Depression is a well-known condition in humans, but what is not so well known is that dogs can also suffer from depression. Most dog lovers can tell you when their beloved pet is feeling down and not acting like themselves. However, the study of depression in dogs is relatively new and is still up for debate by some experts. Because of this, treatment options are not as well established as they are with humans. There is little known about what dogs really feel and what happens to their moods and behavior under stress.
What Might Be Causing Depression
Changes in behavior frequently connect to an event that has affected your dog. Some of the main causes of depression in dogs are grief, boredom, and lack of purpose. They can also be reacting to stressful changes in those household. Perhaps a child has gone off to college, or there has been a lot of stress in the home lately? Dogs can even sense depression in their owners ,which can cause them to become stressed.
How Do You Know if Your Dog is Suffering from Depression?
Most dog parents know when something is not right. You might notice your dog is not as playful as normal or perhaps he is spending all his time sleeping. Your pet’s appetite may be off, either overeating or undereating. Your dog might isolate himself, and his activity levels may drop off dramatically. Some dogs may start urinating in the house. In general, vets consider that any behavior that is sub normal and not connected to a medical condition is potentially depression.
Check with a Vet First
If you suspect depression in your dog, your first stop should be to speak with a vet to ensure the symptoms you are seeing are not signs of an underlying illness. There are many conditions that have the same symptoms as depression and this should be your first concern. Your vet can run a series of tests to ensure that your dog is physically healthy. He may then opt to discuss treatment options for you. These options could include lifestyle changes, medications, or natural remedies.
Natural Treatments for Depression
There is very little medical help available for dogs with depression. Vets have the option of prescribing SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). SSRIs, however, do not always work and there are several natural treatments you can use instead that are very effective. SSRIs are considered a last resort treatment. Unlike in humans, you have a great deal of control over your pet’s lifestyle, so it is much easier to employ natural treatments with them.
Natural Help for Dogs with Depression
Exercise is good for depressed humans and it is just as good for dogs. Daily walks can go a long way to help treat depression and also help if your pet is overweight. Most dogs were bred to do some sort of work, and getting them out to exercise can do wonders for their disposition.
Nutrition is an important part of curing any depression. Make sure your dog is getting a dog food that is meeting all his nutritional needs. There are many dog foods available that do not meet those needs. This would be a good thing to cover with your veterinarian. He can point out a good food that is the right for your dog.
If your dog is suffering from a poor appetite, this could be a good time to spoil him a bit. Treats like meat or canned food can tempt a bored appetite.
Keep Routines the Same
Dogs thrive on a consistent schedule and routine. It helps them know what to expect next, and if things stay the same, it can reassure them that everything is OK.
If you have tried several lifestyle changes and they are not giving your dog enough relief, there are a few remedies available that might help. Herbs that help to calm and boost energy can be helpful. Try lavender for relaxation and peppermint to help boost mood and energy. There are a few homeopathic remedies available as well. Bach Rescue Remedy, for instance, is a stress relief remedy made specifically for pets. Green Home Farm Grief and Loss is a remedy made for dogs who are grieving the loss of a family member.
Give it Time
Just like humans, most dogs will return to normal over time. Sometimes, it just takes a bit of time and tender loving care. Patience and consistency will be your best approach. If you feel as though the depression has gone on too long, talk to your veterinarian about other possible treatments.
A word of caution: lack of appetite, fatigue, and sleeping too much can all be symptoms of a more serious underlying problem. Even if you are certain your dog is depressed, have them checked out by a vet before you try to treat them yourself.