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Is My Dog Depressed? Likely Signs and Causes

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

sad wirehaired vizsla dog

If you see your dog lying down by itself, acting mopey, you might wonder if they could be depressed. Depression is a large and growing issue with humans. Can dogs also get depressed? The answer to that question is yes. Dogs can get depressed, and depression can be a problem for some dogs. However, dog depression is not as common as some other issues that could be causing your dog to act down.

This brief guide will help you figure out if your dog is depressed. It covers signs, triggers, and potential treatments for your dog when it comes to depression.

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Can Dogs Get Depressed?

Yes. While depression in dogs is not quite the same as it is in humans, it does have some overlap in signs and causes. Dogs can get depressed, and depression can change your dog’s behavior and personality. If you are concerned that your dog may be depressed, there are some things you need to look out for.

sad french bulldog
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

Signs of Depression in Dogs

If you are concerned your dog might be depressed, there are some signs you need to watch out for. If your dog is experiencing any of these signs, your dog could potentially be suffering from depression.

  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Change in attitude or body language towards familiar people or dogs

These signs can appear gradually over time, or they can pop up all at once. The emergence of these signs will depend on the potential trigger for the depression.

Dog Depression Causes

There are multiple triggers that can cause a dog to experience depression. Some of the triggers are familiar such as grief or trauma. Some dogs strongly bond with people or other dogs and losing them either to death or a new home can cause a dog to start feeling down.

Other triggers might not be so apparent to people. Some dogs can be very sensitive to routine and their environment. That means that moving or changing work schedules or adding a new pet can throw a dog off and potentially cause them to become depressed. Many people have seen changes in their dogs due to the shakeup of the modern work environment with people working from home and then going back to the office or changing their living situations.

These are some of the most common causes of canine depression:
  • Grief due to the loss of a companion (animal or human)
  • Chronic pain
  • Trauma (injury, anxiety, or abuse)
  • Environmental changes such as a move, rehoming, or the addition of a new baby or pet
  • Social isolation
  • Insufficient physical or mental stimulation

If you know that your dog has experienced any of these potential triggers, you should keep an eye on them and see if your dog starts showing the signs of depression previously mentioned.

Depressed Sad Senior Havanese Dog Laying and Doesn't Want to Play with his Toys
Image Credit: Boryana Manzurova, Shutterstock

Other Causes of Dog Behavioral Changes

There are other things that can cause your dog to act depressed that have little to do with actual depression. Three common causes of dog behavior that are not depression include pain, illness, and anxiety. A dog that is in pain for a very long time can develop depression but pain itself does not mean that your dog is depressed. Your dog might lose interest in activities or not want to eat simply because their paw hurts.

Illnesses, such as cancer, joint problems, or neurological issues, can also cause a severe change in behavior and disposition. Your dog might not be depressed if they have an underlying medical condition that can explain the signs. Dogs do not tend towards depression in most situations.

Lastly, anxiety and depression are often linked in both humans and dogs, but anxiety does not automatically lead to or equal depression. Many dogs feel anxiety for many different reasons. Some of the most common sources of canine anxiety are strangers, loud noises (thunderstorm anxiety), or new places. Dogs that are chronically anxious can potentially develop depression. In most cases, if you can identify the source of your dog’s anxiety and eliminate it, then you can reduce the risk of your dog developing behavioral changes.

Before automatically landing on depression, it is important to rule out any other potential causes. Depression in dogs is fairly uncommon, and many times one of these other common conditions is the cause of your dog’s behavioral changes.

How to Treat Dog Depression

The best way to treat a dog’s depression is by changing their environment. Usually, there is a large thing causing your dog to be depressed that you can attempt to fix. In many cases, giving your dog extra attention and time will help brighten them up. Getting your dog more physical and mental stimulation can also help reduce the signs of depression. Long walks and trips to the dog park can help your dog reset their mental state. If your dog has lost a companion, consider adding a new one. If your dog doesn’t like to fetch anymore, try playing tuggy. Most dogs can be roused from transient depression with some extra love, compassion, and affection. But not all dog depression is transitory.

Other times, depression can be more entrenched. This is especially true of dogs that have experienced severe trauma in their past, lingering chronic pain, or untreated anxiety. In these cases, guidance from a veterinarian will likely be necessary to identify and treat the underlying cause of the depression. In some cases, medication may be prescribed. There are various anti-anxiety medications that dogs can be prescribed to help balance their mental state.

miniature schnauzer playing tug with dog toy
Image Credit: Natalia Bostan, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Wondering whether your dog may or may not be depressed is a valid question. If you notice your dog undergoing noticeable and concerning behavioral changes, there is likely an underlying cause that needs to be identified and addressed. In some cases, these changes are due to something like illness or anxiety. But other times, they could be due to depression triggered by a loss or trauma. If you find your dog is acting depressed for more than a few days, you might want to consider taking them to the veterinarian for an evaluation.


Featured Image Credit: Dima Berlin, Shutterstock

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