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What is Feeling Depressed?

Showing signs of depression is one of the first signs of some medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and hypoglycemia. Feeling depressed in canines can be shown in many ways such as sleeping more than usual, changes in appetite and behavior, not wanting to play, and loss of weight. Your dog may be sticking to you like your shadow or ignoring you completely. But, it does not always mean he is sick; your dog could actually be clinically depressed. You will have to see a veterinary professional to be sure, but some of the most common reasons for depression include:

  • Major change such as moving or a new baby
  • Serious illness
  • Clinical depression
  • Loss of a loved one

Showing signs of depression for a day or two is not usually cause for concern, but if it continues for longer than two days or if it is accompanied by other symptoms like fever and vomiting, you should see your veterinary health provider as soon as you can.

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Why Feeling Depressed Occurs in Dogs

Major Change Such as Moving or A New Baby

Dogs are more sensitive that you may think. In fact, your dog’s life pretty much revolves around emotions such as excitement when you get home, anger when seeing a threat, and happy when playing with you. Therefore, when something happens that upsets his home life, he can become anxious and depressed. For example, when you move from the home he has known all his life, he is most likely going to be confused, scared, and depressed. However, these are usually temporary feelings that will go away in time.

Serious Illness

There are many disorders and diseases that can cause signs of depression in your dog. Some of the most common include:

  • Cancer is more common in dogs than once thought. The most often reported cancers in dogs include mammary tumors, osteosarcoma, brain tumors, hemangiosarcoma, malignant melanoma, lymphosarcoma, and mast cell tumors. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of cancer.
  • Kidney failure (acute or chronic) is the failure of one of the kidneys. Some of the most common signs besides depression include a brown tongue, mouth ulcers, constipation, dry haircoat, and breath that smells like ammonia.  Some breeds are affected more than others such as Standard Poodles, Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers, Shih Tzus, Samoyeds, Norwegian Elkhounds, Miniature Schnauzers, Lhasa Apsos, Keeshonds, Doberman Pinschers, Cocker Spaniels, Chow Chows, Bedlington Terriers, and Alaskan Malamutes.
  • Pancreatitis (acute or chronic) is a swollen and inflamed pancreas that causes vomiting and severe abdominal pain.
  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can be caused by congenital diseases like elbow or hip dysplasia. It is most common in large breed dogs and some of the symptoms besides depression are lameness, exercise intolerance, and difficulty getting up.
  • Poisoning by any kind of toxic chemical or certain plants can cause depression along with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and other symptoms related to the type of toxin.
  • Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar usually due to exhaustion or other diseases like diabetes. Toy breeds are most at risk for this condition.
  • Infection such as parvovirus or coronavirus may cause a dog to experience depressed feelings.
  • Diabetes (mellitus or insipidus) is a sugar regulating disease that causes depression, excessive drinking and urinating, and sleepiness.

Clinical Depression

Clinical depression in dogs is a real condition caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Although it is not completely known what the actual cause is, veterinary experts believe it could be hereditary like with humans.

Loss of A Loved One

The loss of a loved one is just as painful for dogs as it is for people. In fact, it may affect dogs even more because they do not understand what is going on if your child moves out or you have to go back to work. All they know is that one of their favorite playmates is gone.

What to do if your Dog is Feeling Depressed

If there has been a change in the household lately such as a new baby, moving into a new home, or the loss of a loved one, you may just want to give your dog some time to absorb the change or grieve their loss. Sometimes it is better to do nothing at all when this situation arises, but if your dog does not seem to be getting over it within a week or so, you should call your veterinary provider for an appointment. Clinical depression needs to be treated by your veterinarian with medication such as Zoloft or Prozac. You can also see a veterinary therapist if the depression is really severe. For example, if your dog is not eating and losing a lot of weight, you should consider seeing a specialist. Any of the serious illnesses listed above need immediate treatment which can range from medication to surgery.

Prevention of Feeling Depressed

To prevent depression during a life change, try to get your dog used to it in advance. For example, if you are moving into a new home, take your dog with you to see the house several times before moving in completely to get them used to it. Losing a loved one is never easy on either of you. Spending extra time with your dog on a daily basis can help you both get through the grieving process more smoothly. There is nothing you can do to prevent clinical depression or serious illnesses. However, you can improve your dog’s chances of successful treatment if you see the veterinarian at least once per year. An annual wellness check will include the evaluation of blood markers that could indicate a disease process. A urinalysis and fecal sample will rule out parasitic or bacterial infection. Having your pet’s teeth checked once each year is also recommended as dental and oral health are important to the well-being of your dog. 

Cost of Feeling Depressed

The cost of depression in your dog depends on the reason for the depression. For a simple case of sadness from a life change or loss of a loved one, the cost of spending some extra time with your dog is priceless, but a serious illness can cost you upwards of $10,000. For example, the expense for treating pancreatitis can be $2200 while a case of toxicity due to rodenticide exposure can range up to approximately $8000.