Have you been wondering why your dog has been acting sad and rather lethargic lately? Is your dog refusing to eat and drink and having a hard time even climbing out of bed? Chances are your dog might be depressed. Depression in dogs is an emotional disorder dogs experience as a result of severe emotional stressors, such as death or separation from loved ones, just as humans do. This could be the loss of a puppy, a close friend, or even a family member – whomever your dog shared her life with. Although we don’t always recognize it, for a dog, depression is a severe issue that needs to be taken seriously and treated as such.
Here’s a list of 10 potential causes of depression in dogs:
1. Separation Anxiety
One of the most common causes of canine depression is separation anxiety. When left alone at home for too long, dogs start missing their owners and can show symptoms of depression. But owners aren’t the only people that cause loneliness and depression in dogs; dogs can also get depressed if they’ve lost a friend or family member, got rejected by the pack, or got hurt while participating in sports.
If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety from you, living with a new person or animal, or the loss of a family member, she will need to be separated from you or her original home for a period of time as she adjusts. Separation anxiety is not something that happens overnight – it may take weeks to months – and the period of time during which your dog will feel anxious and depressed varies from case to case – it can be as short as one night and as long as several weeks.
Grief is a natural response to loss, whether it is the death of a pet, an owner who has died, the loss of home, or even just the loss of a beloved toy. Dogs are pack animals and so being part of an active family can have a huge impact on their well-being. If your dog becomes depressed after the loss of another significant pet member in your family, it is likely an appropriate response to the stressful situation you have put them in.
3. Major Environmental Changes
Changes in their physical environment have been one of the major reasons why dogs get depressed. These changes might be moving to a new home, getting a new sibling, or adding another dog to your pack. New homes are particularly stressful for many dogs, especially if they are used to their old house and have formed strong relationships with the other pets there. Getting a new puppy sister or brother can be equally overwhelming. This sudden change of family members and living arrangements makes it hard for your dog to settle down – she’ll soon realize that she is no longer getting all the attention she used to get from you, act out aggressively, and eventually be depressed.
I have already discussed how a dog who has been experiencing or going through a certain traumatic event can develop symptoms of depression. But another common cause of depression could be a fear of a specific object. This can be anything your dog is afraid of, including a specific animal, a person, an object, or even a vacuum cleaner.
Dogs experience fear and insecurity just as we do. If your dog is afraid of something, she may isolate herself from your family and the people around her. This can be particularly distressing for senior dogs, who often rely on their owners to help them feel comfortable in their surroundings. Take, for example, the case of Tinkles the Corgi – Tinkles became depressed after she started having trouble walking because of her age. Not being able to play with her owner’s family anymore made her so sad that her owners had no choice but to take her back in.
5. Physical Illness
Dogs can feel down and depressed when they are suffering from physical illness, although this is far less common than the causes listed above. Severe physical illness can cause a number of stressors for dogs, including pain, weakness, and lack of mobility as well as depression as a result of the enormous stress caused by being so ill. Dogs can become depressed as a response to an illness or injury, but this type of depression is less common. Some dogs are poor adjusters, who may experience anxiety and depression if they are unable to participate in their usual activities after an injury.
6. Serious Medical Conditions
A dog may also be depressed if she experiences one or more medical conditions, such as cancer, kidney disease, hormonal disorder, congestive heart failure (CHF), osteoarthritis (OA), or infections like thyroid or bladder stones. Depression in dogs is also sometimes the result of infections from ticks and fleas.
Some of these conditions might affect your dog’s immune system and make it difficult for her to fight off infections. Other times, the underlying medical disease may lead to anorexia or cause a severe drop in blood pressure that may result in fainting spells and eventually depression.
7. Trauma from Abuse
It’s no surprise why dogs who have been abused – physically or emotionally – can suffer from depression. When there is an abusive relationship between a dog and their family member, it can cause them to become more withdrawn and depressed. If your dog was abused in her previous household, it’s most likely that she will be distracted by her new surroundings and have a hard time adjusting.
In this case, depression is a sign that your dog is still struggling to cope with the negative events that happened to her in the past, regardless of how much time has passed since then. The effects of trauma from abuse take a long time to go away, and one of the lasting effects of it is depression.
8. Insufficient Physical or Mental Stimulation
Dogs need a lot of physical and mental stimulation in order to live a happy and healthy life. They need to be constantly fed, taken for walks, given toys to play with, have a comfy bed where they can rest, and have humans around them constantly. If your dog is depressed because he’s lacking any of this.
9. Social Isolation
Lots of dogs will feel depressed if they become isolated from their pack and don’t have anyone around them that is willing to play with them or give them attention. For example, if you are busy at work all day and don’t have the time to play with your dog, he will start feeling depressed. This can also happen if your dog is living in a home where there is no one around who interacts with him on a regular basis.
In order to help your dog cope with depression, make sure you spend as much time as possible with them until they get better. Keep a close eye on what is going on in their environment and make sure they are getting the exercise that they need – this alone will do wonders for them!
10. Chronic Pain
Chronic pain has been linked to depression in humans, so you can guess that it does the same for dogs. Chronic pain in dogs can be caused by broken bones or arthritis in their joints, which makes them prone to stress. This pain can make it hard for them to find pleasure in their lives, which can result in depression. When your dog is in chronic pain, you should ask your veterinarian about the possible causes and treatments of the condition so you can help alleviate your dog’s pain and prevent further depression.
There are a number of reasons that your dog might be depressed, so you should always try to figure out what is causing it. In most cases, the depression will go away when the root cause has been identified and corrected. However, if your dog’s depression seems to be lasting longer than a few weeks or months after the root cause has been fixed, it might be time to talk to a veterinarian about getting professional help for your pet. Check out this article if you want to know how to treat dog depression.
Thank you for reading the article.
To explore more, check out our other articles on depression in dogs.
Have you ever dealt with depression in your dog? How did you cope? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below!