Depression is a mental health disorder that's characterized by extreme sadness and feelings of hopelessness. According to statistics from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.1% of all adults in the United States have had a major depressive episode in the past year.
It's evident that depression is a serious mood disorder that affects many people, but what about dogs? Although it's impossible to know for sure if dogs suffer from depression in the same way as we do, experts believe that there are several factors that may suggest a dog is depressed. In this post, we'll look at some potential symptoms of depression in dogs, as well as what you can do if you believe your dog is suffering from the disorder.
Signs of Depression in Dogs
Signs of depression in dogs are similar to those in people. They include lethargy, loss of interest in daily activities, changes in appetite, and reduced interaction with people or other animals. Other potential symptoms include irritability, aggression, and self-harming behaviors like excessive licking or chewing.
In some cases, dogs may have difficulty sleeping or become excessively restless at night. Some dogs might also start barking for no apparent reason or suddenly become destructive. Others may lose their house training and have accidents inside the home.
Every animal is different, and some of these symptoms might be normal for your pet. The most important thing to do is pay attention and ask your holistic veterinarian for advice if you notice anything unusual.
Causes of Depression in Dogs
Just like humans, dogs can become depressed for a variety of different reasons. In this section of the post, we'll explore some of the most common causes.
Physical illness is a major cause of depression in dogs. Some chronic conditions like arthritis or cancer can cause dogs to feel hopeless, which may lead to depression. Even something as simple as an ear infection might make a dog temporarily stop enjoying life and become lethargic.
Contact your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your dog's behavior. If your dog is diagnosed with an underlying health condition, make sure to follow your veterinarian's treatment recommendations closely. Treating the illness should help eliminate any depression symptoms.
If no underlying illness is detected, other factors may be to blame for your dog's depression. Loss of a family member or pet, moving to a new home, and changes in daily routines are common causes of canine depression.
A fear or phobia can also trigger depression symptoms in dogs. For example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, they might become withdrawn and lethargic during storm season. Other common fears and phobias in dogs include children, unfamiliar people, or specific objects like vacuum cleaners.
These fears and phobias might be difficult to eliminate completely, but you can work on desensitization or counterconditioning to help reduce their severity. Please ask your veterinarian for advice if you suspect that a fear or phobia might be causing your dog's depression.
In some cases, depression in dogs is a byproduct of separation anxiety. If your dog becomes depressed every time you leave the house without them, this could be an underlying symptom of a behavioral problem. Your veterinarian can advise on how to deal with canine separation anxiety appropriately.
Unfortunately, it's not always possible to pinpoint exactly what causes depression in dogs. In many cases, several different factors are involved. This makes treatment more challenging but also demonstrates why it's so important to look for the underlying cause when you notice changes in your dog's behavior.
Treating Depression in Dogs
If your dog is suffering from depression, there are several things you can do at home to help relieve their symptoms.
One of the first steps you can take is to make sure your dog gets enough exercise. This means going on walks and playing with them every day, even if it's only for a few minutes at a time. Not only will this help get rid of any extra energy they have pent up, but it also releases endorphins that will elevate your dog's mood.
Puzzle toys and feeders that offer rewards for completing tasks will keep your dog's mind occupied, preventing boredom and depression. You could also try playing games like hide-and-seek or fetch to provide extra mental stimulation.
Another important factor is to ensure your dog has enough mental stimulation throughout the day. Providing enrichment for dogs that are home alone all day can help prevent a downward spiral into depression, as well as reducing any separation anxiety or compulsive behaviors they may have developed from feeling lonely and isolated. This could include leaving the radio or TV on while you're gone or playing a CD of your voice to simulate having someone in the house.
Natural remedies can also help alleviate and treat symptoms of depression in dogs. Pet Essences Depression / Grieving contains a powerful combination of flower essences that help balance the emotional attitudes of your dog. The safe and natural formula helps subtle changes occur that bring renewed energy forward and short circuit the path to illness.
In some cases, your dog may not be responding to the steps above because their symptoms are too severe. In this case, medications like antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs can help improve their mood and motivation levels. Speak with your veterinarian about appropriate treatment options if you think your dog might benefit from medication.
Dogs can be prone to depression just as humans are, and it's important for pet parents to be aware of the warning signs so they can help them overcome this debilitating condition.
While there's no one-size-fits-all strategy for treating canine depression, there are several things you can do at home to assist your pet on the road to recovery. If you're concerned about your dog's behavior or mood, don't hesitate to speak with your veterinarian for advice on how best to treat your dog's symptoms and improve their quality of life.