How Do You Know if Your Dog is Depressed?

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A Brief History

In around 127-116 B.C. a Roman farmer wrote about  his advice on raising and training puppies for herding livestock.  People have been reporting on methods of training and raising dogs ever since.  Today, more than 2,000 years later, dog psychologists explore how depression can affect pets as much as humans.  You can learn about the most common signs and symptoms of depression in dogs and how to treat them, essential knowledge for dog psychologists and pet owners alike.

Have you ever heard of depression in dogs?  Has it occurred to you that your dog might be depressed?  If your answer to both of these questions is no, you are not alone, as many dog owners are not aware that their dogs are capable of falling into depression. just as with people, dogs have their times  when they undergo depression. With this said, the real question would be how to tell your dog may be depressed.

This concept is fairly new for many dog owners, though veterinary doctors agree that it is possible to detect whether your dog is undergoing depression.  Depression can affect pets as much as humans, and dogs are easily overwhelmed by living with their owners, with constant stress and fatigue.

Read on to learn about the most common signs and symptoms of depression in dogs and how to treat them.

Digging Deeper: Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Here are some common signs to look out for;

Has Your Dog Changed Its Eating Habits?  

Do you notice a change in the way that your dog eats? Is there anything different in your dog’s feeding patterns? A change in the eating patterns of your dog may be a sign of depression for you or your dog.  (By a change in the feeding pattern we refer to the general quantities of food that the dog eats and how quickly he eats it.  A normally fast eater might take his time and poke around with his food.  This is a sign of depression.)

We are not referring to the dog starting to enjoy a different snack from usual. The change may be for the better or a turn for the worst. A dog that used to eat a certain portion of food then suddenly cuts on the food quantity likely has depression.

Changes in eating patterns are a classic symptom of depression in humans, and in this way dogs are quite similar.

Many individuals who suffer from depression have difficulties eating. The difficulties are as a result of lack of appetite and the general reduction in food intake. Favorite foods just seem to lose their appeal.  Dogs are not any different.

Depression may have profound effects on the feeding patterns and consumption levels so much that you can easily notice. When you witness such a change in your dog, it is advisable that you book an appointment with a veterinarian for further advice.

Changes in Sleeping Patterns

Difficulty sleeping is a common human sign of depression or other ailment, and again, dogs exhibit the same symptom.  Is your dog having difficulty  sleeping? Does your dog spend most of his time awake and without following his normal routines? This is not be a good sign!  Dogs generally have their own sleeping patterns and are generally creatures of habit.  Most dog owners can readily tell when that sleeping pattern and habits have changed.  Canine sleeping patterns develop either through training or as an expression of the general nature of your dog.

Bottom line:  Dogs have their own sleeping times, lengths of sleep and their favorite spots for sleeping.  Again, they exhibit regular habits.

A change in any of these usual behviors may signify that your dog may be depressed. Depression in human beings may cause a person to have continuous thoughts that deter them from having a good night sleep.  While we are not sure about the thoughts dogs have, it does appear that mental/emotional stress, such as depression, can affect a dog’s sleep patterns in a similar way to humans.

At times, even normal daytime naps become a problem. One of the major effects of depression in dogs as well as people is insomnia.  Dogs undergoing depression seem agitated and definitely not calm. They seem overwhelmed by their surroundings and what goes on around them.   The lack of calmness and change of activity prevents dogs from having normal naps and sleeping through the night.

Most veterinarians, therefore, conclude that the lack of sleep and a change in sleeping patterns of your dog may signify that your dog is undergoing depression. You should consider visiting the veterinarian when you notice such changes for a solution.

The General Loss of Interest

Most of the dog owners can attest that dogs are playful and have high activity levels. Dogs prefer always being on the go with little breaks once in a while. Other dogs may even prefer being always active. Such high levels of activities differentiate the dogs from all the other types of pets.

The cats, for instance, may prefer chilling rather than playing all through. When your dog suddenly loses interest in playing, running around, going for walks or any other outdoor activities, there is a reason to worry.

Many veterinarians argue that the reduction in the activities of dogs beyond the normal levels is a clear sign that the dog is undergoing depression. However, the veterinarians go ahead and clarify that such changes do not mean that the only possible problem of the dog is depression.

There might be other problems associated with the loss of interest, but depression tops the list.

The lack of inactivity of your dog should always worry you as it’s not in the nature of dogs to stay inactive. Does your dog show signs of reduced inactivity? Consider taking him/ her to the veterinarian for a checkup.

Sudden Onset of Aggression

Generally, dogs have their own standard levels of aggression. The standard levels of aggression depend on the dog’s surroundings, upbringing and the general nature of the dog. When there is a sudden change in the aggression levels of your dog, you need to worry.

Sudden changes and onset of aggression are two of the easiest ways of determining whether a dog is depressed.

A depressed dog tends to pull away from people and their fellow dogs. Efforts to bring it back together with the other dogs or getting close to it may trigger a reaction. Such a reaction may vary in intensity.

The variation in the intensity may be a measure of depression in dogs.  When the reaction is not too bad, the dog may have minor issues such as lack of sleep or hunger. When the reaction is bad, then it is obvious that the dog’s problem is psychological.

The most predominant psychological problem in dogs is depression. When you notice such onsets of aggression, consider visiting the veterinary doctor for a specific diagnosis.

Paw Licking

Does your dog lick its paws excessively? Dogs at times enjoy paw licking or chewing, which is normal. However, excessive paw licking is not a good sign. Dogs that lick their paws excessively are trying to soothe themselves. The urge of a dog to soothe itself comes from having psychological problems.

When you notice that your dog keeps licking its paws, this is a sign that your dog has a psychological problem. The most obvious problem would be depression. Pay the veterinarian a visit for a better diagnosis of your dog’s condition.

Digging Deeper: Treating Depression in Dogs

Having outlined the signs of depression in dogs, it is important to outline the ways to treat depression in your dogs. Treatment of depression is straightforward since it is a psychological problem.

As a dog owner, there are a number of treatment methods. Here are four of the most effective treatments for canine depression.

Take Your Dog for a Walk

Most dog owners do not know how far a simple walk with their dog can go a long way in making the dog happy. Most dogs undergoing depression prefer having free surroundings where they can go to breathe some fresh air and enjoy a little sunshine.  Exercise and the stimulation of a change of scenery and enjoying different smells along the way give a dog great pleasure.

Such a simple act as walking your dog will boost their mood and cheer them up. If all it takes for your dog to give a tail wag is a simple walk down the block, then go for it.

Keeping Your Dog Engaged

Keeping your dog engaged draws its attention away from the factors that make it have psychological issues. Engaging your dog makes it more playful and active thereby boosting its mood. If your dog likes playing throw and catch, then spare some time of your day and play with it.

Give your dog a treat every time it succeeds in a task that you give it. Awarding the dog for its efforts makes it feel more appreciated hence easy for it to overcome its psychological problem. You will probably find playing with your dog improves your mood as well!  Can treating depression in dogs get any easier?

Give Your Dogs Some Exercise

Most veterinary doctors encourage dog owners to give their dogs exercise. The body exercises not only help the dog in keeping fit and healthy but may also be a treatment solution for depression.  People and dogs both benefit mentally and emotionally from getting physical exercise, so participating in your dog’s exercise may help you too!

Without movement and activity, the body purification system of your dog remains in a dormant state. An easy way to counter such a state is to exercise. While selecting the exercises for your dog, ensure that the exercise appears purposeful for the dog.

If the dog does not have a goal or a target, participating in the exercise would be a problem. Focus on ensuring that your dog remains interested in the exercises for better results.

Giving Your Dog Hemp Oil and CBD Treats

An alternative treatment for your dog would be giving your dog CBD for dogs with depression. The same way that hemp oil treats depression in humans is the same way CBD and hemp oil help in the treatment of depression in dogs.  CBD contains compounds that help human beings as well as dogs to reduce anxiety and feel at ease.  Such peaceful levels help people and dogs to reduce their chances of falling into depression.  CBD infused treats can also help in boosting the mood of your dog, making your dog more active and improving its eating and sleeping habits.

Still in Doubt About the Reality of Depression in Dogs?

The sad reality is dogs do undergo depression. Depression in dogs is rampant, but we humans often do not notice it. There are a number of signs and symptoms that help in noticing depression in dogs.  The ones listed above are the most prominent. Knowing how to treat depression in dogs is also essential for every dog owner.

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you have a dog?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Hommes, Daniels.  CBD OIL FOR DOG ANXIETY: Comprehensive Guide on Using CBD Oil in Curing Pain, Anxiety & Depression in Dogs.  Independently published, 2019.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Nutcracker100 of a depressed Havanese dog, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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