Just like humans, dogs can get depressive episodes from time to time, this can stem from both physical injury or disease as well it being a behavioral problem. Many things can trigger a dog to fall into depression. This includes:
Loss of the owner or a companion pet. Dogs are social animals and they crave attention. Studies show dogs should not be left alone for more than 4 hours alone, lack of this social interaction can lead to loneliness causing them to sink into depression
Change in everyday routine. Dogs are creatures of habit. A change in routine can throw their life a little out of balance.
Addition of a new pet or person at home.
Moving homes, new environments usually makes then anxious and can lead to depression.
It can be a sign of ill health. Sick dogs usually have a change in demeanor and appear depressed.
Lack of attention at home.
During winter dogs suffer from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder where they appear depressed. They sleep longer and are inactive.
Dogs can also pick up on other people depressive emotions.
Common Signs Of Depression Include:
Sleeping all day in a rather active dog. They also look aloof and not their usual excited self when the owner comes back home from a long day out
Dog not eating
Loose of weight
Restlessness, anxiety and lack of sleep
They may lick their paws. This usually has a calming effect on their temperament
Excess shedding of hair
Lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
They may hide away at a corner or avoid people and want to be left alone
Management Of Depression In Dogs
Early treatment through behavioral modification ensures depressive episodes do not progress to advanced depression which often requires medication. Treatment options include:
As mentioned above dogs are social creatures. On getting home from a long day, ensure to spend some quality time with your fur baby. Most times all they need is some TLC. They have spent close to 10 hours waiting for you to get home. You can play fetch in the yard or take him/her for a long leisurely walk.
In case the depressive episode is due to loose of a companion pet, acquiring a new pet for him can come in handy. However this should be thought out carefully as this means extra commitment from the owners end.
While leaving for work in the morning you can also opt to take them for an early walk. This helps to strengthen the bond. One can also engage them with interactive games as one leaves for work to make them associate you leaving with something good.
Awards them with treats when in a jovial mood. Do not give attention or pamper when they act depressed. This will encourage the behavior and condition the brain to do so in order to get treats.
One can also enlist them to a doggy day care where they get to mingle with other dogs.
It’s also wise to check in with a veterinarian to ensure the depressive episode is not as a result of any form of systemic illness and if so, treatment ensures the dogs goes back to its active jovial mood.
In cases of severe depression that don’t resolve within months, dogs can be prescribed medication or mood enhancers, these can be prescribed to dogs suffering from separation anxiety. However, it can take close to 2-3 months to see any observable change therefore patience is required.