It's true, dogs are capable of suffering from depression and anxiety. This is because they are intelligent creatures who, like humans, experience a range of emotions.
What causes depression and anxiety in dogs?
A major change or a distressing event in a dog’s life can sometimes bring on symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.
For example, the loss of its owner or a companion animal, or even a sense of grief being experienced by those around them, can all affect a dog's overall emotions.
Big life changes, such as a move to a new house, a new baby or a new pet, may also have an impact on a dog's emotions. Generally, any significant change to your dog’s daily routine may bring on symptoms of depression or anxiety.
How do I know if my dog has depression?
The symptoms of depression in dogs are similar to those experienced by people.
Common symptoms include low activity levels, a loss in interest in the things they once enjoyed, and a change in eating and/or sleeping habits.
Some dogs may also show signs of aggression, including uncharacteristic howling or whining.
How do I know if my dog has anxiety?
Signs of anxiety in dogs may include trembling, tail-tucking, hiding, reduced activity and passive escape behaviors. They may also experience signs of panic including panting, pacing and active escape behavior.
Physical symptoms of anxiety in dogs may include sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity, like diarrhea, or lesions causing them to lick or bite their own body.
How can I help treat my dog's depression or anxiety?
The good news is that dogs can often overcome depression and/or anxiety on their own. Depending on the dog and the situation, it can take days to months. No matter what, the love and care of their owners, and sometimes some guidance from your veterinarian, can help them overcome the blues.
Pet owners can try the following techniques:
- Offer your dog more attention. But wait until you see some signs of happiness, like a wagging tail, and reward them for that behavior.
- Keep your dog active with regular walks, playtimes, and other activities you know they enjoy.
- If your dog's symptoms are related to the loss of an animal companion, consider getting another pet or start socializing them with other pets.
Depending on the severity of their symptoms your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-anxiety medication as well as recommend behavior management techniques.
In some cases, depression and/or anxiety may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition in a dog. If your pet has not recently experienced a major life change or distressing event, talk to your veterinarian about what else could be troubling them.