05 October, 12:00
Your Doggie Buddy Seems Get Depressed? It Could Be A Warning Sign!
Published by Parasol Buy
Your usually energetic pooch being withdrawn and listless? Can it be depressed? Yes, say experts.
There are many reasons that can lead to the depression of dogs, and it is not much different from the depression in people.
Can Dogs Get Depressed?
Although, unlike humans, it is hard to really know dogs' feelings, so we cannot really tell if dogs suffer from depression exactly the same way people do. "It's hard to know because we can't ask them," said Bonnie Beaver, DVM, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, "but in clinical practice, there are a few situations where that is the only explanation."
Why Dogs Get Depressed?
To fight this invisible and inner 'enemy,' the most important step is recognizing the problem. There are several potential causes of depression in dogs.
- Major changes in a dog's life
Perhaps you've just moved to a new place, or suddenly you've brought a new human baby to your household, or you've had a new pet at home, or like during the lockdown due to the COVID-19, dogs are getting less outdoor playing time, etc. All these mentioned could cause a dog to get down.
But luckily, these only take time for your dog to adjust to these changes and could recover soon.
- Loss of companions/owner
This is often the most common trigger of severe dog depression. Dogs mourn the loss of human owners and animal companions, which likes separation anxiety. Perhaps a housemate or neighborhood dog it used to play with is gone (could be on vacation, moved away or died). Or, maybe a child in your home has grown up and moved out. There is no way to explain this to your dog. Losing a playmate, especially an in-home playmate, is often a reason for canine depression. We may not notice it very often, but pets definitely do grieve.
Remember the little Hachi from the movie 'Hachi: A Dog's Tale". How it reacted after the owner passed away really made the audiences weepy.
- Physical illness
Many health problems will cause dogs to act depressed. It could be the pain from its body. Contact your veterinarian right away if you notice signs of depression in your dog. First, it is important to rule out a physical cause for your dog's abnormal behavior before things get worse. If your vet does find a health problem, follow the treatment recommendations. Hopefully, your dog's depression will improve once he recovers from the illness.
- Reasons unknown
Of course, there are situations that no one can identify the real cause of your dog's unusual depressed behaviors. It could be frustrating to owners, but the only solution is to spend more time with them.
Then What Are the Symptoms of Dog Depression?
Dog depression symptoms are very similar to those in people.
First, it is the change in their emotions. They often appear sad, lethargic and withdrawn once they are depressed.
Then, there are changes in their daily routines. Some dogs will stop eating or eat much less than usual. They may drink only minimal amounts of water and lose interest in play. Eventually, some depressed dogs can lose drastic amounts of weight and develop a variety of physical illnesses. Also, from the aspect of exercise, they may become not that keen to play, even things that they once enjoyed.
In some cases, they may keen on paw licking, as excessive licking or chewing may be rooted in physiological or psychological issues. Sometimes, depressed dogs will often lick or chew their paws to soothe themselves.
But as we mentioned before, their depression symptoms can also mean a dog has a medical problem, so the first course of action should always be a full checkup by a veterinarian.
Can the Depression in Dogs Be Treat?
If the depression is caused by the sudden change in a dog's life, most dogs bounce back from depression within a few days to a few months with just a little extra love and care.
Usually, vets may suggest owners keep their furry friends engaged, do more of the things they like to do, get them a little more exercise, and they should be fine and recovered.
And give them rewards when they show signs of happiness could be helpful as well. Taking them to a car ride, letting them play with other doggie friends, treating them with their favourite food, if they get happier, then show them praise and reward.
Sometimes, if the dog is depressed because of losing a companion or its beloved owner, it may get complicated. The rest of the family members have to make a substitute to distract their focus. Also, getting another pet can help, but it has to be handled carefully with both the family's and the dog's needs taken into account.
If nothing else works, although owners may not want to, medications can help dogs get past their depression. Karen Sueda, DVM, a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, said medications for depressed dogs are the same as those used by depressed humans -- Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. She also uses Clomicalm, an FDA approved drug for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs.
But please keep in mind, taking medications has to be approved and supervised by the vet.
"It's important that people deal with the problem before it gets too bad. Most cases can be successfully treated early on with behavior modification and environmental enrichment, so it doesn't have to get to the point where we need to use drugs."
— Karen Sueda, DVM, a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
While it is true that dog depression often resolves on its own after a short time, there are times when it only gets worse. If left too long, it could very well turn into a life-threatening physical condition. Get help with your dog's depression as soon as you can. Remember that the right place to begin is with your veterinarian.