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Is depression in dogs real?

Fifi gets blue, too

Although our canine companions can't talk, they certainly have feelings and are able to express emotions. Like humans, dogs, too, can experience depression.
sad dog

Skeptical? Depression in dogs is a real phenomenon, and we'll tell you what you need to know about it.

John Ciribassi, DVM, past president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, explains how depression in dogs can manifest. "Dogs will become withdrawn. They become inactive. Their eating and sleeping habits often change. They don't participate in the things they once enjoyed," he says.

Here are some of the most common reasons a dog may become depressed and what you can do about it.

  1. A life change: Moving to a new home, having a new baby or even a stay-at-home parent returning to the workforce are all changes that could trigger depression in dogs. Dogs are creatures of habit, and when the routine is disrupted, they may not be able to deal.
  2. Illness/loss of a friend: Whether it's a human family member or a fellow animal in the house, an illness or death can have a severe impact on the family pet. Dogs pick up on our emotions, so if we're grieving, they will as well.
  3. Attack or injury: Depression can be triggered by a traumatic dog attack, injury or illness.
  4. Seasonal depression: Hurricanes, rain and winter can impact your pet's mood. Like humans who suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), dogs aren't immune to this either.

What can you do to help?

In most cases, dog depression is short-lived, and he'll be back to his old self in no time. But even so, no one wants to see their pet suffering, so here's what you can do to help your pet through this difficult time.

Consult with your vet

When your dog isn't acting like himself and isn't bouncing back, a trip to the vet should be the first step in assessing his condition. Many symptoms of depression in dogs are indicative of other medical problems, so it's important to rule them out first.

Pay extra attention

Put the focus back on your dog and let him know that you care. Ciribassi recommends, "Keep them engaged, do more of the things they like to do, get them a little more exercise and they should be fine." This might mean going to the park more often, going for rides in the car or engaging in any other activity your dog enjoys.

dog toyBuy a new toy

Sometimes something as simple as a new toy can lift your dog's spirits. Try a puzzle toy to keep boredom at bay and then take the time to play with your dog!

Try day care

If your pet is dealing with separation anxiety or isn't used to being left home alone, look into day care in your area to help alleviate stress associated with being alone. Dogs crave physical and mental stimulation and being home alone won't allow for that.

Medication

If your dog isn't improving, clinical depression may be to blame. For more difficult cases of dog depression, medications can be prescribed by your vet to help your dog to start acting like himself again.

Tell us

Has your dog been depressed? Tell us in the comments below.

More on dog health

7 Home remedies for your dog
5 Tips for cutting pet care costs
Pet separation anxiety: 4 Tips to help cope

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