Like people, dogs are social creatures; and like their human counterparts, they can sometimes become depressed. Symptoms of depression are usually pretty easy to spot, especially if your dog is generally energetic. A depressed pooch will become withdrawn and listless. He will be uninterested in his favorite activities. He may refuse to eat or drink, and he may even hide in secluded spaces.
Before you take your dog to the doctor for anti-depressants (yes, they prescribe these for dogs), consider your dog’s lifestyle.
Dogs need predictability and structure, but they also need exercise and rewards for good behavior. When you first notice that your dog is becoming listless, try going on more walks and being more active together. Also, make sure that others in the household aren’t doling out too many punishments or treating the animal harshly.
Because dogs are pack animals, they thrive on relationships. They are inherently communal and can find it unnerving to be left alone. If you have a busy, unpredictable schedule – like a college student or anyone who has more than one job – you may need to consider whether you can realistically give your pet the attention he needs to be happy.
Just because he’s sleeping doesn’t mean he’s happy. If your young dog is sleeping all the time, he may have resigned himself to being alone. Dogs need physically and mental stimulation to be happy; and this means a crated dog needs designated times for activity. Any crated dog will have pent up energy that needs to be expended, and reprimanding a dog for this energy may have serious negative effects.
Dogs are also very sensitive to change. If you have moved recently or had a child, a dog could be going through an adjustment period. In this situation, continue your favorite activities as often as possible to keep your dog active.
When an owner or a pet companion passes away, dogs often show signs of depression. Though this could be a response to the dog’s relationship to the deceased, it could also be a reflection of the overall grief in the household.
In a Web MD article, Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, explained that dogs are sensitive to human emotions. “Dogs pick up on our emotions, so if the owner has died, the dog could be responding to the grief of others.”
Beaver says another possibility is that the dog could be receiving a less attention, which is causing stress.
If your dog is showing symptoms of depression, take him to your vet for a check-up. There could be other factors behind your dog’s altered behavior. If your dog does need anti-depressants, you can expect him to recover within 6 months to one year.