Is My Dog Depressed?

How to pull her out of a funk 🐶

depressed dog with cloud over his head

Has your usually energetic pup suddenly become withdrawn and uncharacteristically sleepy?

Is she just not acting like herself, and you know in your heart that something’s up?

While you’re busy trying to figure out what’s going on, you might even consider that she’s somehow depressed — but can dogs experience depression?

And if so — how do you help pull them out of a funk?

To find out more about depression in dogs, The Dodo spoke to Dr. Zay Satchu, cofounder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet in New York City.

Do dogs get depressed?

“Dogs can experience depression, though it is not the same as in humans,” Dr. Satchu told The Dodo.

And according to Dr. Satchu, it’s important to keep in mind that even if your dog appears to be depressed — meaning she’s displaying classic signs that you associate with human depression — there could be a variety of reasons behind her unusual behavior that have nothing to do with depression.

Typically, Dr. Satchu said, if your dog appears depressed, there’s likely some sort of medical reason why her mood’s changed, like she’s not feeling well and is in pain — or is even overweight and lacking energy.
 
That’s why it’s always best to schedule a vet visit if you notice any behavior changes in your pup.

Emotional reasons for depression in dogs

“Outside of medical origin, dogs can appear depressed if they are grieving the loss or absence of another pet or of a human,” Dr. Satchu said. 

So it’s important for you to think about what changes may have occurred in her life recently that could make her feel down.

  • Did you just get a new house?
  • Did her favorite human move out?
  • Did her furry brother pass away?
If any of these life changes happened, that could be the reason behind why she’s gloomy. 

But make sure you chat with your vet regardless in order to rule out any medical reasons. 

Signs your dog is depressed

According to Dr. Satchu, if your dog is depressed she might appear to have many of the same symptoms that human depression can cause.
  • She can appear sad and withdrawn
  • She might have a lack of appetite
  • Her sleeping habits might change
  • She may appear less energetic
  • She may not participate in activities you know she loves
“It is very important if you are noticing these things to first discuss with your veterinarian, as there can be many other medical causes of lower energy,” Dr. Satchu said.

Should you give your dog antidepressants?

According to Dr. Satchu — in the case of true depression — probably not.

“It is actually very rare to see antidepressants being prescribed for the diagnosis of depression in dogs,” Dr. Satchu said. “We do utilize SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) in dogs, such as Prozac for example. However, in dogs these are usually prescribed for conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorders, separation anxiety, generalized anxiety and types of aggression.”

So while antidepressants are used on dogs, they tend to be used for other reasons.

“Overall, behavioral medicine (just as in humans) is incredibly complex and detailed, and if you believe your pet requires behavioral intervention, it is highly recommended to speak with a veterinary behaviorist, or to at least spend the time having a detailed discussion with your vet,” Dr. Satchu recommended.

So what should you do if your dog appears depressed?

Since it’s possible that your pup appearing depressed is actually related to a physical issue, Dr. Satchu suggests that your first stop is the vet.

If your vet determines that there are no underlying health issues, they may recommend helping to pull your pup out of her funk by increasing stimulation at home with games, toys and exercise.

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