While depression is not recognized as a medical condition in dogs, that doesn’t mean that your dog cannot have depressive symptoms. In fact, symptoms of dog depression may indicate a larger medical condition, and therefore should be monitored carefully.
The main things that usually alerts owners to their dog being unhappy are changes in behavior. Dr. Leslie Sinn, DVM, CPDT-KA and member of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, explains: “This could mean that the dog is not interacting the way she usually does, or not engaging the way she normally does. It might include not wanting to go for walks, or not eating meals.”
If these behaviors last more than a day or two, they can indicate a medical problem, and you should bring your dog to the veterinarian to run tests.
Many older dogs can exhibit symptoms that seem like depression but turn out to be something else. “A big concern is untreated pain, which can mirror depressive symptoms,” says Dr. Sinn. “In our older dogs, for example, we worry a lot about untreated pain, such as arthritis. These symptoms could mirror ‘depressive’ symptoms, but actually point to a much greater and more dangerous condition.”
More information about depressive symptoms can be found here.
One symptom in particular that is often mistaken for a depressive symptom is an increase in lethargy. Before bringing your dog to the veterinarian, try to engage him in activities that he previously enjoyed, like fetch. Sometimes, one-on-one time with you might be all your pup needs to cheer up. If this doesn’t work, consult your vet to rule out medial problems.
It’s also important to monitor your dog’s appetite. “If the animal is feeling very poorly and refuses to eat for an extended period of time, that would put their decline ahead of schedule and is considered very harmful,” warns Dr. Sinn. “If a pet is refusing to eat for an extended period of time, this could be a serious problem.”
New stressors in a dog’s environment can bring on anxiety as well. “There are a number of things the owner can do to help lower stress, including keeping the dog away from crowded situations, decreasing chaos and unscheduled activities in the home, providing the pup with toys, walks and an increase in one-on-one interaction,” recommends Dr. Sinn. If these changes do not work on your dog, there are medications that your vet can give your dog to help with the anxiety.The keys to stopping depressive symptoms in your dog, if there are no real medical problems, are very similar to what you would do for a person who is sad. Increasing positive interactions and decreasing chaos and stress will have your dog playing and running around in no time.