Putting a smile on your dog’s face!

Dogs do suffer from depression.

OK, in many cases I’m sure it is because dogs are watching too much television; especially the news!

OK: Only kidding!

Some may be surprised that dogs can express sadness and suffer from depression but it is true.

Only a few days ago there was a bit of a ‘punch up’ between Brandy and Ruby. Ruby was feeding and Brandy approached her food bowl. Ruby gave a short, throaty “stay away from my food” growl and the next instant Brandy had Ruby’s face in his mouth and it was quickly turning into a Grade A dog fight.

Luckily Jean and I were on hand and had the two of them separated within seconds. But it was still sufficient time for Brandy to have drawn blood from a small bite to the side of Ruby’s face.

However, the point I was coming to was that since that incident Ruby has clearly been very depressed and withdrawn.

So on to today’s topic. Recently published on Mother Nature Network.

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Is my dog depressed? The warning signs and solutions

Find out what causes doggy depression and how to fix it.

Jaymi Heimbuch March 30, 2017.

Dogs can get the doldrums. But there are ways to help them come out of it with a wagging tail. (Photo: Iuliubo/Shutterstock)

Yes, dogs can get depressed. Whether or not it’s the same as what humans experience, we may never know since we can’t ask a dog. But there are signs and symptoms from a dog’s behavior that reveal when a dog is in the doldrums. If you’ve noticed a sudden change in your four-legged friend’s behavior and are worried, you may need to see if the change is a clue that your dog needs some psychological TLC.

Common triggers for dog depression

Dogs are creatures of habit, activity and loyalty. A sudden change that affects their world can cause a dog to have a spat of depression. Triggers include:

  • The addition of a new person or pet to the family
  • A sudden drop in attention from an owner or family members
  • A sudden change in the household schedule
  • The loss of an owner or companion
  • Moving to a new home
  • A traumatic injury

Dogs may also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, during the winter months. Stanley Coren reports in Psychology Today: “Do dogs suffer from SAD? Some data comes from a survey conducted by a leading veterinary charity in the UK. PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that approximately 40 percent of dog owners saw a considerable downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months. In addition, half of the dog owners felt that their dogs slept longer, with around two in five reporting their pets to be less active overall.”

Some dogs may suffer depression simply for not having a job to do. The Guardian notes:

“In the not too distant past, dogs mostly had to work for a living and were probably very often physically and mentally fatigued at the end of the day – which is why we have the expression ‘dog-tired’. Could the stress of being made redundant be the source of this apparent unhappiness? Dog behaviourist Penel Malby told me: ‘Dogs live very differently to the way they used to. Lots more dogs, lots more people, lots more stress for everyone, I think. If you think back even just 50 years, dogs were allowed to roam free every day, socialise with their neighbourhood friends. Now they either go out with a dog walker or go out for an hour if they’re lucky, and the rest of the time is spent at home.'”

The upside is that canine depression usually isn’t permanent, or even necessarily long-lived, and there are ways to combat it to help your dog get back to normal in due time.

What are the warning signs?

Watch for warning signs of depression so you can catch the trouble early and help your dog recover. (Photo: DREIDREIEINS Foto/Shutterstock)

The most common symptoms dogs display when they’re depressed mirror those that humans experience during a depression. They include:

  • Sleeping much more than usual
  • A change in eating habits, including a loss or gain in appetite and in weight
  • A refusal to drink water
  • A lack of interest in usual energetic activities like going for walks or playing
  • Excessive licking of their paws
  • Excessive shedding
  • Become withdrawn or hiding in the house
  • Suddenly showing signs of aggression or anxiety

Unfortunately, these symptoms also occur with a range of other medical issues. A dog might have a change in appetite because of a thyroid or kidney issue, or the dog might not want to go on a walk because of joint pain or arthritis flaring up. So if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, the first thing to do is visit the vet to rule out any serious health-related issues before assuming it comes down to depression.

How to help your dog out of a depression

Sometimes time, extra love and a steady routine is all that’s needed. (Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock)

If you have determined your dog is feeling depressed, there are many things you can do to help them pull out of it.

– Take your dog on more frequent walks during the day to favorite places, allowing them to sniff around and enjoy the scenery. It’s also helpful to do this first thing in the morning to start the day out with a bit of fresh air and energy.

– Try to keep a schedule as much as possible. Dogs are creatures of habit and having a predictable routine can be an enormous source of comfort for a stressed or depressed dog, especially if the trigger for the depression was a sudden change in routine.

– Reward your dog when he shows signs of improved mood or energy. Rather than babying the dog during the down times — which reinforces that behavior — reward him with extra special treats or a favorite toy when he shows a bit of enthusiasm about life to amplify the mood even more.

– Bring home a new toy, such as a squeaker or puzzle toy that stimulates the senses and encourages play.

– If the cause of depression is the loss of a companion, like another household pet, consider adopting another dog that can be a companion. However, only do this if you’ve seriously considered the needs of your household and your depressed dog. It isn’t an option to be taken lightly.

As a last resort, medication could be an option. There are antidepressants for dogs that you can discuss with your veterinarian. However, catching depression early on and trying for behavioral changes first is the best solution. Bonnie Beaver, DVM, notes in a WebMD article, “[I]t can take up to two months for drugs to become effective. But unlike people, who often remain on antidepressants for years, most dogs can get better in six to 12 months and then be taken off the drugs.”

And finally, give it time. As Wag Walking notes, “Be Patient: Sometimes — especially if the issue was a loss of a companion or master — the only thing that will heal a dog’s heart is time. It may be as few as a couple days or as much as a few months, but most dogs will be able to pull themselves out of depression with a little time and understanding.”

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May you, your family and all your wonderful animals have a wall-to-wall happy weekend!

44 thoughts on “Putting a smile on your dog’s face!

  1. When his BFF Old English Sheepdog passed, Sam was depressed and it took a few months for him to get over it. He still does double takes whenever he encounters one on our many walks apparently thinking it is his old friend. Dogs definitely experience depression, love and companionship much like their uprights do. Happy weekend to you and yours!

    1. Yes, as I just said in reply to Susan, we are fellow passengers. I mean who couldn’t empathise with Sam’s double take reaction. My mother has been dead since last November but several times a week when I glance across to the clock and see it is approaching noon I catch myself thinking mustn’t leave it late to call her, for it will be 8pm in London.

      Our dogs are so very special.

  2. I am so sorry that your mom passed. I somehow missed that. You will always look at the clock for it gives you a reminder of her even though you had been separated from her life since you left GB. IT’s very difficult to lose to lose your mother. I don’t think we ever get past the loss.

    I’m sure that you and Jean are giving Ruby some extra attention. But she might also be in pain. A little hemp if you have any would help. Or some other pain med from the vet.

    Dogs grieve- I’ve observed that among my own. One lab, Molly still misses Muddy who died last August from cancer. She just has never perked up. Running with the other dogs has not cut it for her. She goes outside to sniff around for a bit and within minutes she is ready to come back in the house. It hurts to see her like that and I give extra attention but I’m not her buddy that she ran and played with.

  3. I so agree, dogs get depressed. We often called mine Eyor. Her little gray head would just hang and she would slump to her spot to sleep at the moment. Too many changes in her life, People coming and going, I got her at a year old after my mother died. She didn’t understand where my mom went and kept looking for her until we left the area. Then she missed all the people we left behind. You could just see it in her sad little face.

  4. Arrgh poor Ruby.. hope her face is healing well.. And I am sure dogs feel emotions just like we do.. I watched a programme on TV last evening about a Dogs Home and those being rehomed… The dogs when their new owners came again to fetch them as they jumped back up to lick and wag tails.. Showed clearly how they understood they were going to be loved by their new owners.. And others who had found them selves separated from their owners for a time how sad they were.. One owner was found and the reunion was a joy to behold.. ❤

  5. This is the most wonderful post as it is so important to understanding feelings, emotions that cause a sense of loss, grief, and loneliness. It is often the cause of depression in humans and dogs, especially.

  6. A little dog named ginger used to crawl under our fence to visit our Rottweiler, Harley. She died, and he lay by the place in the fence where she used to come through. It broke my heart that I couldn’t tell him that Ginger had died. (I didn’t know about animal communicators then.). Months later he got out of the yard. I found him at Ginger’s house trying to crawl under her fence. My dear Harley hadn’t forgotten his friend. Whoops. Tearing up now.

    1. Mary, what a beautiful and moving account of Harley. Please, would you consider making this account a guest post for this place? Especially if you had one or two photos of Harley?

      Really hope you offer a guest post!

  7. I am glad I read your article, thank you. We are moving next week, staying with my Dad, while we figure out our best move. I have a special needs child and my income is not always steady so I don’t want to put myself in a place, I can’t handle so we are playing it smart. My Dad has a dog who is an older rescue, (found in an abandoned building) I am hoping my playful dog and him get along, one sleeps all day one plays all day. My dad says in days they will be buddies but I am concerned that the move and having to share his family members may make him act differently. I will of course hope for the best. We have been bringing them to the dog park to get acquainted with one another but you know dogs can be territorial. Ugg hoping it all works out.

    1. Well if you have any questions or concerns then do drop me a line. For the chances of Jeannie not being able to help are slim. Then again, your Dad will be of great help to you. Best wishes for an uneventful move!

  8. I had an inkling that my dog was slightly depressed. We have a 6 month old at home, so he’s no longer the center of attention. Interesting read!

  9. We lost our Rottie about a year ago and one of my dogs has not completely gotten over the loss. They were the best of friends, completely inseparable. A few months ago we got a new puppy and our older dog perked up a little bit to entertain the puppy. Now that the puppy is older (and frankly, more annoying) our older dog is back to looking dejected all of the time. We’ve had our vet check her out and they don’t think it’s anything medical. I think I’ll try rewarding the small bits of spunky behavior she does show to see if I can encourage her to be more playful. We’ve been giving her lots of attention when she looks really pitiful so sounds like we’ve been reinforcing the wrong behavior. Thanks for the suggestions!

    1. Liz, how lovely to receive your comment and many thanks for visiting this place!

      If things don’t perk up then make a note to be in touch with us, maybe via email, as there are many that we can seek advice from.

      Fingers crossed it all comes good. (And how about a guest post from you on what’s been happening!!)

      1. Thanks Paul. Would love to do a guest post about my menagerie of cats and dogs! The past year has seen a lot of changes in the dynamics of the household.

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