How To Tell If Your Dog Is Depressed

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Depressed

Doesn’t it seem that dogs are always happy? It certainly seems as though they are the poster child for happiness. Their little smiling faces always looking up at you. Of course I know that dogs can get cranky… Once, when we went on an 18-day camping trip, after we returned home and went to work the next day Mattie was so frustrated by not being with us (or perhaps in our camper) that he tore apart all of the toilet paper in our bathrooms. Cranky with a capital C! But I didn’t know that dogs could get depressed until a few years ago.

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Depressed, and what to do about it! By Rebecca Sanchez, The Pet Lifestyle Guru at MattieDog

Our Dog Depression Story

I had heard that pets can get upset when another pet passes. We’d had dogs pass prior, with other dogs in the house. While there were speckles of confusion, akin to “where is Fido” moments, none of our dogs appeared to be too sad when one of their pack died…I think dogs have a better comprehension of the cycle of life. Until Spike and Kiki. Kiki, our only black and white Shih Tzu, and Spike, our little 4 pound Chihuahua, were bonded. Like a mother and child bond. Kiki was 6 years older than Spike, and when we got him as a pup, Spike fell in love with Kiki and she with him. At 12 Kiki developed cancer and, after a very brief battle, passed – her pain was clear, she wouldn’t eat and just wanted to be cuddled. I was worried about Spike and completely unprepared for what happened after Kiki’s passing. Spike wouldn’t eat, he would shiver, his eyes were always wet, dripping wet, and he developed diarrhea. This went on for days and I became so concerned that I took Spike to the vet where he received IV fluids for dehydration. There was no ignoring the fact that our little Spike was heartbroken, he was sick from losing his best friend. Our dog was depressed

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Depressed

When a dog gets depressed, there are clues…just like with humans. Dogs become withdrawn and inactive when they are depressed.  Their eating and sleeping habits are off and they simply don’t participate in the things that use to bring them joy. Sudden changes can trigger the blues in dogs. Things like moving to another house, or moving from a house with a backyard to a condo with no yard. Dog walker changes can create a bit of a blue dog – looking back, now that I’m armed with information, I can see that when Mattie’s favorite dog walker moved away from Seattle, and he didn’t get to see her every day, he was slightly depressed. I should have gotten him another dog walker, or walked him myself at lunch time. Eased him into the change. I feel like a bad mom. Death is a primary depression trigger for dogs – like Spike where the death is of a favored companion animal, or perhaps it could be a dog’s owner or family member. Dogs, by their nature are social, and they bond, so death is often a key trigger for dogs getting the blues.

Pin to help spread the word about dog depression!

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Depressed, and what to do about it! By Rebecca Sanchez, The Pet Lifestyle Guru at MattieDog

 

 

What To Do When Your Dog Is Depressed

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Depressed, and what to do about it! By Rebecca Sanchez, The Pet Lifestyle Guru at MattieDog

Now that you know the triggers, you are better able to identify when your dog is depressed. And, while it’s rare, it can happen. So, let’s say it happens, what do you do? There are some pretty simple and actionable things you can do:

  1. Be present with your dog, spend more time hugging and cuddling – let your dog tell you when he’s had enough. A broken heart often needs continual hugging.
  2. Keep one hand on your dog when sitting, watching television, any time the dog is around you. The act of touching sends a signal that things are as they should be, and can calm your dog.
  3. Take short, frequent walks outside. Exercise is great for depression and whether walking or just sitting on your porch, the sunshine will help stimulate serotonin, the ‘feel good’ hormone in both your dog and you. Your mental health is important too (click here for more info: mental health in the new year).
  4. Reward typical dog behavior with small treats. Depressed dogs often limit typical behaviors like wagging their tail. When your dog does these things, reward him with a treat to help re-imprint the good association of normal happy-dog activities.
  5. Visit your vet. Sometimes your dog’s depression could be due to pain, such as arthritis. You just never know. Your dog’s vet can help you suss out and properly treat your dog, including in the very rare case of depression drugs.

It took Spike a good couple of weeks for him to come back around. Honestly, I was desperate so I tried a lot of things, including taking him to a doggy day care so that he was around other dogs…but all he wanted was to be held by the people working there. So I would pick him up, we’d drive home and then we’d just cuddle together. Cuddling really helps, particularly when both you and your dog are grieving. Things are fine now, a little time, a big dose of love, and eventually adopting another girl Shih Tzu seemed to put things back into alignment for Spike. He’s a ‘lady’s man’ kind of dog I guess!

Rebecca Sanchez, The Pet Lifestyle Guru at MattieDogThanks for reading, and until next time – take care and keep on lovin’ your dog! MattieDog A little dog making a big impact in this world, MattieDog, social media superstar, animal advocate, animal author


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29 Comments

  1. This is really helpful and I think it is the first time I have read an article on this subject. Looking back, I think Ruby was depressed when we first adopted her. She had been in a foster home for about 6 months and was very attached to them. It took her a few weeks to get comfortable with us.

    Reply
  2. I have had pets since I was a child. But I have to admit I did not know they can get depressed too. It seems to me that I will have to pay more attention to my Black’s behavior.

    Reply
  3. i so much love this like crazy, i have i love dogs, although i don’t have any yet but the joy of seeing dogs always happy gives me the hunger to always have mine, will share this for my friends so as to follow them up and make sure their dogs gets the best attention needed.

    Reply
  4. These are great tips and things to watch out for. Sad to think our pets get depressed, but it makes sense I guess. Lucky for Spike he’s got someone looking out for him and glad he’s got a friend again.

    Reply
  5. Great post and good to make people aware of this! I didn’t know a dog could have a depression. My parents dog was behaving differently. So they decided to let an expert check her out. Thy said she had too little sleep! I had also no clue that could be an issue. But apparently also something to really keep an eye on. Great tips. Thanks!

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  6. It’s so heartbreaking when a pet loses someone they love. I’ve described this grief as a form of “separation anxiety” and it really does impact the surviving pet. Thanks for shining a light on this condition.

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  7. It’s not just dogs that get depressed. My cat had a very special bond with my dog. When my dog passed it was heart wrenching to watch my cat look around the house for her. My cat would sleep on the dog’s bed, as if she was waiting for her to return.

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  8. Great post. Separation anxiety can spring up after depression, especially loss. It’s good to realize that they can certainly be depressed. <3

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  9. Poor Spike…I’m glad he recovered and I can only imagine how hard that was on both you and Spike. Our dog suffers from separation anxiety when we’re away, and I think he may have been depressed when we first adopted him. He’s an old man now and pretty much loves his life. Great post (and graphic).

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  10. Thanks for such a helpful post. I know in our household when a pet died the others never seemed to be depressed, more confused about why someone was missing. For a while when my bossy cat died, the rest of them were a bit confused about the order of things, but they figured it out over time.

    Reply
  11. Ooops I nearly signed your block above this by mistake! Our cat Silver lost his best friend in a traffic accident. In spite of our love and care he was a changed cat – it still hurts to see him looking thoughtfully acros the road to his buddy’s house. I know for a ong time this kind of depression was something he suffered from. I am gad there is action you can take, people feel so powerless, I know we did.
    Dash Kitten Crew recently posted…Sienna the Slouchy Sunday SelfieMy Profile

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  12. This is such a helpful post. Its heartbreaking enough to lose a pet but when you have another pet left behind, it must be so difficult for them too. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. It’s so heart-wrenching when our fur babies are hurting, whether it’s physical or emotional pain. When they grieve for a lost friend, it makes it even harder. Thanks for an informational post.

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  14. Thank you for this post. I think a lot of pet owners grapple with how to a) identify the symptoms you listed for depression and b) know how to address the situation as best as possible. This is a valuable resource for pet owners.

    I’m sorry to hear about your own story of depression in your dog. It’s hard to not feel in control. You providing the love, care and attention that you did I’m sure helped to make your pup bounce back much quicker than if you weren’t there to provide your support.

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  15. Oh, poor little Spike! Glad he’s doing better. It is really hard on them, especially if they were very bonded. When my dog Jessie passed away, my cat Marty would lay on the floor where her bed had been. Jessie was here when I adopted Marty, so he didn’t know life here without her. They weren’t best friends, but did have a peaceful co-existence. It took months, but he’s pretty much past it now. I pinned the infographic to one of my Pinterest boards, it’s great information for pet guardians to have. Thanks for sharing it!

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  16. As others have said, I wasn’t aware that depression existed in dogs. This is a valuable resource! Your article makes me wonder how our current pets, who are extremely close to one another, will react if any of them gets seriously sick or passes.

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  17. I believe my mom’s dog has separation anxiety and gets depressed when my parents aren’t there. They used to travel a lot and would leave him at the kennel. He’d stop eating and they almost lost him the last time he stayed there. My mom now pays me what she’d pay the kennel so I can stay with him at their house while they are gone. He does much better now.

    The girls are okay unless I’m gone more than 3 days. Truffle reacts more to my absence than Brulee. However, they were much better with the pet sitter while I was at BlogPaws last year.

    Reply
  18. Thanks for a great post – am going to share it on my page as it is a real eye opener

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  19. It makes a lot of sense that dogs can get depressed. I am glad that Spike is feeling better.

    When my sister’s Pug passed away this summer, I was worried about her dog Franny, because they were very close. Alice let Franny and Darla sniff Lulu before burial and I think that helped them understand what happened to Lulu. Fortunately, Franny hasn’t exhibited signs of depression.

    I’ll be sharing this because I think it can help a lot of other pet parents.

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  20. Mr. N has separation anxiety and he gets sad if I’m gone for too long. He usually stays with friends when we’re gone so he’s with familiar people at least.

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  21. This is a great post. I wasn’t aware of the fact that dogs could be under depression. We really need to take the necessary steps.

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  22. I can certainly understand dogs getting anxious or depressed if routines change or they lose someone or another pet. Funnily enough, when Cookie passed at 13.5, Isabelle seemed fine. She rather enjoyed getting more attention from the family. She got lots of cuddles and there was always someone in the house so maybe that helped. Good to know the signs and other ways to help.

    Reply
  23. I saw this with my grans dog … it’s heartbreaking. I never thought of essential oils as a way to help. Must look into that more for my boy … not that he needs it right now but to be ready if ever.

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    • The essential oils helped with soothing – and that made it easier for calming to occur. Poor little guy was a shaking mess. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  24. I totally believe that dogs do get depressed. It’s good to know the signs that point to a need to addressing the sadness with a Veterinarian. Poor Spike, it must have been so hard for him to understand why Kiki “went away”. Icy was confused and sad when our cat Maggie passed away. It was heartbreaking to see her go from room to room and sniff into each room trying to catch the scent of her. It went on for a couple of weeks. I’m glad we had Phoebe by then so at least Icy wasn’t left alone with no doggie companionship. Thanks for sharing your story, Rebecca.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
    • You are so welcome – and yes, poor little Spike was just so totally depressed. With time and love all things mend. I’m glad Icy had Phoebe – that friendship helps heal the heart.

      Reply
  25. I’ve heard about depression in pets but thankfully have never experienced it. I’ve had a few cats pass but the other cats seemed to take it in stride. Very helpful article for someone who might be experiencing this.

    Reply
    • Same here – except with dogs, but it only took one incident and we became very well informed on the topic!

      Reply

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