Do Dogs Get Depressed? Here are the signs to look out for…
It's no secret that dogs have emotions like us humans. But can our beloved canine family members really experience depression?
Despite not being able to vocalise their emotions in the same way as humans, dogs can still experience depression in the form of sadness and grief.
If your dog seems sad and bored, they may well be experiencing depression. Read on to discover the signs and learn how to help your dog overcome the blues.
Signs of depression in dogs
Keep an eye out for signs that your pup might be feeling down, and you can help bring back the tail-wagging, happy-go-lucky dog you know and love!
- Loss of appetite or changes in eating patterns
- Excessive attention-seeking or clinginess
- Withdrawal from activities and games they usually enjoy
- Lethargy and sleeping more often
- Barking or howling
- Destructive behaviours such as chewing or digging
- Inability to settle or restlessness
- Toileting indoors
- Behaviour changes such as reactivity or aggression
How to help a depressed dog
Much like humans, our dogs need appropriate mental and physical stimulation to help keep them feeling their best. Make time to interact with your dog and encourage optimism through play and quality time together.
Look to your dog’s natural instincts to try and find ways to lift your dog out of the blues. Giving your dog plenty of opportunities to do things they love is a brilliant way to boost your dog’s mood and your bond. Check out our breed guides for inspiration.
If your dog is struggling to adjust to changes in their life, health, or environment, you might need to seek professional help to help your dog adapt. This might mean speaking to your vet or finding a positive dog trainer to help your dog overcome their struggles.
What causes depression in dogs?
Depression in dogs can be caused by various things, ranging from an obvious source to more discreet changes, or even a mix of multiple issues that have gradually accumulated.
Pain, a new environment or routine, grief, a lack of social, mental or physical stimulation, or even medical conditions can all be precursors to the canine blues.
Do dogs suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
In humans, the winter blues are very common. Lots of us can feel our mood take a nosedive when the days are cold and dark, and the warmth of summer feels like a lifetime away.
But have you ever noticed your dog’s mood change during the winter? Is it possible that dogs can get the winter blues too?
According to research, the answer is yes!
According to a survey by the PDSA, approximately 8 million pets exhibited classic SAD (seasonal affective disorder) symptoms in winter, with around 40% of dog owners saying they saw a significant downturn in the mood of their four-legged friends.
The findings also showed that, in the winter months, 43% of pets have less energy, 59% sleep for longer periods and 47% demand more affection from their owners.**
What’s the reason behind SAD?
It’s all to do with the effect that light has on hormones. One of these hormones is melatonin. Science tells us more of it is produced when light conditions are poor – and an increase of melatonin results in increased feelings of lethargy.
The other hormone affected by light is serotonin. Just as in humans, serotonin is thought to have a tangible effect on the mood of dogs, affecting appetite and sleep, too.
What can you do about it?
As a lack of light is thought to be one of the major contributing factors to low mood in dogs, increasing your dog’s exposure to light is the best way to tackle it.
The best way to do this is to maximise the amount of time they spend in daylight. Try going for walks during the brightest part of the day and grab extra chances to get outside in the garden for a game of tug with your dog’s favourite Tug-E-Nuff toy. Playing tug has lots of other benefits too – and you can find out more about that here.
But if it’s too cold to get out and about, playing at home can be a great way to cheer your dog up. Check out these ideas for making indoor play super fun.
We all feel better after spending time with friends, so why not invite some friends and their four-legged friends over for a doggy play date?
You can also try moving your dog’s bed to the brightest spot in your home and you can even buy light boxes that mimic daylight and are designed to combat SAD symptoms in humans, that are thought to help pets too.