If you're like me, your dog is the only person in your family who can’t annoy you. They’re always cute, they always want to see you, and they’ll always polish off any leftovers. But can your dog suffer with the same illnesses as you--depression for example? Depression is more than feeling down, it’s feeling persistently sad for weeks or months. Dealing with depression can be a minefield, so it’s important to proceed with caution and medical assistance. But can your dog actually suffer from depression?
Can Dogs Get Depressed?
Understandably, many people may think of depression as an innately human condition and believe dogs don’t have the brainpower or awareness to be depressed. But this is not the case! Depression can 100% affect dogs just like it can affect humans. Handling your dog’s depression is a sensitive procedure, but absolutely necessary if you want a happy, loving dog!
Does My Dog Have Depression?
There are a number of symptoms to look out for if you are concerned your dog may have depression. Does your dog seem withdrawn and isolate himself from everyone? Does your dog no longer participate in activities he used to enjoy? Has your dog’s sleeping pattern changed or become erratic? Has your dog’s eating habits changed as well? All of these things could be signs of doggie depression.
But what can cause your dog to become depressed? Often a major change in the dog’s life can bring on depression, moving to a new home for example, or a new spouse, child or even a pet entering the home can trigger depression. But two of the most common causes are the loss of a companion animal or owner.
How is your dog’s depression diagnosed? It’s important to take your dog to the vet promptly for diagnosis when you see symptoms in line with depression, as they can often be signs of other serious illnesses. Your vet will diagnose depression by means of conversations with you as an owner, to detect symptoms and possible causes.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Depression?
Treating depression in your dog is not always a straightforward procedure, as obviously they cannot convey their emotions or reasons for their change in feelings. Often just by engaging and involving them more, dogs will usually bounce back out of depression in just a few weeks or months. It is also important not to reward them for negative behavior, i.e., giving them treats to cheer them up when they’re moping around.
If the depression is more serious, medication may be the appropriate solution. Your dog could be prescribed anti-depressants much like owners; Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft can all be used to help treat your dog’s depression.
Recovery from depression will depend on the severity, the cause, and the treatment. Dogs with mild depression can often be back to their chirpy selves within a few weeks or months. More serious depression, requiring medication, may see your dog need six months to a year before being fully recovered.
It is often useful to read first-hand accounts from other owners who have gone through dealing with a dog with depression, plus see commonly asked questions answered by trained professionals. For more details, check out our guides to depression related conditions.
How Is Depression Similar in Dogs and Humans?
Whilst there may be some differences in depression in dogs versus humans, there are also some striking similarities. Some of those similarities are as follows:
Both dogs and humans may want to isolate themselves from others.
In both, sleeping patterns may become erratic and disjointed.
Depression can manifest itself as having no interest in activities that they used to enjoy.
In both humans and dogs, depression may cause them to not eat properly or regularly.
Depression can also see both dogs and humans appear lethargic and lazy.
How Is Depression Different in Dogs and Humans?
Whilst we have seen there are some obvious similarities in the characteristics of depression in both dogs and other animals, it is also worth noting there are some differences in depression symptoms as well. Some of these differences are as follows:
One of the obvious symptoms in humans is a decreased interest in social engagement with friends. In dogs, this is much harder to pick up on as they likely spend less time with other dogs anyway.
A lack of interest in food is a clearer symptom of depression in dogs than it is for humans.
It is harder to identify erratic sleep patterns in dogs as they often sleep intermittently throughout the day anyway.
Sadie was a five year old red retriever, who has become detached from her owners. Sadie no longer wanted to spend time with them in the evenings and seem disinterested in her food, often leaving it half the day before attempting it. After diagnosis and a chat with the vet, the fact a newborn baby had entered the home seemed to be the obvious trigger. Following a course of TLC from the owners, giving Sadie attention, engaging with her more and making more of an effort to include her around the baby, in just six weeks she had cheered up and returned to her happy self! The lesson to take from this case is that often a change in their environment can trigger depression in dogs and that the solution usually entails giving them more love and attention.