Yes, dogs do get depressed — here’s why and what you can do
By Kimberly Blaker, May 2020 Issue.
As most dog owners
will attest, dogs do feel a range of emotions. They may not experience sadness
quite the same as humans because dogs lack self-consciousness. But they can
experience anxiety and depression, says Dr. Carlo Siracusa at the University of
Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, in “Do Dogs Feel Sadness?” by Kate
The development of dogs’ emotions is
equivalent to that of a two or two-and-a-half-year-old child, according to
researchers. So the sadness they experience is less complex than that in human
adults. For example, human adults can feel sad or depressed as a result of
ruminating about their failures, imperfections, or something they did or didn’t
do. Since dogs, like very young children, lack self-consciousness, they don’t
experience this type of sadness. Nonetheless, dogs can experience sadness or
get depressed for a variety of other reasons.
depression in dogs
Because dogs are
social animals, receiving a lack of attention, or being left alone for long
periods, can affect their mental health. When dogs are confined to a crate or
bathroom for extended hours, it can lead to depression. So allow your dog to
spend as much time with family as possible.
Similarly, a lack of exercise can also
cause depression. This can be particularly problematic for pets that are crated
or confined to small areas for many hours at a time. While crate training for
puppies is beneficial for housebreaking, they should never be crated for more
than four hours at a time without an extended break.
Once your puppy is housebroken, a crate can provide a cozy spot for your dog with the crate left open. But dogs need companionship, exercise, and stimulation, which they cannot experience in a crate. So as your dog grows, limit confinement and when it is necessary, preferably to a larger room.
Also, find out how much and what types of
exercise are appropriate for your dog’s breed and age, and make sure your dog
regularly gets the exercise it needs.
Another cause of depression in dogs is when
a family member is depressed. Recent studies have found dogs recognize human
emotions. In May 2012, a study was
published in the Animal Cognition journal. The study found dogs
responded more strongly when people were crying as opposed to talking or
humming. In this case, the best remedy may be to get treatment for yourself or
the depressed family member, which should alleviate your dog’s sadness.
Dogs also experience depression when they
lose a family member, whether it’s another pet or human companion. Sometimes
dogs improve if a new pet is introduced, but not always. When a dog loses its
owner, this can be particularly devastating.
interesting 2013 study was reported by CBS News online. In “Study: Dogs bond
with owners similar to babies with parents.» Researchers observed that the
“secure base effect” phenomenon that›s experienced by babies also occurs in
dogs. Like babies, dogs are more likely to interact with things and other
people when they feel the secure presence of their caregivers. If your dog has
lost a beloved family member or caregiver, those closest to your dog should
intervene and give it extra love and attention.
of depression in dogs is punishment. Animal behaviorists say when dogs are
repeatedly punished with shock collars or other physical means, dogs come to
feel helpless. Not only can it cause aggression in dogs, but it can also cause
dogs to withdraw. The best method for training dogs is with rewards for
positive behavior. This is not only better for their emotional health, but it’s
also more effective.
Finally, certain medical conditions, such
as thyroid problems, can cause depression. If your dog is depressed, and
especially if there’s no apparent reason for it, have your dog checked out by
dog is depressed
The most common
symptoms of dog depression are similar to those in humans. They include:
• sleeping more
• withdrawal or
• loss of interest
• loss of interest
in things it previously enjoyed, or inactivity
licking, particularly of their paws
(in more severe cases, often related to separation) anxiety
What to do
if your dog is depressed
First, if you suspect any of the reasons above is causing your dog’s depression, try to remedy the situation that’s causing it. This will often resolve your dog’s sadness. But if your dog doesn’t improve, an antidepressant can help, particularly in anxious dogs. Dogs are prescribed many of the same antidepressants as humans. But always talk with your veterinarian before giving one to your dog.