It is hard to imagine that your energetic and affectionate furball can experience depression or anxiety. Your family dog is not enthusiastic to play fetch with you, unlike before. Instead of going for your daily walks, your pup will sulk in the corner with a forlorn expression. When you leave, they will bark persistently as if they are trying to stop you from getting out of the house.
Can dogs have depression?
Bonnie Beaver, DVM, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, reveals in her interview with WebMD that vets like her have no idea if pups can suffer from depression like us. She said, "It's hard to know because we can't ask them. But in clinical practice, there are few situations where that is the only explanation."
Causes of dog depression
Here are the possible causes of depression in dogs:
- Health problems may cause puppies to act depressed because they are in pain. However, they are not like us that will grimace or cry when something is wrong. It is in a canine's nature to conceal their feelings and find a hiding place when injured or sick.
- A loss of a human and animal companion may cause grief to dogs. Yes, your fur baby can grieve too. A loss not only means someone dies. It is also because your dog's favorite human or neighborhood dog moved away or went on a vacation.
- Change of scenery or environment can affect a typical bouncy pup. Changes like renovations, moving out, or even the weather.
- Fear or phobia can make a dog depressed. Like physical illness, your dog may conceal feeling scared because they don't want to show their vulnerability to others. Instead, they will withdraw from everyday activities to guard themselves.
Signs of depression in dogs
John Ciribassi, DVM, former president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, says in his interview with WebMD that the symptoms are the same as those in people. Here are the signs you should take note of:
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in behavior
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Loss of interest
- Excessive paw licking or chewing
- Hiding or spending more time alone
What is separation anxiety in dogs
Based on the definition from The Spruce Pets, separation anxiety "refers to the distress some dogs feel in the absence of a person (or sometimes another animal) to which they are exaggeratedly attached." It is like one of the causes of depression, which was mentioned above.
Hopefully, separation anxiety among dogs will not reach record levels, especially now that emotions are running high because of the pandemic. What would happen if you needed to return to your office to work? How would your fur baby feel about it?
Dog separation anxiety symptoms
Here are the tell-tale signs that your furry companion suffers from separation anxiety:
- They panic easily when you leave them alone at home.
- Neighbors always complain to you about your pup's incessant whining, howling or barking when you're gone.
- You find your belongings damaged by your dog when you get home.
- They tend to forget their house training when you're away.
- Your dog may be a bit hostile to you after you're gone for too long.
What should you do if your dog is suffering from depression or separation anxiety
For depressed dogs:
First, don't jump to conclusions that they are depressed or anxious when you're gone. Schedule a visit to your dog's favorite vet to check what their condition is. In this way, you will know how to deal with it.
If your pet is not emotionally ready to go to the vet, you may try boosting their mood by engaging them again in fun activities like playing games or short training sessions. Or try to bond with your dog through exercise like letting them join your morning jog.
For dogs with separation anxiety:
Stop yourself from petting your dog before you leave home. It is hard at first, but this is the way to show your pet that it is no big deal when you go outside your house.
If it can't be helped, you may also try introducing a new fur baby to keep them company while you're gone. But you have to make sure that your family is ready for another dog. And when we say family, that includes your fur baby.
Advice for new pet owners
Being a pet parent comes with serious responsibilities since it is like you're caring for a child. Don't adopt a family pet dog yet if you're not ready. Puppies don't just need food and shelter. They also need your attention, love, and companionship.
If you're always away because of work or have a globe-trotting lifestyle, make sure that someone else is willing to take care of your dog. By doing so, your pet will not feel abandoned or neglected, which is one of the triggers of depression or separation anxiety.
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