How to Tell if a Dog is Depressed


Dogs, like humans, have good days and bad days. And like humans, if a dog has enough bad days, it is all too easy to spiral down into full-blown depression. If your furry friend seems to be moping about or doesn't seem quite himself, it is entirely possible that he's depressed. While you may be able to talk with a human about her behavior, it is often not as easy knowing how to tell if a dog is depressed.

The following are some signs and symptoms that may indicate your canine loved one is indeed depressed and may require your help.

  • Withdrawal from Humans or Dogs

    Depression can cause a dog to withdraw from interactions with his companions, be they other dogs or animals in the same home, or his human handlers.

  • Inactivity or Lethargy

    A depressed dog will very frequently become less active and will be less interested in taking walks or going outside. This reaction may come on quite suddenly. Additionally, when the dog does move, he may appear to be wandering without purpose.

  • Changes in Appetite

    One of the more frequent signs of depression, changes in a dog's appetite might signal the onset of depression. Usually, this will take the form of loss of appetite and rapid weight loss, but in some cases, a depressed dog might tend to binge or overeat, sometimes to the point of making himself sick. This will also lead to rapid weight gain and associated medical problems.

  • Changing Sleep Habits

    Like changes to a dog's appetite, differences in the way a depressed dog sleeps may depend on the dog. Many dogs will sleep more, but some become increasingly restless and may begin to show signs of severe insomnia. This tends to be especially the case when a dog is responding to the death of a member of the family.

  • Lack of Interest

    Dogs who are depressed may no longer be interested in activities they once enjoyed. They may also become less responsive to commands, or act out in unexpected ways to routine events.

Causes of Canine Depression

When assessing your dog for signs of depression, it is helpful to consider factors in his life that may have triggered the condition. Some such causes include the following:

  • A move or other change in the immediate environment
  • A new baby or other animal in the house
  • The death of a family member, either a human or a pet
  • Changes in diet
  • Changes in the daily routine (such as children returning to school in the fall)
  • The development or worsening of a prior medical condition

Treatment and Prevention

Now that you know how to tell if a dog is depressed, you can take steps to help him get over that depression. Taking him out, if he feels up to it, and spending more time with him can help, as can learning a new skill or game together. If you suspect the depression may be caused by the introduction of a new family member, it may help to formally introduce the dog to him or her and help the dog understand his place and the place of the new baby/pet in the family. If none of these help, a veterinarian can assist in finding support specialists, or in prescribing antidepressant medication.


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