To a dog owner, their pets well being is one of the most important things. Pets are constantly by your side through thick and thin, and it can become upsetting if you feel as if your pet is depressed and not being themselves.
The Pet Embassy is here to help you in this situation and we provide answers on some of the tough questions you may have such as: “Is my dog depressed?” and “How can I comfort my dog and make them feel better?”
To start off, we need to understand what a depressed dog looks like. To put it simply, sad. If you know your dog well, you may even be able to tell whether your dog is depressed based on their facial expression alone. If not there are some other signs that you can look out for:
Signs that my dog is depressed
Changes in behaviour and mood
It is imperative to pay attention to how your dog acts if you think they are depressed. Any sudden changes in behaviour have the potential to be a sign that something is wrong.
If you think your dog is sleeping more often than they could be depressed. However, on average a dog sleeps 12 to 14 hours a day, therefore, it may be difficult to notice an increase in their behaviour.
Loss of energy
They could have a loss of energy. Is your dog breed generally considered an energetic dog breed? If they are starting to become lethargic and not as happy doing the things you use to do, this may be a sign that your dog is depressed. Dogs thrive doing things they love and if they are not satisfied doing these activities, then this can be concerning.
A depressed dog has the tendency to stop eating or eat like it was their last meal. This all depends on the dog, you as their owner, will know what their eating habits are usually. If they are turning down their favourite meal or treat, then you should keep a close eye on their eating habits further.
Excessive paw Licking
If your dog is continuing to lick their paws excessively, this may be a sign that something is wrong. Please bear in mind that there are also many physiological reasons as to why your dog will lick their paws, such as, bacterial infections, eczema, dry skin and joint pain.
Dogs are pack animals and generally feel comfortable being around the people with whom they feel loyalty towards. A dog is usually forever present in the home and will accompany you whether you are on the sofa or if you are in the backyard. However, if you start to notice your dog going missing or hiding away, this may be a sign of depression. If your dog usually runs over to the door when someone knocks but lately doesn’t seem to be bothered anymore and wants to spend alone, then closely monitor your dog’s actions.
Why is my dog depressed?
Dogs have very expressive personalities. They can’t speak as such (We know some of you may disagree) so they let us know how they feel with their actions and their facial expressions. So the question then becomes; how did my dog become depressed in the first place? There are potentially a few reasons below:
Change in your schedule
A change in your schedule can come about for many reasons. You may have accepted a job with drastically different hours or have taken on extra work in the mornings or evenings. In doing this, you have changed not only your schedule but your dogs schedule too. A dog will become accustomed to whatever routine you had them in previously, for instance, if you took your dog for a walk at 6am, they generally know it is time to go for a walk at this time. Even if you are still taking your dog at regular intervals, the timing shift will mean that they are meeting new friends with whom they are accustomed to. This small change for you can be a very large change for your dog.
Your own depression
Dogs are very intelligent and with this level of intelligence comes empathy. Many argue that they can feel our pain. Dogs pick up on our emotions, whether it is happy and enthusiastic or sad and depressed. A dog may begin to mimic your sentiment.
New ownership or a temporary home
There are a few tragic moments where you have to find your life long friend a new home, whether it be temporary or due to a change of situation. A new living arrangement may cause your dog some distress, that is until they settle into their new routine and begin to trust their new pack members. Even in a temporary situation, your dog doesn’t know it will only be temporary. To your dog, if you have left them for an hour or a few days, it all feels the same in the moment.
Just like plenty of us, dogs are a creature of habit and don’t like change. If you have moved house, even if it is a bigger home with a bigger garden for your dog to run around in, they may experience some sadness and distress. After all, they had perfected their hiding spots for their favourite toys or bones. If this is the cause for your dog’s depression, just know it will only be temporary until they find their new perfect hiding spot.
Loss of a loved one
Anyone who says dogs don’t understand this one, has clearly never been with a dog when a loved one (human or pet) has passed. If a dog’s owner, close companion or family member passes away, you may begin to see signs of depression in your dog. If they have grown up with a playmate constantly around the house or a family member forever giving them treats and belly rubs and they are suddenly not around anymore, this can come as a massive shock to your dog.
New family member
If you introduce your dog to a new spouse, roommate or even a baby, you may begin to see a change in your dog’s behaviour. They may become a little jealous about the amount of time you spend with this new person and become withdrawn. Again, this will only be temporary until they form a new relationship with this new person in their life.
What to do in these situations
If you have been reading this and nodding your head along with a large majority of the list, you may be a little surprised if we tell you that it is not yet time to diagnose your dog’s depression as dogs can’t tell us what the problem is, the change in behaviour could be to do with some physical problem. We must stress if you are worried, please consult a vet.
If the dog is indeed healthy, then as a pet owner you should put some measures into place to help alleviate the things that are causing the depression.
How to comfort my depressed dog
As the good pet owner you are, you want to comfort your pet and make them feel happy and safe. Taking action is of uttermost importance. We understand that each dog is different and you may have a more personal approach, however, here at The Pet Embassy, we have compiled a few helpful steps to make your dog feel themselves again.
Longer time doing their favourite activities
Do you have a favourite activity? It may be bike riding, running or something else, doing our favourite thing releases endorphins and instantly makes us more happy. Dogs are similar in this respect, they love to do their favourite things and it makes them happy. A good way to battle your dog’s depression is to do their favourite things with them!
More hugs and kisses
You don’t have to be a canine expert to know that your dog lives for your attention and loves to receive it. If you can, give your dog more positive feedback and cuddle time. If you have a busy schedule, a long cuddle before bed is recommended. 20 minutes before bed may not hurt but to your dog, 20 minutes of cuddling time will feel like a lifetime and they will be alot happier after it.
However, please don’t over do it! Dogs do need space as well sometimes. They are curious animals and being held down can cause anxiety and confusion, which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
A new companion
If your dog is depressed about losing a companion animal, you may be able to help fill the void by getting another companion animal. That is, if your personal situation allows you to. We understand that another pet will not replace the one that you lost, however, it may provide your dog with the distraction that it needs and eventually, that new found bond will give your dog the strength to feel better and begin to become themselves again.
If this helped you or your dog in finding happiness, please let us know in the comment section below. Also, if you found another activity that helped your dog cure their depression please reach out to us as we would love to update everyone to ensure all of our dogs are at their happiest.
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