Humans aren’t the only ones that can get depressed. Depression is something that can affect a wide variety of animals. Be it dogs, cats, horses or even your pet hamster, and it’s important to identify the signs of depression and how to combat it. No one truly knows if dogs are affected by depression in the same way that humans do, but after thousands of years spent domesticating dogs and breeding them, the human race has identified that dogs can feel sad just like humans, and there are ways to cheer up our furry friends to help them live happier lives.
What causes depression?
Depression in dogs can be caused by a number of different factors. The first major factor would be changes to your dog’s lifestyle. This can include changes in their diet, changes in the environment, or the absence of family members, such as a teenager moving away into a college dorm. Dogs don’t seem to like change very much, which is why they can feel depressed when changes are made to their situation. Dogs can also detect grief in human beings or other animals around them. For instance, if you’re suffering from an illness or an accident, then your dog will usually come over and try cheer you up. If they sense that something bad has happened, such as a burglary or an argument among family members, then dogs tend to shy away and feel sad or upset at the situation.
Dogs can also feel depressed if they stop feeling loved. If you work extra hours during a week and spend less time with your canine companion, then they’ll feel as if you’ve abandoned them and might be sad as a result. If you’ve recently had a baby, then your dog could feel left out when you start giving your children more attention. Much like human beings, dogs can also feel depressed after suffering a debilitating injury. Pain affects dogs much like it affects human beings, and the trauma can be long-lasting if not dealt with professionally.
There are also times when a dog will feel depressed as a symptom of something else, such as an underlying health condition or anxiety when you bring in a new puppy. Mental health issues need to be examined by an experienced veterinarian in order to get the best help possible. However, if you haven’t detected anything abnormal in your dog’s health, then it might just be a temporary setback and they might recover from it in a few days and with a little bit more attention.
Keep a record of changes
Any experienced dog owner will tell you that it’s important to record changes you’ve made to your dog’s lifestyle and relate them to any behavioural changes. This helps you easily identify any problems that might have occurred as a result of something you’ve done. For instance, if your dog has stopped eating or is eating too much, then take a look at what changes you have personally made. Have you changed the food your dog eats on a regular basis? Is it because the dog food bowl is dirty? Are they getting the same amount of water? Or perhaps they’re exercising and working out more and thus need a little more food to make up for the energy expenditure.
A good way to keep track of these changes is to keep a diary. Simply write down any major behavioural changes you’ve seen in your dog and also take a note of any impactful changes you’ve personally made that could affect your dog. This diary will also come in handy for when you approach the veterinarian about your dog’s issues.
Do your research
Since you’re already reading this guide, it’s a good start. However, you want to visit informative dog websites such as the aptly-named Top Dog Tips if you want to learn more about your canine friend. If you need professional advice, then consider speaking to your veterinarian and asking if there are any sources of information they personally recommend. Books, magazines, blogs and even online communities are all excellent choices for learning more about your dog. Remember that experience usually trumps advice that is given to you because every dog acts differently, so take what people say with a grain of salt. When in doubt, always seek a registered professional.
Give your dog more attention
Unless you can’t possibly give your dog more attention, showing them a little more affection is a great way to cheer them up. If your dog is in the room or close by, then try not to praise someone else such as a baby or a child. Your dog can easily get depressed and jealous if you start giving others more attention, so pay close attention to their happiness. Just remember that dogs are social animals and they need someone to play and interact with or else they’ll feel lonely and sad. Getting another dog can help if you can’t spend too much time playing with your pet. However, if your dog becomes more depressed as a result of introducing another one into the family, then you should ensure you can take it back to the breeder or pet store.
Buy them new toys
Much like our children, dogs love playing with toys. Be it something simple such as a squeaky toy or a ball, make sure you give your dog new toys every now and then and check the condition of the ones they are currently using. If they love a certain toy, then try to replace it every now and then to keep it in good condition. If you find that they stop playing with certain toys, throw them out to make more room for newer toys. If possible, purchase something that you can both use to increase the amount of interaction you have with your dog. This could be a special ball, a chew toy that you can also hold, or even a frisbee. If the toys are interactive and you’re trying to make your dog catch something, then remember to bring some homemade dog treats to reward them.