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Can Dogs Become Depressed?

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Although we see our dogs as loving family members that sometimes take the place of human relatives, we often forget just how emotional these sentient beings are. Just like people, dogs can get depressed for a variety of reasons and it’s important to understand this and be able to identify the signs. Without knowing what to look for, we’ll often miss our dog’s sad state and be unable to help them feel better.

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Depression in dogs can be caused by just about anything, but it’s often brought about by the death of another dog or pet, moving to a new home and having a new baby. These things all change the life of your dog dramatically, even in ways we might not understand. Losing another dog or other pet certainly makes sense. Not only do our dogs feel our sadness, they can and do mourn the loss of their animal friends. Moving to a new home can be very stressful for both dogs and humans and it can bring the blues onto your pooch. Some dogs are better than others at adjusting to new environments and your pup might just beed a little help. Having a new baby not only changes your dog’s environment, but it will also take a lot of love and attention away from your dog. While it’s easy for you to understand you still love your pup, they might be confused and upset. Dogs can also become depressed as a result of their owner’s depression, as they are very in-tune with our emotions.

Symptoms of depression in dogs is very similar to that in people. They become lethargic and inactive, having little interest in going on walks or playing games they used to enjoy. Many dogs will stop eating and drinking. Your dog might stop greeting you when you come home and begin hiding when people are over, not wanting to interact with anyone. You might see these symptoms come on slowly or seemingly overnight. For a few weeks your dog might start acting less and less enthused by things they used to enjoy, with the tail wagging only a little bit and them losing interest quickly. If the depression is bad enough, your dog will stop wanting to be active altogether.

Perhaps one of the most important things to do when you notice signs of depression in your dog is to have them checked by a veterinarian. Symptoms of depression, or depression itself, can be caused by a wide variety of injuries and illnesses. You don’t want to try changing your dog’s attitude and environment when the problem is something medical and not just depression. Ruling out other causes will clarify that depression is the problem, but also ensure that your dog gets adequate and timely treatment for any ailments they might have.

If you notice your dog is depressed and you’ve had them checked by a veterinarian, it’s time to start treating the problem. Just like another person would, your dog will need support and attention. Giving them some extra loving care will likely start making them feel a little better. Thinking hard about any recent changes in your lives will also give you a clue on how to better fix your dog’s depression. If nothing has changed, maybe it’s time to try something new like a simple obedience or agility class. Just make sure that whatever you do, it’s something you both can enjoy. If you aren’t happy, your dog isn’t going to feel any happier either and they might actually begin to feel worse. More often than not, though, some quality time spent being active and cuddling together will help your pooch get back on track to being that happy-go-lucky pup again.

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Written by Katie Finlay
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