depressed dog

Does your pet seem sad? Pets can experience depression similar to the kind we as humans experience. But unlike us, our pets don’t have the option to tell us when they feel sad or depressed. Although there is much less research in the area of pet depression (of course) than there is in human depression, we have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that pets can and do get depressed. 

So how do you know if your pet is experiencing depression? And what should you do about it? Keep reading for some information and ideas from your team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital

Common Signs of Pet Depression

As the person who knows your pet the best, you’re in a unique position to notice any behavior changes in them. 

Often times, behavior issues have a root cause in a medical or physical condition or disease. For this reason, to make sure any medical problems are addressed with a visit to your veterinarian. 

Signs your pet may be depressed include: 

  • Appetite changes
  • Sleeping all the time
  • Loss of interest and activity level
  • Decreased interaction with owner and other pets
  • Paw licking
  • Avoidance or hiding

Causes of Pet Depression

When pets are depressed, they often appear withdrawn, sad, and lethargic. As a pet owner, the first step is recognizing the problem, which may often begin with understanding what can cause pet depression. 

Grief. Although pets may not have the reasoning capacity that humans do, they still notice loss. Pets may mourn the passing of another household pet, may miss the presence of a housemate or neighbor dog that is no longer there. Or, maybe a child in your home has grown up and moved out. The loss of a playmate can definitely cause pets to grieve. 

Environmental changes. A move, a change in scenery, a pregnancy or new baby, or even the weather can affect pets and cause depression. It is well known that the addition of a new pet to the household may be stressful for some pets. It usually takes time for pets to adjust for these changes in their environment, and they may appear depressed during the adjustment. 

You. Pets are very intuitive and keyed into their owners’ feelings. If you are depressed, it may be that your pet will mirror your mood. 

Boredom. Your pet may also be depressed if left home alone too long. This form of separation anxiety manifests in depression and withdrawal instead of destructive behaviors. 

What To Do If Your Pet is Depressed

If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs and/or you suspect he’s suffering from depression, the first thing to do is to have her examined by your veterinarian,. Many times underlying health problems may produce similar physical signs. 

If your pet has been diagnosed with depression, there are a few things you can do at home to help support them. 

  • Keep a schedule – Keeping your pet’s routine stable will help him to know what to expect, and for some pets, this helps reduce anxiety. Work on a daily schedule of walks, feeding, and playtime to help your pet keep calm and happy.
  • Encourage activity – Try to engage your pet in activities you know he used to enjoy. Your pet may need more enticement, so switch things up a bit if needed. Take a new walking route, give novel toys and toys with new smells and sounds, and interact with your pet physically by touching and petting her often. 
  • Pique her interest – Some mental exercise can help your pet as well. Use new treats and toy rewards, and work on some basic training exercises your pet already knows. Stay away from activities that seem to increase stress or anxiety.
  • Medication – In certain cases, pets can benefit from medications, just as people can. Talk to your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist about this option. 

If you have any questions or concerns about pet depression, please give us a call to schedule an appointment.