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Dog Depression: Common Signs, Causes And Easy Solutions

 by wai on 06 Jan 2014 |
5 Comment(s)
Dogs, like people and many other animals, get depressed. Major change, a substantial loss, or even the weather can create prolonged, intense sadness in canines. Fortunately, dog depression symptoms are easy to recognize and solutions are usually evident and simple to implement. Care must be taken, however, not to inadvertently reward the dog for sad behavior. Instead, there are easy ways to encourage happy behavior and uplifting activities.
Although dogs live for the moment, this doesn't mean that whatever happens will not affect them in the long run. Consider how important a dog's human and animal companions are to him. His people provide not only food, water and shelter but also attention and love. They provide him with endless interesting ways to fill his waking hours. Other pets in his household enrich his playtime, downtime, and provide moral support and security within his family environment. In short, his human and animal friends are the highlights of his each and every day. When one of these companions leaves him, permanently through death, or temporarily as through a long hospital stay, his world turns upside down. His loss can be tremendous. Just like people, dogs need help to fill this void.
In fact, since dogs are animals of habit, major changes of any sort can upset them immensely. A move to a bigger, better home can leave them without their favorite shade tree or familiar living room picture window view. The friendly children next door he'd run along the fence and play with may now be replaced with less friendly people or with nothing at all. Potentially as upsetting as a change in environment is a change to a dog's daily schedule. A dog can be overcome with loneliness if his owner is working longer hours or a different shift, leaving him with one less long walk per day. This type of separation anxiety is also common when there's a change in the dog's family dynamics. A new spouse, new baby or even a new pet may leave him feeling left out, insecure and insignificant.  
Just like people, dogs can simply get the blues. A change of season, extended bad weather, or even just the shorter daylight hours of winter can leave dogs with less happy time outdoors, less trips with their owners, and basically with much less to do. What's important to remember is that dogs pick up the emotions of the people around them. A person who's depressed about the weather, or anything else, is likely to have a dog that mirrors the emotion. In determining what's causing a dog's depression, it's crucial to rule out medical problems first. For instance, a dog that's eating less and inactive may be stiff and sore from arthritis. Depression without another medical or environmental cause may actually be due to a chemical imbalance. Only a veterinarian can determine this conclusively and treat it accordingly.
One of the most common signs of dog depression is a decrease in both food and water consumption. Depending on how much less a depressed dog is eating, there can be a corresponding loss of weight. The weight loss can be drastic and sudden if the dog virtually or totally abstains from food. Depending on how little the dog is drinking, varying levels of dehydration can occur. Occasionally, depressed canines markedly overeat and this can be as dangerous as not eating enough. Sleep patterns may also be altered, with depressed dogs either sleeping excessively or having trouble sleeping at all. They may be restless and anxious. Some shake and abnormally shed. But basically, if a dog becomes listless, inactive or lethargic, depression should be a concern. Some dogs get excessively clingy while others become withdrawn, even hiding to avoid contact and to avoid doing the things they previously enjoyed. Any distinct personality change can signal depression but only a veterinarian will know for sure.
Fortunately, once depression is diagnosed, treatment is usually simple and based directly on the cause. For example, a dog mourning the death of his dog companion will benefit tremendously from interaction with other dogs. Dog parks or long walks in a dog friendly neighborhood work wonders if it isn't feasible to get another dog. Lonely dogs whose owners must suddenly work longer hours can benefit greatly from the addition of a new family pet they'll enjoy. In general, depressed dogs need lots of extra affection and attention. More exercise and activity is best given doing the things they most enjoy. Herbal supplements may work wonders as can anti-depressants for chemical imbalance but these must be prescribed by a vet. Drugs should be a last resort, however, as they may cause unpleasant side effects. Whenever possible, depressed dogs should be cheered up in natural ways. Since rewarding sadness encourages it to continue, hugs and treats should be given only once a dog's been coaxed into happier behavior.
The good news is that dogs suffering from depression are usually back to normal within a few months, sometimes even in just a few days. Unlike humans, long term depression in canines is extremely rare. Because dogs are more present-day oriented than their human companions, treatments employed for whatever is causing their blues are more readily accepted and their resulting uplifted mood and behavior are more easily retained.


Lisa - Comment
Lisa07 Jan 2014Reply
Good info. Thanks.
Cassandra Nash - Comment
Cassandra Nash07 Jan 2014Reply
Thank you very much for such an informative article. I had no idea dogs could get depressed like humans. This helps me take even better care of my sweet little one. Thanks again.
Jose Crespo - Comment
Jose Crespo07 Jan 2014Reply
Awesome, same apply for cats?
mydogz2 - Comment
mydogz207 Jan 2014Reply
Very informative and interesting article - a must read for all dog owners
Michael P. - Comment
Michael P.07 Jan 2014Reply
Woof! Woof!

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