By​ ​Courtney​ ​Emken
co-written​ ​by​ ​​Jen​ ​Larson,​ ​KPA-CTP, and Amanda Ott.

Although people tend to stereotype man’s best friend as carefree and happy-go-lucky, dogs are much like humans when it comes to sadness, anxiety, and even more serious mental health issues like depression. Canine depression can rob your dog’s desire to play, depriving them of essential activities like:

  • Exercise
  • Socialization
  • Mental stimulation

Dogs lacking these critical outlets suffer mentally, physically, and emotionally. Watching a dog succumb to depression is heartbreaking for owners, as the cause can be difficult to determine, and even harder to remedy.

Luckily, owners can take steps to both mitigate and relieve their dog’s symptoms. In this guide, we’ll walk show you how to identify the signs of canine depression, how to discover the root of your dog’s issue, and detail how you can help them overcome it.

How To Identify Canine Depression

The first step towards addressing a dog’s depression is to thoroughly investigate the source of their behavior. As with humans, canine depression is a complex problem with a wide range of possible causes and contributing factors, both mental and physical.

Canine depression can be difficult to diagnose, even for trained vets, due to how many different illnesses share similar symptoms. For instance, the major signs of depression include:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive sleep
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of thirst
  • Anxiety

However, other conditions like Bloat, Kennel Cough and Parvovirus typically begin with almost the exact same indicators. Distinguishing these serious physical illnesses from depression can be tricky, but it is possible. Symptoms brought on by depression are more likely to gradually build across time, whereas these disease can cause symptoms practically overnight.

Whether your dog has a gradual or sudden onset, it’s best to take them to the vet immediately. Even if their condition isn’t especially serious or life threatening, the vet can help you determine what underlies your pet’s illness and recommend a solution.

For example, many dogs exhibit symptoms of depression when suffering from an underlying physical ailment or deficiency, such as:

Dog’s emotional well being is closely tied to their physical health. Each of these conditions alone are powerful enough to significantly impact their mood and contribute to a depressed mental state.

After ruling out physical ailments, evaluate your dog’s habits and daily routines. Just like us, dogs need mental and physical enrichment to be happy, which includes:

Socialization is especially important, as even adult dogs should be getting out, going to new places, and having all sorts of new experiences. Dogs are social animals and need continual interaction with other dogs, animals, and humans to be healthy.

Ask yourself what’s changed in their life to see what may be throwing your dog’s emotions out of balance. Is something interfering with their routine, like:

  • Moving to a new home
  • A Divorce
  • Schedule changes
  • A child moving out

Dogs are sensitive to changes in their home situation, and are likely to be negatively affected by these kinds of disruptions.

Your dog may also be suffering from one of the most common problems on Earth: grief. Our Doggirl, Courtney, experienced this firsthand when her dog Tick passed away, leaving her yellow lab Tessa without her buddy. Tessa missed Tick so much that she refused to play for months. It wasn’t until everyone’s favorite Chiweenie, Noodle, entered the picture that she began to cheer up again, which leads us to our next topic.

How To Combat Canine Depression

First, examine their diet, and make sure you’re feeding a quality food. Low-quality brands often include harmful ingredients in their formulas like:

  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • By-products

These foods are toxic for dogs, and will worsen both their physical and mental health. Talk to your vet or a pet nutritionist about whether your dog has specific nutritional needs due to their age and activity level, and try to accommodate those as best as you can.

As we mentioned earlier, enrichment is a huge factor in aiding your dog’s mental state. Aim to increase their opportunities for play and exercise by:

Dogs need more than the bare minimum of engagement to be happy. They need to work their brain and all their senses in order to be truly content.

If your dog remains depressed after you’ve adjusted their routine, diet, and play opportunities, then we recommend talking to a vet about potential medication options. Dogs can suffer from chemical imbalances that may need to be corrected with medicine. However, unless otherwise recommended by a vet, don’t rely on medication as your first option. Medication alleviates the symptoms of your dog’s depression, but can fail to  address the underlying causes in some cases.

If you’re having trouble dealing with your dog’s depression and would like some advice, please contact us today. Our experienced trainers are there to help you in any way possible, and can teach you tactics and tricks for making your dog happy and engaged again.

Image Permissions

Sad Puppy by Shan Sheehan

Sad Eyes by Martin Cathrae

Depressed Dog by paupsers