Depression is common in humans and dog depression may be just as common. How common is depression? According to Healthline, it is estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States suffer from depression. The CDC documents that approximately 9% of Americans report they are depressed at least occasionally, and 3.4% suffer from “major depression.” Approximately 6.7 percent of American adults have at least one major depressive episode in a given year. The definition of major depression in humans is “a mental health condition marked by an overwhelming feeling of sadness, isolation and despair that affects how a person thinks, feels and functions.”
Dog depression may be just as common but is harder to recognize.
Just as with people, every dog responds differently to stress. For example, a person that loses their job may become depressed while another person may see opportunity and be relieved or rejuvenated. One dog being rehomed may be withdrawn, less interactive, guarded, scared, nervous, aggressive, stop eating, or have a decreased appetite while another dog may be euphoric. Learn more about how to recognize depression in your dog. What are Dog Depression Symptoms?
Withdrawn and less social – One of the most common symptoms of depression in dogs is withdrawal. This is a very common symptom of depression in people as well. Many people with depression will prefer to stay home and generally avoid interaction with friends and family members. An example of dog depression can be a dog that is less interactive or less engaged with the family. Some pet owners notice that their dog doesn’t greet them at the door or doesn’t sit in the same room with the family when they are watching television.
Mike wrote, “My beagle “Rusty” started hiding in the laundry room after I retired. Rusty used to go to work with me every day and when my routine changed, he started hiding and not participating in family activities. For example, Rusty would normally be in the same room when I watched TV and he stopped. He just didn’t want to interact with the family as much.”
Loss of interest – Some dogs that are depressed will lose interest in doing the things you know they love to do. It may be not playing with their favorite toy or that they don’t want to go for walks, or they don’t do their normal strut around the yard to smell everything.
Appetite changes – Some dogs with depression will have a decreased appetite or will quit eating altogether. Other dogs with depression will eat more as a way to comfort themselves.
Changes in weight – Weight loss or weight gain can be the result of the appetite changes. Dogs that eat more calories, will gain weight. Dogs that eat less will lose weight. Activity changes and sleep patterns will also impact weight gain and loss.
Changes in sleep patterns – Depressed dogs may sleep more and this can be seen with the less social behavior or by itself. Some dogs will increase their sleep by 10% to 40% or even more in some cases. On the other hand, some dogs will sleep less and become “restless”.
Anxiety – Some dogs with depression will appear more nervous. They will startle more at loud noises, seem frightened when company comes, and may be more restless in general. John D. wrote to me, “When I moved across the country, my dog Gus became anxious. He used to sleep through the night and all of a sudden he would be up pacing. He would bark at noises that never used to bother him.”
Behavior changes – Some dogs will change their routines. For example, some dogs will not sleep on the bed with their owners or in their favorite bed although they have done that for years. Alexandra wrote, “When I lost my job, my Jack Russell terrier that always slept in his bed on the sofa in the living room. He did this for years. Then all of a sudden she was wanting to sleep on the bed”. Sharon S. wrote, “When my husband died, our Beagle ‘Franny’ would pace back and forth. She would sit by the door as though she was looking for him to come home then pace some more. She seemed as though she couldn’t get comfortable or relax.”
Loss of housebreaking behavior – Some dogs with depression may revert to earlier behavior and start having accidents in the house.
Self-mutilation behaviors – Some dogs may begin chewing or licking themselves. Some dogs will lick areas on their bodies such as their legs or paws as a soothing behavior. Some behaviorists believe self-licking behavior, also known Acral Lick Dermatitis, arises out of the confusion as a displacement activity. The self-licking behavior that can stem from depression can become ritualistic and compulsive.
Vocalization – Some dogs with depression will start a new behavior of barking or howling.
Aggressive behavior – A small minority of dogs with depression can exhibit aggressive behaviors such as growling, snapping, biting or fighting with other dogs.
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What causes depression in one dog can be entirely different than in another dog. Just as it is difficult to predict or generalize how people will respond to stress or what will make a person depressed, it is difficult to determine or predict what will make a dog depressed.
The most common things associated with dog depression are the following:
Illness. Dogs that are sick and don’t feel good may be depressed.
Loss of mobility. Just as illness can cause depression, loss of mobility can also cause depression in some dogs. For a previously active dog to not be able to run, play, walk, and exercise can really take an emotional toll on some dogs. This can be caused from a back injury, trauma such as a fracture, or from degenerative disease (arthritis) in older dogs.
Loss of routine. Some dogs can become very depressed from a change in their routine. This can occur from when the kids go back to school, an owner loses a job or takes on a new job, or a change in work hours that leads to disruption in the dog’s day-to-day rituals.
Loss of an owner or caregiver. A very common cause of depression in dogs is the loss of someone close to them. The loss can be death or from someone moving out or leaving the home. The death of an owner, a child leaving for college, or someone moving from a divorce can all create a profound sense of loss and void in a dog’s life.
Loss of a housemate. Just as the loss of a caregiver can impact dogs, so can the loss of another pet in the home. Most commonly the pet is another dog but could also be a cat or other species. When you think about it, if a dog’s routine is to see the other pet, eat with it, walk, play and they suddenly aren’t there, they can become depressed. It is important to note that a change in your dog’s behavior can be from their depression or can be them responding to your sadness. If you are mourning the loss of a dog and depressed yourselves, this can affect them.
Moving. Moving can be stressful for us but also for our dogs. They suddenly lose their territory and safety net. Usually, the move is a huge disruption in the routine and environment. Movers, moving boxes, packing, unpacking, etc. can all impact the daily walks and time spent with you. This can cause depression in some dogs.
Rehoming. A new home and family can be exciting to some dogs but depressing to others. They may miss something from their prior life or feel displaced. On top of that they are trying to understand the new owners, new rules in the house, new routine, getting new food, new bowls, and well…new everything, which can be stressful. Stress can cause depression.
New Pet or Person. Just as pet loss or human loss can cause depression, some dogs will become depressed when a new pet or person enters their life. This can impact their routine and day-to-day lifestyle. The new pet may take attention away from them.
he best recommendation to treat dog depression is to do the following:
Figure out why. The best thing to do is to consider why your dog may be depressed. As you consider the possible cause, also consider what your dog’s life must be like on a day-to-day basis. Is there lots of stimulation? Playtime? Exercise? Attention? Or is it boring? Is he ignored? Even tied to a dog house or in a crate for hours?
Optimize your dog’s life. Make sure your dog has a great routine consisting of plenty of exercise, daily walks, frequent opportunities to go to the bathroom, predictable meal schedules, belly rubs, and plenty of assurance that they are the best dog in the whole world. Here are some tips on how to help your dog. Go to: Is My Dog Depressed? How to Help Your Pup
See your vet. Make sure your dog is healthy and that you are not mistaking symptoms of depression for symptoms of illness. They can seem similar and it can be hard to tell. Your vet may want to do a physical examination and run some routine blood work.
Natural remedies. Some natural remedies that can help some dogs with depression include Bach flower, Ignatia, Spirit Essences Grouch
Remedy, Green Hope Farm Grief, and Loss Remedy. Check with your veterinarian and see if they have a product that has worked well for them.
Drugs. As a very last resort, you could work with your veterinarian to try pharmacological treatment for your dog’s depression. Most dogs respond to playtime, exercise, and quality time with you. To learn more about possible drug therapies, go to: How Does Dog Depression Treatment Work?
Give it time. It can take time for the treatments to work. Relax and enjoy being with your dog. Give it some time. Most times they will come around and return to their normal dog selves.
We are an all volunteer, no-kill, 501C3 animal rescue/shelter servicing the Southcoast Region of Massachusetts. All dogs are in foster care, while cats are can be visited at our shelter at 111 Main St Acushnet, MA. We also keep most kittens and some special needs cats in foster care. We focus our efforts on pets that wouldn’t do well in traditional shelters. Our mission extends to the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) of feral cats, training of dogs with behavioral challenges, and education to avoid rehoming of owned animals.
. What makes CARE unique is that the volunteers take in older animals, sick animals, animals with behavioral issues that would not make it in a traditional shelter, etc. CARE caters to the population of animals that others find not worthy of life. CARE sees the diamonds in the rough, the tail wags beneath the sad eyes, and rehabs the animals back to being happy, healthy, confident family pets who bring so much joy to their families.
Along with our sheltering and adoption programs CARE provide basic medical support to these same animals along with helping feral cats and low income folks who would not otherwise be able to keep their pets. In cases where people have found themselves temporarily homeless we have provided shelter for their pets until they have been reunited with their owners. Most of these pets would have ended up on the streets or euthanized. Imagine losing your furry family member as well as your home ?
On behalf of the homeless pets we have saved and continue to save, please accept our heartfelt gratitude and thanks.
We hope you will support our mission of not giving up on any animal no matter how hopeless their situation may be. We are their voice when no one else is there.
A Good Deed Bestowed Upon An Animal Expands The Size Of One's Heart And Increases the Depth Of the Human Soul
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When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal, I see a friend, I feel a soul.
SUPPLIES are always needed: Scoopable Litter, Dry and Wet Cat and Dog food, Towels, Paper Towels, Bedding, Laundry Detergent, Kitten Mild Replacer(KMR)
In Addition To Donating Online You May Send Donations To : CAREsouthcoast, P.O.Box 149, E.Freetown,MA 02717
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We are located at: 111 Main St.,Acushnet, MA
NOTE: All dogs are in foster homes and not located at our physical shelter.
Adoption Hours are:
Saturday & Sunday 10:30 -12:30
Mondays 6:15- 7:30
We can also schedule an appt. for a a time that fits your schedule, walk-ins are welcome when someone is there.