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How to Know if Your Dog is Depressed

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As dog owners, we don't always know when our dog is in pain or feeling bad. Dogs experience emotions differently than we do, but they can still become depressed and sad. While all kinds of signs demonstrate when a person is depressed, our dogs don't have the same options. 

Usually, a strong indication of depression is seeing your dog not acting like its usual self. But, that could be just one of many indicators. So, are there ways to tell if our dog is feeling depressed? The professional vetenarian say Yes! Here are several common warning symptoms and signals suggested by the professional vets that can help demonstrate that your dog feels depressed and needs assistance. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Dogs?

Acting withdrawn is one of the more telltale signs that your dog may be depressed. Dogs sleep often, but if you notice that your dog is acting less energetic or sleeping at unusual times when you are around, there might be something wrong.

For example, maybe your dog isn't excited to go outside for its daily walk or doesn't feel playful. 

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Changes in Appetite – losing interest in food or losing weight is a symptom, as well as excessive weight gain if your dog seems to have a larger-than-usual appetite, which can all be indicative of a mood issue.
  • Loss of Interest – besides losing interest in food, take note if your dog is acting less interested in anything else or seems less active and slow, as this indicates one of the visible signs of depression in dogs.
  • Licking – some dogs excessively lick or chew on their paws or skin, which could be rooted in a more psychological issue. 
  • Hiding or Being Alone – dogs will tend to try and make themselves scarce when they aren't feeling well or feeling sad, so if you notice your dog is hiding in places like under the bed, in a closet, or often retreating to their beds, this is a sign of something serious.

Many of these symptoms could also indicate other health problems. So, your first step when you notice these kinds of behaviors is to contact your veterinarian and have your dog examined and receive a complete checkup. The Upper West Side, NYC veterinarian emphasizes that some symptoms may not be as obvious, but you might notice some slight changes in mood or “moping” after a big event. 

Pay attention to your dog's body language so that you can easily recognize any changes. If you have any reason to believe your dog may be depressed, you should reach out to a vet or animal behavior specialist for confirmation.

What are the Causes of Depression for Dogs?

Many factors could lead to your dog experiencing depression and sadness. However, significant changes in a dog's life usually contribute to these feelings. 

For example, if you recently moved into a new home, brought a new baby into the house, or added another pet, these could all feel disruptive to your furry friend and cause it to feel bad. Likewise, changes in usual routines and schedules for your dog can also cause a depressive reaction.

Dogs can also respond to their owner's emotions. For instance, if you lost a loved one or are grieving for another reason, your dog may pick up on those emotions. Your dog might also not be getting attention if its owner is preoccupied, which may cause it to feel stressed.

What Treatments Help Dogs With Depression?

Sometimes, treating your depressed dog may simply be remedied with some time. Dogs can bounce back quickly from a major change once they become used to their new routine and just need a little more attentiveness and care. 

Keeping your dog engaged and spending more time with them can also help. For example, you might take your dog for an extra walk or two, or be sure to play a bit longer with your dog each day, and you will see a quick recovery.

Encourage your dog's happy behavior by rewarding them with positive reinforcement. For example, understand what activities or things are making your dog's tail wag, and when you witness that wagging, give it a treat and praise it – your dog will instinctively be happier and show more signs of feeling better.

If those methods are not working, your dog may need medications to help with their depression. Many of the antidepressants that dogs receive are similar to those given to humans, or they may provide Clomicalm, an FDA-approved drug for dogs that treat separation anxiety.

Dealing With Dog Depression

It is vital for you to address any problems with your dog before they progress. The earlier that you can bring your dog in to treat depression, the better. It can also help you identify the trigger or root of your dog's problem more efficiently, rather than more time passing, and it becomes more challenging.

Taking your dog in sooner can also help rule out any other underlying medical conditions or a more severe health issue with your dog. However, if your dog doesn't need drugs, your veterinarian or specialist can still provide you with helpful tools and techniques to aid your dog's recovery. More effective treatments may have you perform a mix of medication and an at-home plan, with a focus on providing your dog with a more uplifting environment, including more exercise and engagement.

In some cases, vets may recommend more socialization for your dog. For your dog to have more socialization might mean that you bring another pet into the home as a companion or bring it to the dog park more often. Sometimes, just like us, dogs just need a friend who can help get them out of their funk. 

Whatever the case may be, all owners want the same thing – for their dog to ultimately be happy and healthy. Recognizing signs of depression will help bring your back dog to its more relaxed, content state in no time.

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