Pet Depression

Understanding depression in pets.
Mar 7, 2024

Our pets are not just animals; they are cherished companions who bring joy and warmth to our lives. However, just like humans, they can experience mental health challenges and depression is one such issue that can affect our pets. In this blog post, we touch on the nuances of pet depression, from identification and causes to practical tips on reducing and resolving it.

First and foremost, it is essential to check for underlying disease in your pet.  Depression can often be a secondary symptom of a greater medical issue.  

BE SURE TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE VILLAGE VET TODAY

Identifying Pet Depression

Identifying depression in pets can be challenging, as they cannot communicate their feelings verbally. However, there are subtle signs that may indicate your pet is struggling emotionally.  These symptoms are usually habit related (rather than behavioural which relates to anxiety, see below).

  • Changes in Eating Habits: A sudden decrease or increase in appetite.
  • Lack of Interest in Activities: Disinterest in play, walks, or other activities they once enjoyed.
  • Withdrawal: Avoidance of social interactions with both humans and other pets.
  • Sleeping Patterns: Excessive sleeping or difficulty in settling down.

A Note About Anxiety

Anxiety shows itself in pet behaviours (rather than habits, which relate to depression as detailed above).

  • Destructive behaviours:  chewing beds, stealing clothing etc.
  • Pacing, panting, hiding or trembling.
  • Escaping.
  • Barking, howling or growling.
  • Etc.

Anxiety vs Depression

While anxiety does not always lead to depression, one might lead to the other when behaviours resulting from anxiety force a change of circumstances in your pet’s life, which results in a depressed animal.  Some examples might include:

  • If a dog fearfully bites another dog on a walk, their owner is less likely to take the dog on walks in the future. 
  • If a dog chews up all their bedding, then they don’t have a bed to lie on anymore, and it might not be replaced if they keep destroying them and may be kept outside the house. 
  • If a dog bites visitors who come over to the house, the owner is more likely to spend more time away from the house to socialise with people. 
  • If a dog is aggressive or won’t sit still at the vet, they are more difficult to treat and less likely to be treated. 
  • If a dog barks all day in the backyard, the dog is more likely to be rehomed.

Understanding the Causes of Pet Depression

Several factors can contribute to pet depression and recognizing the root cause is crucial for effective intervention:

  • Loss or Change in Routine: The loss of a companion, a change in the household, or alterations in their routine can trigger feelings of sadness.
  • Health Issues: Underlying health problems, chronic pain or discomfort can manifest as depression in pets.
  • Environmental Stress: Loud noises, changes in living arrangements or a lack of mental stimulation can lead to depression.

Reducing Pet Depression

Addressing and reducing pet depression involves creating a positive and supportive environment:

  • Quality time: Spend more time engaging in activities your pet enjoys, such as playtime, walks or simply cuddling.
  • Stimulating environment: Provide toys, puzzles and activities to keep your pet mentally and physically stimulated.  Browse the web for some suggestions you think your pet would like, you know them best.
  • Routine and predictability: Establishing a consistent routine can provide a sense of security and stability.

Resolving Pet Depression

Resolving pet depression requires patience and a multifaceted approach:

  • Veterinary consultation: Schedule a visit to the veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.
  • Professional training: Enlist the help of a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist to address behavioural concerns.
  • Medication: In severe cases, particularly if anxiety is evident, your veterinarian may recommend medication to alleviate symptoms and support recovery.

Conclusion

Understanding and addressing pet depression is a testament to our commitment to the well-being of our beloved companions. By identifying the signs, recognizing potential causes and implementing positive changes, we can create an environment where our pets can thrive emotionally. 

By focusing on reducing fear, anxiety and stress in our dog’s lives, we can help them live a happy and functional life.  Happy and relaxed dogs are also easy to live with and ensuring good mental health in your dogs really is win-win. 

Remember, a little extra love, attention, and care can go a long way in brightening the spirits of our beautiful pets.

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