Is your dog acting withdrawn?
Losing their appetite?
Not interested in walks and playtime?
If so, it’s hard to deny your dog seems a little… depressed.
But are they really depressed in the same way as humans can be?
And what might be causing these changes?
In this guide, we’ll explore these questions (and more.)
Can Dogs Get Depressed?
It’s difficult to know if dogs can get depressed in the exact same way as people do.
But it does seem like dogs can suffer with symptoms that do look like depression.
Big changes in a dogs life can have an impact on their behavior. For example, changes in their environment or lifestyle (such as moving home, losing an owner, or losing a canine companion) can have an affect on a dog.
They can also seem sad and withdrawn when their basic needs aren’t being met. For example, if you used to spend a lot of time with your dog… but now you’re more unavailable due to work… your dog may feel bored or experience separation anxiety.
Some dogs can seem depressed depending on the season, too.
Often, the winter months will make a dog feel low. Perhaps this can be explained by the fewer walks and less time outside.
Another thing to consider is whether your dog is in pain.
For example, an older dog who’s suffering from arthritis may behave differently. They could feel withdrawn, lethargic, and lose their appetite.
If your dog is behaving out of character, talk to a vet. There could be an underlying health issue.
Why Do Dogs Get Depressed?
There are several reasons why a dog may feel depressed.
- Physical Pain: If your dog’s in pain or has an underlying health issue, they may act like they’re depressed. Your dog could be in pain but “hiding” it. You may notice your dog isn’t acting like themselves. They’ll be quiet, withdrawn, and lethargic. They might lose their appetite and be less active than before. If so, talk to a vet.
- Emotional Contagion: Dogs are empathic creatures, and they can recognize human emotions. Of course, many owners already know their dogs mirror their emotional states… particularly when they’re feeling low themselves.
- Separation Anxiety: When you’re not able to spend enough time with your dog, they’ll often seem less happy. Some dogs may turn to destructive behaviors. But others might act quiet and withdrawn, depending on your dog’s personality.
- Grief: Did your dog have a companion who’s recently passed away or moved? Whether it’s another animal or a human, dogs bond with others… and when they’re no longer around, it’s possible that your dog will grieve that loss.
- Change: It’s a truth of life that things change, and change is never easy. Perhaps you’ve moved home, added a new member to the family, or summer’s ended and there are fewer stimulating walks. Either way, changes of routine, habit, and lifestyle can affect your dog.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Sad?
Pay attention to any changes in their behavior.
Are they more lethargic than before?
Has their appetite changed?
Are they less interested in walks and play?
Are they grooming themselves excessively? (Dog’s often lick areas where they’re feeling pain.)
If so, it’s important to take your dog to the vet. It’s possible your dog is acting differently because they’re in pain… and your vet can examine your pet and run tests to identify the cause.
How Do You Cheer up a Depressed Dog?
Once you’ve ruled out whether your dog’s in pain… there are a few things you can do to cheer them up.
Let’s take a look.
Spend more time together: Have you been working a lot lately? If so, your dog might be lonely and miss interaction with you.
More walks: Most dogs love walking outside… so why not take your dog for a walk in the local park? Better still, take them somewhere new that’s filled with interesting sights, scents, and sounds to explore.
Socialize with other dogs: Your dog may miss the company of other dogs, particularly if you have no other pets in the household. You could get another dog… or take your dog to socialization classes.
Establish a routine: When there’s been a big change in your dog’s life, it can be useful to re-establish a healthy routine… especially for walking and eating. It can help your dog to settle into a new lifestyle and have something to look forward to each day. (Bonus: It can help the owner, too.)
New treats: Did you give your dog any new treats lately? Dogs often enjoy the stimulation of a chewy snack, and there are many great (and healthy) options to choose from. But be careful not to give a treat every time they’re acting withdrawn, otherwise you risk reinforcing the behavior.
New toys: Giving your dog a new toy can give them the extra stimulation they need. Maybe your dog is a fan of interactive puzzle toys, chew toys or games of tug? Invest in a few extra toys to keep your dog entertained.
Can Dogs Get Depressed When Another Dog Dies?
Most owners find their dogs behave differently when another dog in the household passes away.
Usually the surviving dog will be withdrawn, and they might eat and drink less, similar to how humans show grief. They may also become more vocal in strange or different ways, and cling to their owner more.
As you can imagine, the signs of withdrawal and depression will appear stronger depending on how close the dogs were to each other. It can take a few months before they’re back to normal.
What’s more, how you feel yourself can have an additional impact on the dog. When the owner is down and depressed, your dog will feel it too.
Do Dogs Get Depressed When Their Owner Is Away?
Dogs grieve when their owner passes away.
You may notice behavioral changes like whimpering, restlessness, or withdrawal. And they pick up on the emotions of other household members, which also has an affect on your dogs mood.
They may also feel depressed when their owner is simply away. If a dog is left alone for longer than they can cope with, they experience separation anxiety.
Many owners have had the experience of their dog waiting at the door, getting upset and clingy when you leave, or making a mess of the home through destructive behaviors.
Do Dogs Get Depressed When Left Alone?
Dogs can learn to be content with time alone, and depending on their personality and breed, they may be comfortable with more (or less) time by themselves.
But separation anxiety is a real thing, and it’s possible your dog feels it when you’re not around.
Common signs of separation anxiety include:
- Destructive behaviors
- Breaking house training
Dogs can find alone time quite stressful… especially when you’re out for a long time due to work. Finding them some company can help. Perhaps you could get a canine companion, or hire a dog walker to give them some extra stimulation in the day.
You can also make sure they have plenty of activities to keep them occupied when you’re not around.
Crate training can help, as it will give your dog a secure ‘den’ feeling where they can relax. Fun dog toys are useful, particularly if they offer interactivity or puzzle elements that keep your dog occupied.
Some owners like to use webcam treat-dispensing toys, which let you keep an eye on your dog and dispense treats. You can also use 2-way audio to talk to your dog when you’re out of the house. Furbo is a popular choice.
Can Dogs Get Depressed After Giving Birth?
Postpartum depression exists for humans, and it happens with dogs, too.
It can be caused by the stress of the birth, as well as the stress of caring for the new litter. Hormonal changes also play a role.
Common signs of postpartum depression include:
- Increased sleeping
- Losing interest in puppies
- Reduced appetite
- Aggressive behaviors
If you suspect your dog is dealing with postpartum depression, it’s worth talking to your vet about it. There are medications that can help.
You can also try to make things easier and less stressful for the new mom. For example, you can have some walks with just the two of you to give her a break from the puppies.
Can Dogs Get Depressed After Surgery?
It’s certainly possible for surgery to affect your dog’s mood afterward. There could be reactions to medications and hormonal changes. And the overall stress of the experience can have some emotional fallout.
They may display the common signs of depression such as withdrawal and loss of appetite.
They could also act irritable and forget their house training.
If they’re wearing a cone, this could also frustrate your dog and lead to behavior changes.
Can Dogs Get Depressed After Being Spayed or Neutered?
These surgeries will affect your dogs hormones, so it’s understandable when they lead to behavioral changes, especially in the initial days and weeks following the surgery.
Most owners find their dogs are quieter and withdrawn during the first 24 hours.
But eventually they’ll be back to their normal selves.
Overall, it’s clear that dogs can display behavioral changes that look like depression… and it’s never fun to see your pet withdrawn, lethargic, and unhappy.
It’s important to consult with your vet if any behavioral changes are making you concerned about your dog. Additionally, your vet can determine whether your dog’s in pain, and explore any other possibilities that might lead to these changes.