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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
  • Abuse

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.

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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:


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
  • Abuse

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.

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.

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

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.

Acting Sad Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

6 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

We purchased our Rotty about five years ago. She was a hyper, loving and playful dog. Unfortunately we were forced to move to a place where we could not keep her. She was full grown at that point so maybe a year old. She stayed with my Aunt for about three years. It was of course the hardest thing I myself ever had to do. During her stay there she was housed with three to four other dogs. One big and the rest smaller breeds. She always seemed okay when we seen her always happy to see us. The older she got the more dominant she got, of course that seems to be common with Rot's. She got into it a lot with the older dog which led to us being told to get her fixed. That did not help at all. Finally about four months ago we were able to get her back. I have noticed she is not the same dog she was. She seems to act so threatened. Often growls because she is very sensitive about how she's touched and where. Especially when it comes to men. She is still loving but very guarded. Her favorite person is my mom who is a nurse so works all day during the day so she seems almost depressed and sleeps all day until she comes home then she follows her everywhere. It is really sweet, but her behavior worries me. She seems lonely also and hates going outside alone. We have never had a problem with people being around her, even children. Now she is excited to see people but quickly becomes still and often snaps or growls when being touched a certain way or in a certain place. I often tell people to be soft with her. She does not seem to enjoy kids with fear they will harm her. I am at loss what to do for her. I love her to death and I hate she feels the way she does. Even though I am not for sure what she is feeling. I often wonder if maybe someone was harming her in any way or if she is just in pain because she does have a bit of hip issues. Either way I really need to understand and learn ways to make her more comfortable. I recently was looking into maybe getting another dog, a puppy, so she can have a companion and feel less alone and bored if that is what she is. But I am not for sure that will help either. Help!

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1690 Recommendations
These cases are never easy and do not have a quick fix, I would suggest consulting with a Canine Behaviourist to see how Roxie behaves and see if they can offer assistance as they have ‘therapy dogs for dogs’ so Roxie can be around calm dogs. I cannot give you any advice online due to the unique nature of behavioural conditions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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3 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms


Why is my dog sad he is always happy and playful now he is just sad and his tale is not wagging as much and he is just sleeping. and also why is he biting a lot is his teeth still growing since he is still a baby?

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1690 Recommendations
Coco should still be teething for a few more months which may cause some pain or discomfort, other causes for inactivity may be due to abdominal pain or pain from other cause (like musculoskeletal). It would be best to have your Veterinarian check Coco over and if you haven’t started already to vaccinate too. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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9 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

nose will go from dry to wet and repeat

My dog is usually very happy. When I get home he run and jumps on me. But today he didn't even greet me. And I tried to let him outside (which is his favorite thing). But he didn't want to go. He's acting tired but he's home all day with the opportunity to sleep. Help!!

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1690 Recommendations

Sometimes dogs have off days, just like humans do; however, lethargy is a symptom of many different conditions and may be the start of something serious. Many times dogs will reduce activity when they are in pain: foreign bodies, trauma, dental problems etc… may all cause pain which would reduce their activity. I would give it a day but if you notice no improvement, a worsening of symptoms or you are concerned you would visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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