Can Dogs Get Depressed? - Doggy Brace

Dogs, like people, can experience things like depression and anxiety. Dog depression and it’s symptoms effect nearly 75% of dogs. How is that so? Because dogs not only experience depression and anxiety in relation to their own world, but our worlds too. If a dog’s owner is grief stricken, sad, or down in the dumps, chances are that pup is soaking up the dense energy.

But dogs don’t experience chronic depression like humans do. While humans may feel debilitated by their depression, dogs can wiggle out of it with some help from the ones they love. Read more to learn about the signs of depression, reasons doggos get depressed, and what you can do about it.  

Signs of Dog Depression

Dogs exhibit signs of depression and sadness just as humans do. Unless your dog is a new member of the family, chances are that you will notice if he or she is experiencing depression. While chronic depression isn’t common, dogs do get down in the dumps from time to time. Dog depression can look like:

  • Subdued demeanor
  • Less active
  • Extra lazy
  • Demanding more attention than usual
  • Strange behavior, like aggressiveness towards other family members
  • Unusual hyperactivity 
  • Incessant barking
  • Peeing or pooping in the house
  • Decreased play
  • Hiding
  • Reclused from social activities
  • Pacing in spaces where their human once was

Unfortunately, a dog’s depression symptoms can be similar to those of a medical condition called Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD). In short, CCD is dog dementia. Dogs that experience dementia usually begin to show signs after 8 years old. If you have a senior pup who is exhibiting these signs more frequently, without any major changes in the home, you should speak with a vet right away. While doggo dementia can’t be cured, it can be helped with exercise and other support. 

Sad dog waiting alone at home. Labrador retriever looking through window during rain.

Reasons for Dog Depression

Reasons for dog depression can vary. Things like a drastic change in the home, routine, or moving away from where they once lived are key factors. Dogs also experience grief, so if they’ve lost a family member they are used to seeing every day or another animal they’ve lived with, a dog might get depressed. Other reasons include:

  • Constant pain, like chronic pain or chronic illness
  • Physical trauma or abuse to the body 
  • Isolation (if you have crated your pet when they aren’t used to being crated, etc.)
  • Not enough mental or physical stimulation
  • Big changes in the home:
    • A new person or pet in the home
    • A change in routine, like pet parents going back to work after staying home for a long time, a pet parent starting school again after a long summer break, etc.
  • The loss of a beloved family member, like another pet in the home or the dog’s pet parent
  • The dog’s owner is sad, depressed, or grieving. Dogs can feel this energy. Grieving and sad dog owners often have less interest in regular activities that a dog might be used to, like long walks or playing fetch outside. 

What You Can Do About It

Just like humans, dogs experience depression differently. This isn’t a one size fits all, and neither will the solution be. In order to relieve your dogs symptoms, you’ll need to figure out what the cause is. Luckily, dogs bounce back pretty quickly. Little changes can encourage big shifts, so be patient with yourself and your pup. The following are some helpful tips to get your doggo back up and running like usual.

  • Play with others. Is your pet missing another animal? If so, engaging with others in some social play could be very helpful. If your pet has lost it’s furry friend, adopting another dog can also help.

However, proceed with caution if this what you choose to do. Make sure it’s the right decision for your home and that you aren’t getting another animal just to cheer your dog up. The new dog needs to fit in with the rest of the family and be a great addition to your home!

  • More stimulation. Consider longer walks, letting your pup stop more to smell things for longer, more fetch, and playing games that induce mental stimulation. 
  • Ensure they are eating well. Pour overs are amazing additions to a dogs meal. Toppers are a great way to get dogs to get back to eating regularly. Don’t change their died completely, but just a little topper mixed in with their regular meals should do the trick.  Adding a topper to their food temporarily can encourage your pet to eat. A sudden change in diet can lead to digestion issues, so do not change their diet completely or abruptly.
  • Let them have “me” time. “Me” time for dogs does not mean locking them up in their kennel. Instead, give your dog time where they can enjoy a stimulating game or toy uninterrupted. Consider fun puzzle games, toys that encourage mental stimulation, etc.  

While dog dog depression is sad to witness, it can be helped. We hope that these tips and tricks will support your pup in bouncing back to normal and feeling like his or herself.