Dog Health Part 2: Depression [2021 UPDATE]


Home / Dog Health / Dog Health Part 2: Depression [2021 UPDATE]


You have probably moved to a new home or had a baby. If not that, you could have become extremely busy and unable to give much attention to your pooch.

For some reason you may or may not know, your dog is behaving strange, looks withdrawn and clueless. Now, your dog seems depressed and weathered down.

Depression in dogs is not any different from depression in human beings. They are capable of feeling so many emotions that the owners might never have thought of.

Your dog could have gone into what experts call canine depression. 

Canine Depression – What is it?

Canine depression is a disorder that makes your dog sad, causes feelings of loss and reduces interest in everything.

 Depression can attack your pooches emotions, attitude, reasoning and conduct, not unlike in humans.

Causes of dog depression – How does it happen?

The most important thing for a pet owner is to find out that their dog is depressed. Once that is done, the owners now have to fight an invisible enemy.

There might be many reasons for your dogs to be depressed. It could be changes in its day to day activities and routine, social group or environment.

The depression could also be due to some sort of immense stress or anxiety that comes up because of some phobias or fear. Many a time, owners don’t recognize the change in their dog’s behavior.

They also don’t realize that a small change in their dog’s lifestyle can change the way their dogs feel and make them happier. 

There could be many reasons why your dog is depressed and acting strange. Listed here are a few causes of depression in dogs:

Environment change

Most dogs are comfortable in a routine and tend to get uneasy when there is any change in their routine and environment.

If there have been any dramatic change in your life, it might reflect in your dog’s behavior. The change can be anything like moving to a new home or even renovating your existing home.

Your dog look upset as they try to figure out the changes that has happened in their life. They want to get back to their routine so that they can feel secure and safe. 

Physical Sickness 

Most health issues can cause depression in dogs. If you see symptoms of depression in your dog, get in touch with your veterinarian right away.

You must first make sure that your dog is physically healthy and is not suffering from any illness that could be the reason for its withdrawn behavior.

You would need to work closely with your dog’s doctor to rule out any physical cause to your pooches strange behavior. 

Change In Social Group

For some reason, you might not be able to spend much time with your dog.

Dogs bond with us emotionally to the extent that they get extremely upset if you are not there around as you used to be.

You are their ‘perceived family’ and any change in working pattern or any member leaving home can affect your dog more than you can imagine.

Your dog depends on you completely for affection, security and companionship. It is natural for them to grieve on the loss or absence of their beloved owner. 

Depression caused due to boredom

Most dog owners have a busy schedule to follow through. Getting to work and dealing with everyday stress are just some of the things that you have to worry about.

This means that you probably have just a few hours each day to take your dog out for a walk, exercise them and spend time with them.

That means that your dog has at least 12 hours of waking time during which it might have nothing to do, thereby causing boredom.

This is specifically true when it comes to working breeds. This can lead to several behavioral issues, one of which is the obvious dog depression. 

Fear or phobia in dogs

Your dog might be scared of something or someone. This fear or phobia can show up in different ways.

Your dog might not seem afraid as it might be trying to avoid seeming vulnerable. It will instead withdraw itself from routine activities to protect itself. 

Owner’s feelings and emotions

Many a time, your dog’s behavior could have a lot to do with you and how you feel.

If you are lost, anxious and depressed, your dog will sense your emotions and begin to feel the same way. 

As per a study conducted at the University of Sao Paulo and Lincoln, your dog can match your tone and voice.

They can sense your feelings and know exactly when you are feeling blue and when you are happy. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect your dog’s mood. Your dogs need physical and mental stimulation and that includes exercise.

It becomes difficult for many dog owners to take their dogs out for long walks during the dark winters.

Several owners prefer to avoid muddy and wet walks, thereby leaving the dogs with less or no exercise. This can lead to lethargy and mental exhaustion for many dogs.  

Poor or inadequate training

It is important for every dog to receive a certain level of training which will give them freedom to let off the lead.

How you train your dogs can most certainly impact the way your dog feels. 

Signs of depression in dogs – Depression symptoms 

How to tell if a dog is depressed and how to know if your dog is sad? This is a question that many dog owners have.

 If your dog is sad, you are bound to know, especially if you share a close bond with your pooch.

Dog depression symptoms, as per John Ciribassi, DVM, past president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior are similar to those in humans. 

According to Ciribassi, dogs tend to become inactive and withdraw themselves. You will see that they stop enjoying things that they once did.

These signs can also indicate that your dog may have some medical issues. It is imperative that you consult your veterinarian before figuring out its treatment.

Change in appetite 

When your dog is depressed, he or she will not want to eat food, causing it to lose a lot of weight.

Or, like humans, there are also dogs that view food as a solace. 

They eat a lot more when they are depressed which in turn leads to excessive weight gain. 

In the case of eating more, it's at least easier to manage with healthier food than it is for dogs that completely refuse to eat.

Sleeping and lethargy 

Your dogs will for sure sleep a lot, especially if you are away from home for a long time.

You must however be concerned if your dog continues to sleep, seem lethargic all the time or ignore you when you return home after long hours.

If your dog continues to curl up and not show excitement for things that once excited him, you must be worried.  

Excessive licking and chewing of paw 

If you see your dog lick or chew their paw excessively, it could be an indication that your dog is depressed. 

The excessive licking and chewing of paw is your dog’s technique to soothe itself. 

Hiding and avoiding 

If your enthusiastic dog has suddenly withdrawn itself and hiding, you need to find out what exactly is happening.

If the reason is not physical, it might have to do with its emotions.

The first thing to do when you see behavioral changes in your dog is to take it to the veterinarian. 

If there are no medical issues, you will need to see if your dog is depressed. 

Short temper

Your calm dog might suddenly become very aggressive and attack everybody for no good reason.

While your doctor and canine behavioral therapist can tell you exactly why your pooch is behaving the way it does, you cannot rule out depression as the cause. 

Not waking up to greet you

You mean the world to your dog. If your pooch does not come to greet you after you return home after hours of absence, there sure is a problem.

This along with other symptoms mentioned here is enough to set out an alarm. 

Withdrawn behavior

Your dog could suddenly lose interest in playing games and joining the other dogs and its human companion in fun activities.

If he chooses to keep away and remain in a corner, your dog could be depressed. 

Dog Depression Treatment 

If you see that your dog’s health is deteriorating slowly, and it continues to show signs of withdrawal and imitativeness, you must immediately consult your veterinarian.

If your doctor has ruled out any health problems, here is how to treat dog depression and help your depressed dog. 

You could also bring your dog to a dog behaviorist, and determine if there's any underlying issue your dog is currently facing - a dog behaviorist can help troubleshoot any potential issues your dog is facing mentally, too.

Cuddle and hug your dog more often

As a dog owner, you probably know when your dog is seeking attention.

You can see clearly when your dog is trying to communicate with you. Give it the attention it deserves. Make sure you provide positive reinforcement by cuddling and give it regular hugs.

While it is essential that your dogs know that they are loved, you must avoid overdoing it. Give them the space that they require.

While a human might need hugs more often when he or she is experiencing anxiety, the dog does not feel the same.

They might feel more anxious when you cuddle and hug them too much.

A few belly scratches and pat on the head is enough to make your dog feel better. 

Give your dog more attention and time

Your dog needs your time and attention, but only at the right time. Do not go over and pat them when they seem glum and withdrawn.

Wait for signs such as wagging of tail and some sign of joy. Reward your Reward your dog’s behavior at that time with your attention.

Your pooch needs your valuable time, especially if it gets into a depressed mode. 

Exercise and engage in fun things

Try and spend as much time as you can with your pet playing, walking or running. Going for long drives is very helpful too.

Engage in fun activities with your dog as it will greatly help in alleviating your dog’s moods.

Bonding with your puppy is essential to get it out of its dark mood and help it come out of a difficult time.

A study by the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science revealed that the dogs of owners who played games and exercised regularly experienced less anxiety. 

Reward your dog for being happy

Rewarding your dog for its good behavior is an excellent way to build good dog habits.

These rewards are extremely comforting to your depressed dog and let them know they will get rewarded for good behavior which includes them being happy. 

Conversely, it is important not to give your dog treats when they exhibit negative behavior. This can encourage and prolong the depression.

Social Interaction and companionship

Dogs are social animals and so allowing your dog to socialize with other dogs may help in improving its mood and helping it come out of depression.

It will provide your dog with a much-needed company. This is especially helpful if your dog has lost a companion and is grieving.

It will distract your dog and help develop a new bond that will make it feel better. 

However, it is essential to make sure that your dog gets along with the new dog or else your action might just backfire!

A new dog can make matters worse and become the cause of your current dog’s agitation. So, be careful!

Create a routine and stick to it

A routine is very important to dogs. Make sure you provide your pooch with a specific routine and help them cope with it.

You must walk, feed and play with them at a particular time.

Like human babies, you must develop a nighttime routine before going to bed. 

Plan a play date for your dog 

If you dog seem to get along with your neighbor’s puppy, try to schedule a play date.

This is extremely beneficial for dogs that are grieving or are in extreme depression.

Meeting, interacting and playing with its friend will enable your dog to come out of its depression and help boost its mood. 

Opt for medication as last resort 

There are many products you can feed your dogs to help the deal with anxiety and depression.

The medicines are created in the form of treats and will surely be enjoyed by your pooch.

These medicines are the same that is used on humans. Your dog will most likely recover within 6 to 12 months of medication.


If none of this works, you might need to seek professional help and get medication to alleviate your dog’s mood.

Once your veterinarian is able to eliminate sickness as a probable cause of their withdrawn behavior, he/she will be able to guide and recommend you other treatments. 

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.

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