Is Your Dog Depressed?

By PAGDUS

Dogs share many of the same neurochemicals that we do and, like us, they are exposed to certain stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol – so they can get depressed. Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us when they are feeling down, so it’s up to us, as handlers and dog lovers, to be alert to the signs and try to help them out of their blues.

Depression in dogs usually arises from some big environmental change like: introducing a new baby, spouse or pet; moving to a new home; the loss of a doggie companion or owner; or, since dogs are extremely empathic, maybe just its owner being depressed. Age and/or boredom can also bring on grouchiness and low spirits. (See https://www.countryliving.com/uk/wildlife/pets/a30608033/dog-depression/.)

However, if your dog exhibits many of the signs of depression and there is no big environmental reason for it, it is strongly recommended that you bring your dog to the vet to make sure there is no medical reason for the depression. Depression in older dogs can be a sign of chronic pain. Your vet should be able to determine if your dog is suffering from chronic pain and prescribe a pain management protocol.

Parenthetically, signs of chronic pain in dogs somewhat overlap with the signs of depression in dogs:
1. Whimpering or vocalizing
2. Becoming quiet, withdrawn, and anti-social
3. Showing uncharacteristic aggressiveness when approached or touched (an attempt to protect themselves from further pain)
4. Holding the ears flat against the head
5. Increased licking of a painful/sensitive area
6. Decreased appetite
7. Reluctance to walk, run, climb stairs, jump, or play
8. Stiffness or limping
9. Lagging behind on walks or stopping altogether while on walks
10. Changes in personality
11. Increased panting and/or restlessness
(See https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/pain-management-for-dogs.)

Interestingly, vets may prescribe antidepressants for dogs, but not for depression. Rather, vets prescribe antidepressants to help with such problem behaviors as: extreme separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, acute anxiety, compulsive disorders, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (especially in older dogs), and urine marking. Antidepressants are not a substitute for re-training; they are usually prescribed for a short time so the dog’s anxiety level can be lowered sufficiently to allow for behavioral modification.

You can probably name most of the signs of doggie depression, but here are the major signs:
1. Low activity levels
2. Loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed
3. Change in eating habits, often eating substantially less (or not at all)
4. Increase in amount of time spent sleeping
5. Showing signs of anxiety or aggression through sporadic howling or whining
6. Excessive licking, especially of their paws
7. Flattening of the ears
8. Less interaction with other dogs
9. Regression in house and behavioral training
10. Bored or frustrated
11. Barking more or being hyperactive
12. Seeking more affection, almost demanding repeated and vigorous petting, scratching, loving words, etc.

If your vet has assured you that there is no medical reason for your dog’s apparent depression, you can do a few things to help your dog break free of the dumps:
1. Give your dog more attention (but do it in moderation so your dog can work through their emotions on their schedule) – just enough to reassure your dog that they are safe and loved;
2. Keep your dog active; walks and outdoor games can give them the physical boost in dopamine and serotonin that might help them to rebalance their brain chemistry;
3. Bring your dog to doggie socials. Dogs are very much social animals and a good romp with their canine counterparts may be just the ticket;
4. Be consistent: keep a regular routine – this will decrease your dog’s anxiety levels and reassure them that they need not get depressed over insecurities and uncertainties in their life; and
5 Do not reward your depressed dog with treats if they misbehave, whine or bark when told to stop, or manifest other negative misbehaviors; rewards will just confuse your dog and reinforce the very depression symptoms you want to reduce or eliminate.

With respect to older guide dogs, your guide might start manifesting some of these signs when it is getting near the time to retire. Other signs are: reluctance to get into harness, hesitation to climb aboard a vehicle, lack of focus on the job of guiding, repeated distractibility even after correction, inappropriate sociability, and just plain sitting and refusing to go any farther. It is important to pay attention to these signs because an old guide dog who should be retired could be a danger to itself and to you.

Acknowledging that your dog can become depressed and knowing the most common signs of doggie depression will help you to be more attuned to your dog’s moods and behaviors. An off day or two isn’t a reason for concern, but if your dog starts to manifest some of the signs listed above for more than a few weeks, it is probably time to take them to the vet and, depending on what your vet says, take some simple steps to help your dog banish the blahs.
By PAGDUS

Dogs share many of the same neurochemicals that we do and, like us, they are exposed to certain stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol – so they can get depressed. Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us when they are feeling down, so it’s up to us, as handlers and dog lovers, to be alert to the signs and try to help them out of their blues.

Depression in dogs usually arises from some big environmental change like: introducing a new baby, spouse or pet; moving to a new home; the loss of a doggie companion or owner; or, since dogs are extremely empathic, maybe just its owner being depressed. Age and/or boredom can also bring on grouchiness and low spirits. (See https://www.countryliving.com/uk/wildlife/pets/a30608033/dog-depression/.)

However, if your dog exhibits many of the signs of depression and there is no big environmental reason for it, it is strongly recommended that you bring your dog to the vet to make sure there is no medical reason for the depression. Depression in older dogs can be a sign of chronic pain. Your vet should be able to determine if your dog is suffering from chronic pain and prescribe a pain management protocol.

Parenthetically, signs of chronic pain in dogs somewhat overlap with the signs of depression in dogs:
1. Whimpering or vocalizing
2. Becoming quiet, withdrawn, and anti-social
3. Showing uncharacteristic aggressiveness when approached or touched (an attempt to protect themselves from further pain)
4. Holding the ears flat against the head
5. Increased licking of a painful/sensitive area
6. Decreased appetite
7. Reluctance to walk, run, climb stairs, jump, or play
8. Stiffness or limping
9. Lagging behind on walks or stopping altogether while on walks
10. Changes in personality
11. Increased panting and/or restlessness
(See https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/pain-management-for-dogs.)

Interestingly, vets may prescribe antidepressants for dogs, but not for depression. Rather, vets prescribe antidepressants to help with such problem behaviors as: extreme separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, acute anxiety, compulsive disorders, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (especially in older dogs), and urine marking. Antidepressants are not a substitute for re-training; they are usually prescribed for a short time so the dog’s anxiety level can be lowered sufficiently to allow for behavioral modification.

You can probably name most of the signs of doggie depression, but here are the major signs:
1. Low activity levels
2. Loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed
3. Change in eating habits, often eating substantially less (or not at all)
4. Increase in amount of time spent sleeping
5. Showing signs of anxiety or aggression through sporadic howling or whining
6. Excessive licking, especially of their paws
7. Flattening of the ears
8. Less interaction with other dogs
9. Regression in house and behavioral training
10. Bored or frustrated
11. Barking more or being hyperactive
12. Seeking more affection, almost demanding repeated and vigorous petting, scratching, loving words, etc.

If your vet has assured you that there is no medical reason for your dog’s apparent depression, you can do a few things to help your dog break free of the dumps:
1. Give your dog more attention (but do it in moderation so your dog can work through their emotions on their schedule) – just enough to reassure your dog that they are safe and loved;
2. Keep your dog active; walks and outdoor games can give them the physical boost in dopamine and serotonin that might help them to rebalance their brain chemistry;
3. Bring your dog to doggie socials. Dogs are very much social animals and a good romp with their canine counterparts may be just the ticket;
4. Be consistent: keep a regular routine – this will decrease your dog’s anxiety levels and reassure them that they need not get depressed over insecurities and uncertainties in their life; and
5 Do not reward your depressed dog with treats if they misbehave, whine or bark when told to stop, or manifest other negative misbehaviors; rewards will just confuse your dog and reinforce the very depression symptoms you want to reduce or eliminate.

With respect to older guide dogs, your guide might start manifesting some of these signs when it is getting near the time to retire. Other signs are: reluctance to get into harness, hesitation to climb aboard a vehicle, lack of focus on the job of guiding, repeated distractibility even after correction, inappropriate sociability, and just plain sitting and refusing to go any farther. It is important to pay attention to these signs because an old guide dog who should be retired could be a danger to itself and to you.

Acknowledging that your dog can become depressed and knowing the most common signs of doggie depression will help you to be more attuned to your dog’s moods and behaviors. An off day or two isn’t a reason for concern, but if your dog starts to manifest some of the signs listed above for more than a few weeks, it is probably time to take them to the vet and, depending on what your vet says, take some simple steps to help your dog banish the blahs.

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