Much like humans, depression and anxiety can affect our canine companions. Today, our Fort Pierce vets share what symptoms to look for and how to help your dog feel better.
Dog are intelligent creatures who, like humans, experience a range of emotions. Much like their human friends, dogs can also suffer from anxiety and depression.
What causes a dog to feel depressed or anxious?
A major change or a stressful event can affect a dog's life and sometimes bring on symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.
For example, the loss of their owner or a companion animal, or even a sense of grief being experienced by those around them, can all affect a dog's overall emotions.
Big life changes, such as a move to a new house, a new baby, or a new pet may also have an impact on a dog's emotions. Generally, any significant change to your dog’s daily routine may bring on symptoms of depression or anxiety.
How do I know if my dog has depression?
The symptoms of depression in dogs are similar to those experienced by people. Although they range individually, there are some common signs that your dog could be depressed.
Common symptoms include low activity levels, a loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed, and a change in eating and/or sleeping habits.
Some dogs may also show signs of aggression, including uncharacteristic howling or whining.
How do I know if my dog has anxiety?
Dogs can show signs of anxiety as well including tucking their tails, hiding, being less active, and passive escape behaviors. They may also exhibit signs of panic such as 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?
Luckily, there is the good news that dogs can often overcome depression and/or anxiety on their own. Depending on the dog and the situation, this process can take days to months. Regardless of the source, love and care from their caretakers, and guidance from your veterinarian if needed can help your pet feel more like themselves again.
Pet owners can try the following techniques:
- Pay more attention to your dog, ensuring that you reward signs of happiness (e.g. a wagging tail)
- 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 suited to your dog's temperament.
Depending on the severity of their symptoms it is possible that your veterinarian could prescribe anti-anxiety medication as well as recommend behavior management techniques.
Sometimes, signs of 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.