Depression in dogs - Symptoms, causes and treatment

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¿Can a dog have depression? The truth is, yes, and in this AnimalWised article we will talk about the symptoms, causes and, of course, the treatment of depression in dogs. If we notice changes in the behavior of our partner and it seems to us that he is sad, he could be suffering from depression. We should always go to the vet because the signs that we appreciate are nonspecific, that is, they can correspond to both depression and a physical illness. We must know that both situations are treatable.

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  1. How to detect depression in dogs?
  2. Depression in older dogs
  3. Causes of depression in dogs
  4. How to treat depression in dogs?
  5. How to cheer up a depressed dog?

How to detect depression in dogs?

Although symptoms of depression in dogs can vary from one dog to another, the following are the ones that we can most frequently detect:

  • Reduction of your activity.
  • Decreased interactions with other dogs and with people.
  • Loss of interest in the environment.
  • Eating disorders, some stop eating while others binge eat.
  • Prostration, lethargy and apathy.
  • Increased hours of sleep, although some dogs may sleep less.
  • Moaning, crying, or howling without us knowing what caused them.
  • Search for quiet places to hide.
  • Decreased affectivity.
  • Modifications in behavior.
  • Absence of gambling behaviors.
  • Slow movements.
  • Possible incontinence.
  • Stereotypes, that is, repetition of the same behavior in a compulsive way, such as licking or nibbling the paws.
  • Some dogs are anxious and / or aggressive.

In addition, depression is classified as endogenous and exogenous, depending on whether the cause is internal or external. Although we talk about depression in chihuahua, pug, poodle or husky dogs, there is no genetic predisposition of these specific breeds to depression, that is, endogenous or biologically based depression could occur in any breed or cross of dog. Exogenous, a consequence of the environment and with various causes, is more common.

Depression in older dogs

Depressive symptoms in elderly dogs may be related to the so-called cognitive dysfunction syndrome. It is an aging process at the brain level that we could relate to the Alzheimer's that humans suffer from. The dog will show deterioration of its mental faculties with symptoms such as disorientation, elimination inside the home, repetitive behaviors, decreased relationship with other members of the house, etc..

This picture could also correspond to some pathologies such as renal disease, so we must always take the dog to the vet to perform the relevant tests that allow us to rule out a physical disorder. The age of the dog should not be an impediment to start a treatment.

If cognitive dysfunction is confirmed, we can implement measures to modify behavior, if applicable, and the environment, always in agreement with professionals in canine behavior. Medication can also be used.

Causes of depression in dogs

There are different situations that can be behind depression in dogs, such as the following:

  • Depression in dogs due to separation: it is a common circumstance in which the dog will develop depressive, disruptive and destructive behaviors when it is alone at home.
  • Depression in dogs due to the death of another dog: Like people, dogs can experience mourning after the death of a canine companion, but also of another species, since what they feel is the loss of the bond.
  • Depression in dogs due to moving of home or family: the abrupt change in its routine can have negative consequences for the dog, which will need a period of adaptation and adequate stimuli to reestablish the attachment. At this point the arrival of new members to the family, whether human or animal.
  • Depression in dogs due to severe stress situations: conflicts at home, fights with other animals or illnesses can lead to a depression that will have to be addressed depending on the trigger.
  • Depression in dogs due to poor socialization: Those dogs separated early from their mothers and siblings, or those who have suffered abuse, can present behavioral problems, including depression. See the following article to know "¿At what age can puppies be separated from their mother? ".
  • Depression in bitches due to pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy: in unsterilized bitches, after heat, it is possible that a hormonal cascade is triggered as if the bitch were in a state, even though there was no fertilization. You will develop maternal instincts and changes in your behavior, including depression. Unlike, There is not Postpartum depression in bitches and if, after giving birth, we observe our depressed bitch, we should consult the veterinarian, as she could be ill.

How to treat depression in dogs?

As we have said, any of the aforementioned signs is a reason for veterinary consultation because, in the first place, it is necessary to rule out that the dog suffers from any physical pathology. If the diagnosis is depression, it is important find out what the trigger was and, based on it, implement measures to improve the mood of our dog. We will see them in the next section.

Professionals like ethologists or veterinarians specialized in behavior can help us to modify behaviors and environment, if applicable. In those dogs in more serious situations the veterinarian can prescribe medication.

How to cheer up a depressed dog?

Whatever the cause of our dog's depression, we can follow a series of steps to help you regain your spirits:

  • The most important thing is that we dedicate every day time to spend exclusively with him. Dogs are pack animals, family, who need to feel integrated into the group.
  • The exercise appropriate to his age, walks, which cannot be limited to evacuation, games and, ultimately, different activities, help to keep the dog entertained, as well as obedience education.
  • In some cases, we can assess the incorporation of a new dog into the family, which can function as a trigger for the depressed dog. Of course, this is a decision that cannot be taken lightly, so we recommend consulting a professional, such as an ethologist or veterinarian, since we remember that in some situations the arrival of a new member can worsen the state of depression.
  • Do not leave the dog alone for many hours.
  • Avoid stressful situations that can aggravate or perpetuate the condition.
  • Follow adaptation guidelines, according to professional advice.
  • Although they have not shown more than a placebo effect, Bach flowers or products with pheromones can be used.
  • Finally, pseudopregnancy in bitches is controlled with the sterilization.

This article is merely informative, at we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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