I remember watching some TV show a few years ago about Americans over medicating their family. There was one family where the mother, father, three children and their two dogs were medicated. The presented asked, ‘Why are your dogs medicated?’ The mother said, ‘Because they have depression.’ The presented replied, ‘Is there even such a thing as dog depression?’
There is now more and more evidence to suggest that dogs do suffer from depression and this is mostly caused by the stress of being left alone all day while their owners are at work. Other reasons why your dog may be depressed include being sick, the loss of another pet, moving to a new home or feeling as though they have been replaced.
Signs that your dog may be depressed include no longer being excited when you come home, there is no running up to the door, jumping on you or wagging of the tail when they greet you, barking and howling for long periods, defecating, not getting excited when you offer them a treat, loss of appetite, change in sleeping habits and even self-harming.
There are some things you can do to help bring your dog’s sprit up. Firstly, make sure you give your dog plenty of attention and playtime when you are around. Dogs are pack animals, they want to be with their pack, which is you and your family, and it is in their nature to want to always be around you. You should be playing and/or taking them for a walk for at least 30 minutes a day. Just like humans, having a good time, being around people they like and exercising enhances their mood, releasing all those feel good chemicals in the brain.
If your dog is suffering from depression due to loneliness there are a number of things you can do. You can get another dog, a lot of people that I know from the dog park have gone down this road and they definitely have noticed an improvement in their dog’s behaviour. New toys in your dog’s toy box helps, I put a new toy or two in Toby’s toy box every month to keep him occupied while we are away which he loves. Leave the radio or TV on for your dog while you are at work so they can hear different sounds and be stimulated by that. Or you can take them to doggy daycare, Toby goes to daycare once a week to allow him to socialise with other dogs and basically have 9 hours of fun. He loves it there and is so exhausted when he comes home he will sleep for a good 24 hours. Money well spent.
If your pet seems to be suffering from depression due to a new move, try to arrange the furniture the same way it was arranged in the old house. Take them around the new house or furniture so they can get used to it. Be sure to keep some piece of familiar furniture from the old house so your pet will feel comfortable in the new surroundings.
A dog can also get depressed when they think they have been replaced by another pet or person such as a new partner or baby. Don’t leave them out, it is important to continue on with their normal activities such as their daily snuggles in bed, walks or whatever it may be. It is also good to include your dog in activities with the new person or pet in your life. You can help your dog get used to the new person or pet by allowing them time to get to know each other without you around.
They say the worst thing you can do to prevent your pet from overcoming their depression is to pamper their depression. You need to give them positive attention, be happy and excited and that excitement and happiness will rub off on your pet. If you have tried all you can it is best to speak to your local vet about what steps to take next.
Has your pooch experienced depression before? How did you help your dog overcome it?