DEPRESSION IN DOGS
As the world is becoming more and more aware of mental health issues in humans, are we forgetting about our little pooches too? Have you ever wondered if dogs are prone to depression?
Pups don’t have our day-to-day stresses of work and picking up the kids from school on time, so it leaves us wondering what they could possibly be depressed about.
Research shows, though, that depression does exist in dogs - and things that we often overlook could be triggers. Moving home, introducing a new baby, or a recent loss of another pet can all trigger your dog.
What are the symptoms of dog depression?
According to John Ciribassi, DVM, past president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. “Dogs will become withdrawn. They become inactive. Their eating and sleeping habits often change. They don’t participate in the things they once enjoyed.”
It is, however, vital that you don’t just assume your dog might be depressed as the above symptoms could also indicate a medical problem. For example, a pet that is reluctant to go out on walks and doesn’t seem to be as playful could also indicate a dog has pain from arthritis. It’s important to always check with your vet first.
Causes of dog depression
- Moving into a new home
- A new spouse or baby in the household
- Adding another pet
- A change in the dog’s schedule
- Less interactive time spent with the dog
- Loss of a companion animal or owner is one of the most prevalent reasons
- Dogs are also extremely intuitive and pick up on our emotions. Sometimes they are good reflections of ourselves and could be responding to our own grievances and anxieties.
Dog depression treatments
As with humans, never underestimate the importance of some Tender Loving Care. Kisses cuddles and hugs go a long way.
It is also vital to keep our dogs active and engaged. Get them out to play and exercise. Do what you know they once enjoyed doing. Whether it be going for a long walk, meeting other friendly dogs or playing with a ball. Spend quality time with them.
Dogs learn well from being rewarded for their good behaviour. It is important you reward your dog when he shows signs of happiness. However, it is important to be careful not to encourage negative behavior by lavishing a depressed dog with attention and treats while he is moping. Wait for that tail to wag first!
If the depression was instigated by the loss of another pet in the family, getting another pet can often help. This, however, has to be thought out thoroughly with the family’s needs also being taken into account.
Medications for dog depression
Usually, most cases of depression can be quickly treated by environment enrichment, TLC and behaviour modification, however, if you have tried everything and it feels futile there are some medications your vet can prescribe to help break the depressive cycle in your dog.
It can take up to two months for drugs to become effective. But unlike people, who often remain on antidepressants for years, most dogs can get better in six to 12 months and then be taken off the drugs.
Let’s not forget that dogs have emotions and need too. They usually are bundles of joy that never fail to lighten our days often seeming endlessly happy, oblivious to the woes of the world. However, they too can get down and depressed and it is vital that we are there for them to help them through those hard phases of their lives. A time to give back a little love and joy for all that they have given us.