It’s true: Even dogs can get depressed.
But how do you tell if yours is having the blues?
Test it with these 19 dog depression symptoms.
In this article, you’ll discover:
- Depression symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
- What you can do to make a sad canine happy.
- Whether your dog is depressed or just being lazy.
- 5 practical tips on how to help them get out of depression.
- And many more…
Table of contents
- How do you know when your dog is depressed?
- Is my dog depressed quiz (19 dog depression symptoms)
- How to treat dog depression? 7 tips
- People also ask:
How do you know when your dog is depressed?
You’ll know your dog is depressed if they suddenly lose interest in fun things. And if they show changes in appetite or sleeping habits, start licking a lot, and become aggressive. They might also be clingy or withdrawn, destructive, less obedient, disoriented, compulsive, and quieter or more vocal.
Is my dog depressed quiz (19 dog depression symptoms)
Before we start:
There are 2 groups of dog depression symptoms.
- “Act fast dog depression symptoms.”
If your dog has any of these symptoms it’s best to consult with your vet ASAP.
- “Thou shall not worry too fast about dog depression symptoms.”
Is your dog showing multiple of these symptoms? Ok. Then it’s still a good idea to talk with your vet (especially when they’re mixed up with symptoms from the first group). However… is your dog experiencing 1 of these symptoms all of a sudden? Then it’s ok to wait before consulting your vet.
That being said, let’s dive right in…
“Act fast dog depression symptoms”
#1: Loss of appetite
Did you know that dogs and humans share similar genes?
One study found that gene similarity in both species relates to:
- Neurological processes.
This is why dogs suffer from some of the same diseases as humans. Plus the signs are similar too. This is the case with diabetes and breast cancer.
As well as mental illnesses. Such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.
So like humans, depressed dogs will also have reduced appetite.
They may start skipping meals or refuse to eat at all. And this is usually one of the first signs of an ailment.
So if you didn’t change your dog’s diet. Or if they were a hearty eater before…
This definitely raises the alarm.
What to do?
Consult your vet and continue motivating your dog to eat by:
- Giving them treats.
- Hand feeding them.
- Offering them irresistible snacks (e.g., boiled chicken bits, peanut butter).
#2: Less water intake
Next, check if your pooch is drinking enough water. Because a sad dog may also drink less than usual.
And this is more dangerous than refusing to eat.
Not drinking enough water for days can result in dehydration.
And a dog’s organs might collapse due to a lack of fluids in the body. Which might result in death.
“So how much water do canines need daily?”
For most dogs, PetMD’s estimate is around 1 oz (30 ml or ⅛ cup) per body weight.
So, a 50-lbs (23 kg) canine should drink at least 50 oz (1479 ml or 6 cups) a day.
Note: How to know if your dog is dehydrated or not? If they have moist gums and sparkling eyes, there’s nothing to worry about. As well as if you pull a part of their skin and it quickly returns to its natural state.
#3: Extreme weight loss
Following their refusal to eat and drink is, of course, shedding lots of mass.
VCA Hospitals say that it’ll be concerning if a dog loses more than 10% of their body weight.
For example, a 50-lbs (23 kg) hound sheds greater than 5 lbs (2.3 kg).
So, also pay attention to your dog’s weight and their appearance.
Do you always find your dog lying down throughout the day?
This is quite a tricky sign as they might just appear lazy. Or it may only seem like they need more rest.
But, depression can also make dogs suddenly calm.
So if you have an energetic pooch and they’re not being their usual selves…
Something might be wrong.
There could be a change in the environment and they find it hard to adjust. Or their body isn’t in good condition.
Apart from being depressed, they could also be hiding an injury or an illness. And they need immediate medical attention.
“What does this mean?”
It’s the term for loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. As it’ll be hard for them to find pleasure in anything.
This comes along with inactivity.
So a depressed dog who loves walking might refuse to go outside. And prefer to stay indoors and rest.
If they love catching frisbees in the yard, they may still play a bit.
But not as enthusiastic as before. And the same also goes for other activities they used to look forward to.
“Should I be alarmed?”
Some parents might overlook this as simply not being in the mood. Or getting bored with the same toy or game.
But, you know your dog well.
If they were once so excited about a nice walk or play, there could be something else. And also, if this lack of energy persists for days.
Note: Try holding out a snack or grabbing their leash. And see if these incite any reaction from your dog.
Check out also: Why Does My Dog Always Look Sad? 7 Real Reasons + 3 Tips
Dogs love to sleep.
However, a gloomy pooch might be even more inseparable from their bed.
Experts say that on average, an adult canine can sleep for 12 hours a day. While young and old dogs, as well as giant breeds, may rest more.
There’s also a thing called ‘loafing.’
Where they’re like a loaf of bread – all curled up on the floor. Awake, but just chilling. And this is an extra 30% of them doing nothing during a normal day.
“When should I be concerned?”
It’s natural for dogs to sleep after walking or playing.
But, if your pooch hasn’t been active lately. And they still lack the energy…
They might be depressed or trying to recover from an ailment.
Dr. Aronson says that oversleeping could also be a sign of:
- Valley fever.
- Lyme’s disease.
- Heartworm disease.
#7: Inability to remain at rest
If other depressed dogs will lie down a lot…
There are also some canines who won’t be able to stay still.
Due to their nerves, they’ll always be anxious. And even the slightest sounds or things could make them nervous.
So they may sleep less than usual. And in serious cases, they might not be able to function normally.
#8: Excessive grooming
Does your pooch lick themselves a lot?
Dogs don’t groom as much as cats.
So if they often lick their paws or limbs, they might be feeling under the weather. As they’re trying to soothe themselves.
- Dry skin.
- Joint issues.
- A foreign body stuck in their toes.
Warning: Too much licking could lead to open wounds or hot spots. And excess moisture in the skin may cause bacterial or yeast infections. So find the culprit and treat it immediately.
#9: Sudden aggression
Since a depressed dog will not be like their usual selves…
Some might also become irritable and snap when provoked.
This sudden change in behavior is alarming. Especially if you have a calm and well-behaved dog.
Aside from depression, this can also be a result of anxiety or dementia. Or because of pain due to:
- Thyroid problems.
Note: See a vet to rule out any medical condition. And seek a dog behaviorist or trainer to help you correct their behavior as early as possible.
“Thy shall not worry too fast dog depression symptoms”
#10: Increased appetite
Every dog is made different.
So in some cases, instead of eating less, other dogs might always be hungry.
This could be their own way of coping with stress. Like when people eat more snacks to make themselves feel better.
Other canines can be so food motivated as well. So you may not even notice that they’re having the blues.
“Should I be alarmed once they eat more?”
If this is a new behavior, yes. And if you’re also sure that you’re feeding your dog well based on their breed and size.
So monitor your dog more. Also, watch out for other symptoms they might show aside from this.
Because although it doesn’t look like it…
An increased appetite can also be one of the many signs of an illness. Such as:
- Intestinal cancer.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
#11: Becoming clingy
A dog in distress can also seek comfort in their humans.
So they’ll always stick by their parents’ side. Or will often paw at them for attention.
This is proven in a study about 159 dogs and 152 cats who lost a furry friend.
And according to the researchers, 74% of the canines have become clingier.
So if you have a cuddly pooch, they’ll be even needier this time.
Or if you have an aloof one, they may start asking for more snuggles. As they need your emotional support.
This is because physical contact with a loved one is said to be healing. Not only for humans but also for dogs.
But, it might be a different case for some…
#12: Distant behavior to everyone
Depression can also make dogs become withdrawn all of a sudden.
Just like humans, they could also avoid any social interactions. And even stay away from you – their favorite person on Earth.
So if your pooch has this, they’ll be not as excited when they see you arrive home.
Or not be as happy as before whenever they meet their furry pals.
#13: Staying in unusual places
Since depressed dogs may avoid everybody…
They’ll also find places where they can be alone in peace. And those could be areas where they don’t usually stay.
So if your dog suddenly does this and also refuses to eat (for example)…
There’s surely something that’s bothering them.
Read this article next: 13 Reasons Why Your Dog Sits In The Corner + Dangers & Tips
#14: Being suddenly destructive
A dog who’s having the blues can also show unwanted behavior.
This is because depression might also be caused by:
- Separation issues.
- Lack of stimulation.
- Less care and attention.
Due to these, they’ll have anxiety. And to release it, they need an outlet.
So they’ll take it out on other things instead. Say, chewing and destroying anything they see.
#15: House soiling
If your pooch is well-housetrained. Then all of a sudden, they started having accidents in the house…
It’s also a sign that there’s something happening with them.
Depression is one. As they may not have the energy to get up even in urgent situations.
But according to PetsWebMD, there could be other causes as well, like:
- Urine marking.
- Cushing’s disease.
- Separation anxiety.
You might also like: Why Is My Dog Suddenly Peeing A Lot (In The House)? 27 Tips
#16: Less obedient
Soiling in the house is only one part.
Because depressed dogs might also become stubborn. Or forget the things they did perfectly before.
Say, doing a command or behaving when asked.
But, this could also be a sign of other conditions. Like if you have a senior pooch, this might be due to a decline in memory.
Or if you have a pup aged 6 to 12 months, they may be in puberty. And now having a surge of hormones which can make them uncontrollable.
One common reason for depression in dogs is the loss of a parent or friend.
“Do dogs really mourn?”
VCA says they do.
This is a heartbreaking sight. But you’ve probably seen videos on the Internet where dogs stay next to their loved ones’ graves.
Because well, canines have emotions too. And they can also ‘love’ and become attached to someone.
So like humans, dogs will also find it hard to recover.
They’ll often wander around the house as if they’re looking for someone. And will go to places where their humans or furry pal usually stay.
Note: This is also a known sign of dog dementia. Along with staring blankly at the ceiling or walls.
#18: Compulsive behaviors
To relieve stress, depressed dogs can also develop odd habits.
They’ll do these frequently at random times. And there’s no obvious reason why they’re acting like that.
Some common examples:
- Chasing their tail.
- Following shadows or lights.
Specialists refer to these as signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). And they can be a result of a mental disorder like depression.
Dogs might have started doing these as a coping method. But then, they couldn’t control their behavior anymore.
Other possible causes of these are:
Note: If your dog doesn’t stop doing this by training. And they’re also starting to harm themselves, call a vet at once.
#19: Excessive noises
Dogs can make different sounds based on their emotions. Or the message they want to convey.
They’ll bark when frustrated. Howl when they’re left alone. Whine when they want something. Or sigh when disappointed.
So depressed dogs might also become more vocal. They can howl and whine more. And they’ll do it to express themselves.
But, this may also be due to joint pains or injuries. So other signs to watch out for are:
- Crying while strolling.
- Whining when picked up.
Note: Some dogs may not also have the energy to make any sounds. So they’ll just spend their day lying down and being quiet. Wanna know more? Check this article.
How to treat dog depression? 7 tips
#1: Expose them to more sunlight
Guess what, dogs can also suffer from winter blues.
Or seasonal affective disorder, a.k.a SAD. And it has the same signs as depression.
It’s when canines sleep more and become less motivated.
And Stanley Coren, a famous psychologist, says it’s due to the lack of the hormone serotonin.
“What does sunlight have to do with this?”
Well, the release the hormones melatonin and serotonin is related to sunshine.
First, melatonin is produced when it’s dark.
This makes dogs sleepy. So less or no sunlight will produce more of this. Resulting in inactivity and oversleeping.
On the other hand, sunshine is needed to make serotonin. A ‘feel-good’ hormone that affects the mood and appetite of canines.
Like what we usually get by eating our comfort food. Such as ice cream and chocolate.
But dogs shouldn’t have things like these. So the best way for them to get that feeling it is by exposing themselves to more sunlight.
What to do?
- Place your dog’s bedding near openings.
- Roll up your window curtains to let in more sunlight.
- Always take your dog for walks. Preferably 8 to 10 am to get safe morning sunshine. Because later than this can be too hot for their (and also our) skin.
“What if my dog refuses to go?”
For pups and small dogs: Pick them up and distract them with treats/toys. Then stay outside where there’s light for up to 20 minutes.
For bigger dogs: Try to lure them outside with a yummy treat (e.g., boiled chicken). Or their favorite toy.
If they go out, don’t force them to go any further.
Just stick by their side and continue distracting them. And do this in less than 20 minutes or so.
#2: Provide extra TLC
Sunlight can only do so much, so pair it with additional tender loving care.
Depressed dogs are emotionally unstable. So they need support from their humans.
So give your pooch more attention and time. Say, groom their fur frequently. Or talk to your dog and caress them softly.
Remember that too much of anything (even good things) is bad.
So strive for balance. And give them time to be alone as well.
Note: If your dog becomes withdrawn, petting them may not be a good idea. So you can try the next tip instead.
#3: Engage them in pleasurable activities
First, what do you need for this?
Having lots of patience. As well as paying close attention to your dog.
Getting them back on track might be hard…at first. But if you’re persistent (not in a forceful way), you’ll start to see some changes in them.
So, what activities has your dog loved to do before?
Is it hiking? Playing fetch? Tug-of-war?
Think about the things they used to enjoy in the past. And try to engage them in any of those.
But, spice it up a bit to increase your chances of attracting them.
For example, you can buy a new toy for them to catch. Or a different rope for your dog to tug.
Keep showing them new things and fun activities. And talk to them in your best ‘dog voice.’
Note: If you see any positive reaction from your dog (no matter how small it is), praise them. And give them rewards. May it be wagging their tail for a good few seconds. Or stomping their feet twice due to excitement.
#4: Give them vet-prescribed antidepressants
Like I said earlier…
Dogs’ brains are somewhat similar to humans.’
So research shows that some mental disorders can be cured by human medications.
Especially when it comes to anxiety and depression.
One common drug used for this is Prozac. But, it’s usually given to dogs who have serious cases. Or if no natural remedies seem to work for them.
And what I mean by ‘serious’ are having:
- A past trauma.
- Long-term depression.
- Difficulty in functioning.
Other possible medications according to vets are:
- Clomicalm (mostly used for separation anxiety).
“How long will they take meds?”
The same experts say that it can take 2 months before you see the efficacy.
But in most cases, dogs will recover within 6 to 12 months of treatment. Unlike humans who need to be on meds for years.
Note: Have your dog checked by a vet to know the suitable treatment plan for them.
#5: Consider natural supplements
There are also 2 natural ways that are proven to help reduce depression in dogs.
What are those?
I’ll tackle each of them.
Fish oil supplements
Experts say that these contain omega-3. Or fatty acids that help in:
- Brain development.
- Improving the immune system.
- Keeping their coat and skin healthy.
Aside from these…
Omega-3 can also regulate the release of cytokines. Or proteins that play a part in depression based on research.
These could enter the brain and affect the central nervous system. As well as reduce the level of serotonin.
The hormone I mentioned earlier that controls their:
- Sleeping cycle.
Dogs can’t make these important fatty acids on their own.
So ask your vet about this to know the right dosage and brand to use. As there are many options available in the market.
“Healthy tummy, happy mind.”
A recent study found that probiotics aren’t only good for the stomach…
But also for improving an animal’s mood.
It can help in lessening anxiety and signs of depression. As well as in protecting the mind from chronic stress.
This was said to be due to their effect on the immune system. Because the gut is the home of serotonin.
And it also helps in preventing inflammation inside the body. That’s studied to be connected to depression.
Note: These will be effective alongside medications and management of their stress.
You might also be interested in: 19 Proven Ways To Calm Your Anxious Dog (How-To Guide)
#BONUS: Maintain a regular schedule for them
Depressed dogs may also be anxious due to sudden changes in their environment.
So what can you do to take away some of their worries?
Having a daily routine.
Any slight irregularities might cause your dog to feel unsafe and worry more.
So it’s best to stick to a schedule.
And let them know what they’re going to expect in a day. From start (walking hours) to finish (sleeping time).
People also ask:
How do you tell if your dog is depressed or just lazy?
You can tell if your dog is depressed or just lazy by luring them into activities they usually enjoy. If these don’t excite them anymore and they give no interest, they might have depression. Because lazy dogs may get up from a sleep with the right motivation (treats and fun activities).
You could also tell if they’re hiding or avoiding people and other canines. This is because depressed dogs may withdraw from any interactions.
And this will happen for days. As well as excessive vocalizations – such as whining and howling.
For further reading: Why is my dog so lazy?
How do you cheer up a depressed dog?
You can cheer up a depressed dog by inviting them to fun activities and taking them out for morning walks.
It’s also best to spend more time with them. And give them extra care and attention.
But, there are also some dogs who may not like cuddles. So respect their personal bubble and avoid smothering them.
Instead, show your care in other ways. Say, offering their favorite treats or buying them new toys.
Don’t forget to check out: 13 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Suddenly Sad + 9 Tips To Fix It