:

Illness

If your dog is not feeling well, he may seem sad or depressed. Just like humans, dogs tend to mope around when they are sick or injured. He may just lay on the floor and stare off into space or sleep more than he usually does. There may be other symptoms you may not have noticed that make more sense now if your dog is acting more sad than usual. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • High body temperature
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting 

Loss of Someone 

If someone in the household is no longer there for any reason such as with a child who goes off to college or moves out. Also, your dog can be upset if you are not home as much as you used to be, as in the case of going to work after being home for a long time. Some of the other reasons your dog may feel loss include:

  • Death of a pet or family member
  • Divorce or breakup
  • Puppies given away or sold

Addition to the Family

Change in the family is one of the biggest causes of sadness in your dog. If you get married or have a baby, or if you have a guest that is staying with you, this can cause your dog to think he is being replaced and he may become jealous and sad. This can also happen if you get another pet, whether it is another dog, cat, or even a hamster; if attention is being taken away from your dog he may become sad.

Moving to A New Home

Anytime you change your dog’s home life, he can get unsettled and anxious. However, some dogs can become very sad, especially if they have been in the home for a long time. Your dog may be confused and wonder why he has been taken away from his home. He may hide somewhere and not want to socialize. Most dogs will get used to the new place eventually with no problem but some dogs may need a little extra help. 

Clinical Depression

Believe it or not, pets can have clinical depression just like humans. The cause of clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain and can usually be treated with medication. Some of the medications that your veterinarian may choose for your dog are:

  • Buspirone (Buspar)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Phenobarbital

Your dog may have been abused before you got him and you may not know about it. Being abused in the past can cause depression years later, similar to what happens with humans. In humans, this is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it can be extremely hard for your dog to process.

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What to do if your Dog is Acting Sad

If your dog is not acting normal, has been sleeping more than usual, or has lost his appetite, you should probably call your veterinarian and see if you should bring him in for a visit. The veterinarian may give you some ideas of other things to try first if the symptoms are not severe.

However, if you believe that your dog may be ill or injured, you should make an appointment or go to an emergency veterinary hospital.

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Prevention of Acting Sad

There is no way to prevent sadness in your dog since it usually happens for reasons that are out of your control. If the reason your dog is sad is something you can control, you can help with some of these suggestions:

  • Spend some extra time with your dog; play with him or just groom or pet him if he does not want to play
  • Try to entice him to exercise by taking him for walks, maybe a trip to the dog park will help
  • If your dog is missing a loved one or another pet, consider getting a new one.
  • However, if you and your family are not up to it yet, just try spending more time with him
  • If he is not eating much, try a new food or special treats
  • Try some music. Some dogs enjoy listening to music as much as humans do and some experts claim it can actually boost a canine's mood
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Cost of Acting Sad

The cost of sadness in your dog may be nothing more than spending extra time with him. However, in some cases, dogs may need medication and treatment for an illness, injury, or clinical depression. This can cost between $50 for a veterinarian visit to several hundred dollars for medication and treatment. The average cost for treating a sad canine is usually about $100.

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Acting Sad Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Golden Retriever

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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Sadness

My 1y o golden retriever started acting a bit strange. He is not excited to play with us and has some loss of appetite and lays down and stairs into space/ sleeps a lot. He is still pretty joyful to got outside and play fetch (runs very fast) but not jumping around like he used to when we would go out. We also recently got a kitten, and he doesn’t seem bothered by it.

Aug. 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your dog is having troubles. While dogs can settle down a little bit as they get older, that doesn't sound like normal behavior for a 1 year old golden I agree! I think it may be a good idea to have him seen by your veterinarian, and perhaps have some lab work done to make sure that everything is okay. Your veterinarian will be able to examine him, see what might be going on, and let you know if any treatment needs to happen so that he is back to normal. I hope that he feels better soon.

Aug. 21, 2020

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Schnoodle

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Ten Years

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2 found helpful

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Sad

my dog seems a little sad since my daughter moved out. She eating and drinking fine and still enjoy her walks. When she’s in the house she’s not very active.

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. If she is eating and drinking normally, it may take some time for her to adjust to her new schedule and your daughter being gone. If she stops eating, then it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for her!

Aug. 6, 2020

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Beagle mut

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Five Years

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1 found helpful

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Seems Sad

My dogs name is anna and she was rly energetic and now the past few days she been all sad and she has been laying down all the time and her nose is warm and dry

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without examining Anna, I can't say what might be going on with her, but if this continues with her depression or lethargy, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine her, see if anything is wrong, and get any treatment that she may need. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 2, 2020

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German Shepherd

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Five Years

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Lethargy, Loss Of Appetite, Feeling Of Sadness

Most of the problem is described as above, he’s usually chasing birds or anything else that flies through, barks at cars or trucks that drive through, the last few days he just doesn’t seem to care, it’s just not like him! There are no signs of pain or head shaking, no unnecessary scratching, he just acts blah.

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. It would probably be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian, if you are noticing this dramatic change in Behavior. There may be something going on that you're Veterinary and can detect and treat. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

July 31, 2020

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Golden Retriever

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Three Years

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Loss Of Appetite, Laying Around, Not Happy Like Usual

She is normally happy and excited and wants to be loved on constantly but now she won’t hardly move or eat. I recently gave her a hair cut for the first time because of the heat. Could this have caused her mood to change?

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I I do not think that her haircut would have caused her to have no energy and feel bad, no. There may be something more going on that is making her sick. Without seeing her, it is hard to say what might be happening, but if this is something that keeps going on, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine her, see what might be causing her problems, and get treatment for her. I hope that she is okay.

July 27, 2020

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Olly

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Cocker Spaniel

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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Withdrawn

My dog is usually happy and energetic although he can be quite timid. The last few days he has been moping around and when we try to go near him or pet him he moves away. He doesnt seem to be in any pain as touched him all over. He still has his appetite and is absolutely fine when we are out a walk but when in the house he is acting really sad. Not sure what is wrong with him?

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Erik

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Jack Russell Terrier

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Shaking
Anxiety
Stress

Sad and acting out (ie chewing computer cords and scrathcing the back of a door) has occurred with my gorgeous dog Erik since moving interstate and my ex partner moving overseas. He was always with him during the day and now things have changed and I am not able to do that. I am wanting to know if there is anything I can do to support and stop him chewing cords etc and to feel less anxiety. I walk him twice daily however leaving him at home alone is a little difficult now and I don't know what to do. He is a Jack Russell Cattle Dog X.

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Max

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Putbull mix

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Sad, Shakes When I Pet Him

My pitbull mix Max is about 9 years old. He loves his family very much, he's playful and still very energetic. 4 days ago my boyfriend moved in. Max has always loved him and we even joke that he loves him more than he love me. 2 days ago Max started acting differnet. He seems sad and scared. My boyfriend hasnt been left alone with him yet but even if he was, he would never hurt him. He loves dogs as much as I do. I have 2 kids also and it just seems as if he doesnt love us or even want the attention we are giving him. He wont sleep in his bed. Hes been coming in my room and sleeping in my closet. He acts as if hes done something wrong and its starting to worry me.

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Hershey and Miley

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Pomeranian

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Anxiety
Anxi

Hershey 12 and Miley 8 recently lost mileys sister all been together since birth a unexpected sudden loss now being forced to move to my elderly father he has two dogs one large one my two are Pomeranians 10lbs think they are a pitbull really worried ideas on introduce the to strange place I will always be around suggestions please

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Holly

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Labrador Retriever

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sad, Sleeping More

Our 10 year old yellow lab, Holly, always had a smile on her face until last summer. In June, she was very sick and we took her to the vet-she had e.Coli. It was very expensive to cure, and since then, I have been cooking her meals and adding a phosphorus binder and Renadyl. In July, we adopted a 1 1/2 year old fox red lab-it turned out she had heart worm-that was also very costly! We also had to put down our 13 1/2 year old chocolate lab that month. Her hips had given out and she was losing control of her bladder. It was a sad time for us, naturally. I could understand that all of this would be very depressing for Holly, but it's been several months and I rarely see a smile from her anymore. I'm vet-poor right now (the younger one had a hot spot and an ear infection that cost me $375 this month!) so of course, I'm hoping to put off another trip to the vet until our heartworm checks and shots in April. Could this still be depression from last summer?