Dogs, as well as humans, can suffer from depression. They can be very happy and joyful friends, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get blue from time to time. It is very important for you as owner to be aware of any changes in behavior. Unlike humans, they can’t tell you what’s wrong. It’s up to you to find out what is wrong and why your dog might be feeling sad.
There are some possible causes of depression and most dogs show similar signs when they start feeling sad and depressed.
Let’s take a look.
Signs of depression in dogs
- Appetite Changes
- Changes in Sleeping Patterns
- Hiding and avoiding Contact
- Excessive and compulsive licking
When dogs get depressed, they usually change their eating behaviours. Commonly, they start eating less or they can even stop eating at all. On the contrary, some dogs can also start eating on a compulsive way, because food can give them a sort of comfort. If you ever see a change in your dog’s appetite, maybe he is suffering from some kind of depression. Also, take a look and constantly check your dog’s body weight.
Changes in sleeping patterns
Usually, the first thing you experience when coming home after is your throwing itself at you with joy. But one day, you get home and your dog stays in bed. You check on him and he is sleeping in his bed or just doesn’t want to get up. At first, this could mean nothing, but it is a clear sign that there is something wrong with your furry companion.
Hiding and avoiding contact
Dogs are not like most cats when it comes to physical contact. They love and enjoy playing and interacting with you. Hiding, acting scared or avoiding contact at all can be another sign of depression.
Excessive compulsive licking
Licking their paws is a very common sign of depression. Dogs tend t o do it when they are depressed to soothe themselves. Also, if they start to bite more than usual can be a sign of depression.
Possible causes of depression in dogs
Loss of a family member
This is one of the main causes of depression in dogs. Dogs are as sensitive as humans and they also suffer from grief, too. Loosing their owner or a close family member can psychologically affect your furry companion. According to Kathi O’Malley, dog behavior consultant, “is one of the most common reasons for depressive behavior in dogs, and is very difficult to deal with because the source ir irreplaceable”.
Dogs can get depressed also after losing another pet in the house. And adding a new dog or cat is not always the best idea. Some dogs might cheer up for having new company, but others will depress even more.
Although there is no current treatment, experts in dog behaviour recommend that family members give extra attention to your dog. Spending more time with your dog and making him feel cared is very important during this time.
Lack of attention
Also, you better think twice before getting another dog or add a cat to the family. Dogs are extremely sensitive and, even more, jealous. A new pet might get all the attention, specially if it is a cute and chubby puppy. Even though you don’t intend it to, your dog might start feeling depressed due to lack of attention, and, also a little bit of jealousy. Likewise, a new baby can also take away attention from your dog, which will probably make him a little blue.
In addition, leaving your dog alone at home for several hours can be a cause for depression. Carol Sumbry, certified dog trainer and behavior consultant, told PetMD that people tend to forget that dogs are very social animals: “Many are left alone long hours without access to human contact, access to bathroom facilities, or an outlet for their energy or natural instincts.”
Work schedules are demanding. If you work from 9 to 5, and if there is no one to look after your dog, it is very likely that your 4 legged friend will start feeling depressed. Maybe, when you get back home, you will find your apartment upside down and all chewed up. This is a clear sign of depression and anxiety. If you don’t have a “dog friendly” office where you can bring your god, try signing your loyal friend to a daycare at least three times a week. Your dog will get the attention he needs, spend all that energy and will definitely save for furniture.
As you can see above, drastic changes are never easy for dogs. They are very territorial animals and a new home can trigger some depression symptoms. While getting used to the new home, you need to make this transition as smooth as possible.
For example, keep your daily dog-routine. If you are used to wake up at seven in the morning to walk your god, keep doing that. And, just as important, don’t forget his favourites! His favorite toy, blanket and crackers will make this transition easier. The smell of something familiar in the new environment can make him feel “at home”. This process takes time. So be patient with your dog, he will definitely thank you.
Furthermore, signs of depression can be the only way that your dog tells you he is sick. If you your dog starts showing any of the signs that we previously explained, it is better first to rule out any health problems. As soon as you notice the first signs of depression, take your dog to the veterinarian. It is very likely that after treatment, your dog will slowly regain his energy and depression signs will disappear. If your veterinarian rules out any physical problem, then you better start looking for emotional reasons why your dog is depressed.
But the reason is not always something directly related with your dog. Ever notice how your dog mimics how you feel? If you are sick or depressed, your dog might start feeling the same way. Dogs are very receptive animals and they can pick up your mood.
Less Prozac more Cannabis
As depression and anxiety in pets get more attention, there is a growing tendency of owners and veterinarians prescribing antidepressants such as Prozac to dogs and cats. Michael W. Fox, a veterinarian and author, wrote in The Washington Post regarding this: “the trend of applying mind-altering drugs to help animals cope in stimulation-lacking and socially deprived domestic environments is an ethical concern that all responsible parties need to address.”
For instance, a 2017 national survey from Packaged Facts states that “8 percent of dog owners and 6 percent of cat owners gave medications to their pets for anxiety, calming or mood purposes within the previous 12 months”. That is a lot of medicated dogs and cats, taking into account that 60 million American households own dogs and 47 million, cats.
However, as it happens in humans, antidepressants like Prozac have side effects that can deeply affect the daily routine of your dog. Some of this side effects are loss of appetite, lack of energy, aggressive behavior, vomiting, seizures, itching and diarrhea, specially in dogs. If the dose is too high, your dog can even suffer from panting.
So why submit your dog to such side effects? Isn’t there any other way? Cannabis is a growing tendency to treat anxiety and depression in our furry pals.
Cannabis for dog depression
Although THC can be deadly for your dog, there is and increasing tendency of using CBD to treat behavioral conditions in pets. Robert J. Silver, a widely known veterinarian who specializes in cannabis for pets, explains how cannabis has a wide variety of uses in animals as well as humans:
“Terpenes and terpenoids exert strong biological effects by themselves, but have been found to interact synergistically with phytocannabinoids in the treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections”.
A study involving 60 dugs was conducted in Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dogs suffering from osteoarthritis experienced a decrease in pain and increase in activity “after being given 2mg of CBD oil twice daily”. Blake Armstrong, owner of Cannabis for Pets, reviews some testimonies of owners who have used cannabis to treat anxiety and depression with great results.
Nevertheless, the Veterinary Medical Association states that further research is needed to fully understand how cannabis can be a treatment for animals in a number of conditions. As always, we do recommend that before giving cannabis or any other drug to your dog, check with your veterinarian. And always remember that dogs are social animals, and sometimes, affection and attention is all they need when suffering from depression.