February 26, 2024

Can Dogs Get Depressed?

Dog depression is a concept at which many people would scoff, but many pet owners have stepped forward in order to tell their own stories about how their dogs became depressed.  Dogs can get depression in some of the same ways that humans can, although the symptoms of depression in canines can be — as with humans — signs of other medical problems rather than clinical depression.

Canines contract depression through some of the similar methods by which humans get depression.  The loss of a companion pet or an owner can trigger depression symptoms such as listlessness, loss of appetite, and a lack of enjoyment in once popular activities.  A big life change such as a move or a change of ownership can also cause dog depression as the dog attempts to deal with the differences in its life.  Experts say that depression in dogs rarely lasts long, and that a reduction of activity in a dog can simply be a sign of arthritis or some other canine malady.

Once a vet has diagnosed a dog with depression rather than another illness, the owner can take steps to treat the dog without relying on drugs or professional therapy.  Dogs are resilient, often bouncing back with extra attention, additional time spent on favorite activities, and treats given to award happy behavior.

Owners whose dogs love running, for example, could lengthen the daily jog so that the dog gets more exercise.  When dogs display physical signs of happiness such as tail wagging and licking, owners should reward their dogs with treats.  Experts caution against giving moping and sulking dogs treats, however, as this only serves to reinforce the negative behavior.  Getting another pet could also help with dog depression, although owners should make sure that the new pet’s presence will help rather than hinder the depressed dog’s recovery.

Drugs veterinarians prescribe for seriously depressed canines are versions of the human drugs Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft.  Clomicalm is a drug specifically designed to treat separation anxiety in dogs and is authorized by the FDA.  Doggie drugs take approximately two months to take effect, but dogs generally do not have to spend as long on antidepressants as do humans.  Most dogs will fortunately not need drugs to get over their depressive bouts, however; often, love and attention will help heal the dogs of their depression.  Owners who believe their dogs are depressed should take them to their veterinarians immediately.


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