There’s evidence that dogs can alleviate depression in humans, which is great news for canine lovers! But, buckle up, because this is a two-way street. Experts in the world of veterinary and animal behavioral pharmacology have determined that dogs get depressed, too. Here’s how to spot it, so you can return the favor by helping your pup beat his own depression.
As with humans, depression in dogs is often caused by changes in serotonin levels. This manifests in lethargy and what may appear to be laziness. If your dog quickly goes from loving walks and leaping at any opportunity to fetch a tennis ball to showing disinterest in his favorite activities, he may be down in the dumps. Don’t brush this off as lazy dog behavior (unless of course, you own a basset hound, in which case Netflix and chill is very much the status quo).
Change in eating habits
Canines live for meal time. PetCareRx, a pet pharmacy that deals with nearly every canine medication on the planet, states dogs who are feeling low typically eat less or show only mild interest in their food. This symptom can be easier to spot since—hello!—there’s tangible evidence left over after dinner; so pay attention to these habits.
Change in sleeping habits
Again, lethargy that turns into 24/7 naptime should ring alarm bells. According to Stanley Coren, PhD, who has written almost a dozen books on dog behavior, a canine retreating to his bed or snoozing instead of playing is often an indicator something isn’t right. This could certainly be a sign your pup has hurt himself physically, but pain is often paired with yelping or a change in movement, not sleep. If nothing on the surface looks wrong, your dog could definitely be feeling depressed.
Anxious or obsessive behavior
While some breeds are more anxious and alert than others (hello, Boston terriers), any dog suddenly fixating on a certain behavior could be exhibiting symptoms of depression. Often chewing constantly on a single paw or nail can indicate dogs are upset or feeling low. If your typically friendly Goldendoodle stops greeting you at the door and starts hiding in the living room, something is definitely off internally.
While aggression is rarer when it comes to depressed dogs, it can happen. Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, and if a pup lets that anxiety take over, it can come out as scary, mean behavior. On the other hand, some pet experts like Iain Booth, founder of VetUK, believe dogs who feel ignored will act out for attention. A combination of these factors can make for a very moody pup.
If a dog displays any of these behaviors, consider whether a recent event could be contributing to this shift in temperament. The most common causes of doggie depression are the loss of a family member (humans and other family pets included), a traumatic injury, and sometimes even a commiseration with a depressed human. It’s worth a visit to the vet to verify what’s really going on and get the best treatment possible for the symptoms.