Similar to humans, dogs can also experience depression and anxiety. In this post, our Astoria vets list which symptoms to look for and how you can help your canine companion cheer up.
What causes depression and anxiety in dogs?
Dogs are emotionally intelligent creatures and are capable of experiencing a range of emotions. This also means they can suffer from depression and anxiety.
Distressing events or major life changes can sometimes cause a dog's nerves to go haywire, or trigger feelings of sadness or anxiousness. Other triggering incidents may include the loss of a dog's owner or companion animal. Your pooch is also likely to sense those around them experiencing grief if there's been a passing in the family. All of these can impact a dog's general emotions.
Even what many view as positive life changes, such as a new baby, new pet or a move to a new house and community, may also affect a dog's emotions. Generally, any significant change in a dog's life or to their daily routine can bring on symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Is my dog depressed?
Symptoms of depression in dogs are similar to those experienced by people.
Common signs include loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed, a shift in eating and/or sleeping habits and low activity levels. Signs of aggression, including howling or whining, also appear in some dogs.
Is my dog feeling anxious?
When dogs experience anxiety, they may exhibit physical behaviors such as reduced activity, passive escape behaviors, hiding, tail-tucking and trembling. You might also notice signs of panic including active escape behavior, pacing and panting.
Physical symptoms of anxiety in dogs can include sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity such as lesions that cause them to bite or lick their own body, or diarrhea (which can lead to other health issues such as dehydration).
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:
See Your Veterinarian
Some signs of depression and anxiety can be caused by physical ailments or conditions that need urgent attention. If your dog seems anxious or depressed, the first thing you should do is schedule a visit with your vet. While some dogs might recover from depression with some extra affection and attention from their pet parent, your vet will give your dog a thorough physical exam and might prescribe medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety aids to help calm their nerves if the issue doesn't show signs of improving.
Help Your Dog Stay Physically & Mentally Active
Boredom can often lead our furry friends to become anxious or depressed. Make sure your pooch gets plenty of exercise before you leave for the day, and supply your pup with enough toys to keep them busy in order to help quell your dog's anxiety. Look for toys that are interactive or can be stuffed with treats to keep your pup's body and mind active while you're out of the house.
Make Time For Socialization & Play
Our dogs are social creatures that love to be around people and other animals. If your dog is suffering from anxiety or depression you may want to consider getting a companion animal for your pup or take your lonely pooch to the dog park, group classes or doggie daycare for additional social interaction.
Show Your Pooch Plenty of Love & Patience
Of course, our pets need lots of love and patience in order to feel safe and contented - even more so when they are prone to feeling depressed or anxious. By giving your dog some extra time and attention you may be able to alleviate these issues and restore your pup's sense of fun and happiness.
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.