Dog Depression Demystified

Dog depression is remarkably similar to human depression: an overwhelming feeling of sadness, helplessness or hopelessness. Though a debate ensues about the merits of dog depression, most veterinarians agree that is real and can have many causes.

Causes of Dog Depression

The number one cause of dog depression is change. Dogs are creatures of habit and prefer a routine, so a major change can be very difficult. A move, a death in the family or a change in the amount of attention the dog receives can cause depression.

As with humans, long periods of bad weather, such as storms or a long winter, can cause depression. This is most likely in conjunction with decreased exercise and active interaction with their humans.

Depression could be caused by an illness or chemical imbalance as well. Because there is no seratonin test for dogs as there is for humans, this can be difficult to diagnose.

Dog Depression Symptoms

Any significant behavior change in your dog could be a sign of depression. Though it usually manifests itself as a decrease in activity and interest in life, an increase in aggressive or anxious behavior could also be caused by depression.

In general, your dog may begin to move more slowly and show less interest in things that used to excite him such as toys, food and you. He may have a decrease in food and water intake, which can result in rapid weight loss. Excessive sleeping or shedding can also be signals.

Because we cannot talk to our dogs, it is very difficult to diagnose depression. When you consult your veterinarian, he or she will first have to rule out all other illnesses by performing all necessary exams and running all relevant tests.

Depression Treatment for Dogs

The first step, if you suspect your dog is suffering from depression, is to take him to a veterinarian for a full medical checkup. Your dog may be depressed because of a serious illness, which once treated will cure the depression.

Next, you must identify what could be causing your dog's depression. Have you recently lost a human or canine member of the family? Have you recently moved or taken a time-consuming job?

If a major change is a likely cause, be sure to spend plenty of time with your dog. Interact with him frequently each day to assure him that his place in your family is secure. Take him for walks, play ball or tug, or just spend time cuddling with him. If a move is the cause, make sure to change your routine as little as possible. Your dog should eat and get exercise at the same time he did at your previous home. Make the adjustment as simple as possible.

If he recently lost a canine pal, you may want to think about adding a new dog to the home, but be sure the dog is age appropriate. Your 10-year-old dog does not need the companionship of a puppy or adolescent.

In extreme cases where a cause can't be determined, medication such as Prozac may be prescribed. However, the cause usually has to do with the environment and can be remedied with a little bit of extra love and attention, which should always be your first treatment option.