Is Your Depressed Dog Actually a Sick Dog?

A depressed dog may be down because of lifestyle changes or a loss of a loved one, but many illnesses also cause depression-like symptoms. If your dog is showing signs of depression, consult a veterinarian for a full medical exam. The problem might very well be physical rather than mental.

Dog Depression

Though veterinarians still debate it, dog depression appears to be a genuine illness. Symptoms include weight loss, lethargy and a general disinterest in all things that usually make your dog happy such as food, walks and toys.

Though rare, dog depression can be caused by hormonal disorders, just as it can in humans. More often, however, depression is caused by a life change with which your dog has problems coping. Examine your lifestyle. If you have recently changed jobs, added a new baby or significant other to the house, moved to a new city or lost a family member, your dog may be suffering from depression.

Depression from Illnesses

Symptoms such as lethargy, weight loss, appetite loss or decrease in exercise, all which mimic depression, can also be caused by several types of illnesses. A mild cold or bacterial infection could cause your dog to spend a few days sleeping more than normal and eating less than normal.

If these symptoms persist, it could be a more serious illness, however. Many types of cancers lead to lethargy and depression-like symptoms as your dog tries to fight off an illness that may be consuming his entire body.

Hypothyroidism, a common disease affecting middle age dogs, also causes lethargy and intolerance to exercise, though it usually results in weight gain rather than weight loss.

Many types of worms, such as hookworms and roundworms, also cause symptoms such as lethargy, weight loss and weakness. These often also have other symptoms such as bloody stool and vomit or worms in the stool, but early symptoms may mimic depression.

Other serious canine illnesses such as liver and kidney disease can cause depression-like symptoms. These illnesses can often only be detected by blood tests or urinalysis, potentially even X-rays or CAT scans.

Determining a Treatment Plan

If you have recently had a major life change, this will affect your dog. Make sure to spend extra time with him, especially if you have added a new job, baby or significant other to your life that may detract from his quality time. Dogs respond well to routine, so try to set a feeding and exercise routine that will help him adjust to his new life.

If you believe depression could be the culprit, observe your dog for a few days to see if there is any improvement. However, the only true way to determine if your dog is ill or depressed is a visit to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will probably want to run several tests, including a health exam, blood tests or urinalysis.

There could be many causes for your dog's depression, but any time your dog experiences a sudden personality change, illnesses should be ruled out first.