What causes depression and anxiety in dogs?
Similar to their people, dogs can suffer from depression and anxiety as they are also intelligent creatures who can experience a range of emotions. If a dog experiences a major change or depression event in his or her life, this can sometimes lead to symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.
For example, if an owner or a companion animal passes away, or your pup senses grief being experienced by those around them, this can have an impact on their overall emotions.
Significant life changes such as a new baby, new pet or a move to a new house can also affect a dog's emotions. In general, any notable change to your dog's daily routine might bring on signs of depression or anxiety.
How do I know if my dog has depression?
Symptoms of depression in dogs are similar to those you might be familiar with in people.
Common symptoms include a loss of interest in things they once enjoyed, a change in eating and/or sleeping habits and low activity levels. Some dogs may also display signs of aggression, including uncharacteristic whining or howling.
How do I know if my dog has anxiety?
Signs of anxiety in dogs may include trembling, tail-tucking, hiding, reduced activity and passive escape behaviors. They may also experience signs of panic including panting, pacing and active escape behavior.
Physical symptoms of anxiety in dogs may include sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity, like diarrhea, or lesions causing them to lick or bite their own body.
How can I help treat my dog's depression or anxiety?
The good news is that dogs can often overcome depression and/or anxiety on their own. Depending on the dog and the situation, it can take days to months. No matter what, the love and care of their owners, and sometimes some guidance from your veterinarian, can help them overcome the blues. Your veterinarian may spot symptoms during a routine exam or clues may reveal themselves when the veterinarian asks about their home life and routines.
Pet owners can try the following techniques:
- Offer your dog more attention. But wait until you see some signs of happiness, like a wagging tail, and reward them for that behavior.
- Keep your dog active with regular walks, playtimes, and other activities you know they enjoy.
- If your dog's symptoms are related to the loss of an animal companion, consider getting another pet or start socializing them with other pets.
Depending on the severity of their symptoms your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-anxiety medication as well as recommend behavior management techniques.
In some cases, depression and/or anxiety may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition in a dog. If your pet has not recently experienced a major life change or distressing event, talk to your veterinarian about what else could be troubling them.