Depression in dogs can be difficult to diagnose but it is believed that dogs do suffer from depression. Depression can lead to weight loss or gain, lethargy, and multiple behavioral problems. For more information about the symptoms of depression in dogs, go to What are Dog Depression Symptoms?
How Dog Depression is Treated
There are many ways to treat depression in dogs. You can categorize most treatments as being either pharmaceutical (using drugs) or non-pharamceutic (natural or not using drugs).
Before you decide on a treatment, it is important to understand why your dog is depressed. Learn more about the causes of depression with this article Dog Depression: How to Spot it and Treat it. It is also important to consider your dog’s daily schedule, reasons why your dog might be depressed, evaluate what you are willing to do to help your dog, understand your dog’s overall physical health, consider your dog’s personality, and determine what your dog really likes to do.
Some natural things you can do to help dog depression can include maintaining a routine, providing consistency in training and rewards, spending time playing, interacting, and exercising your dog. Considering the benefits of getting another dog could be a good option depending on your dog’s personality.
There are drugs that can be used to treat dog depression. Many are the same drugs used in human medicine to treat depression.
Behavioral disorders in dogs are frequently the reason for veterinary visits. The focus of treatment should ideally be placed on training and behavior. However there are specialists working in the field of animal behavior that have increasingly adopted drugs employed in human behavior modification for use in domestic animals. Please discuss the use of any drug with your vet.
Pharmacological treatments for depression in dogs can include drugs such as:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac®) – Fluoxetine, also known by the brand name Prozac®, is currently one of the most commonly prescribed human drugs in the United States. It is use for the treatment of human depression, bulimia, anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder), obsessive-compulsive disorder, some sleep disorders (cataplexy, narcolepsy), panic disorders and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Prozac® works by altering chemicals (serotonin) in the brain that may become unbalanced and lead to depression and other behavioral abnormalities. There are several brand names of Fluoxetine including: Prozac, Prozac Weekly, Sarafem, Rapiflux, Selfemra, Prozac Pulvules, and Reconcile. Reconcile is the product made specifically for canine patients.
- Paroxetine (Paxil®) – Paxil®, Paxil CR® and Pexeva®, also known by the generic name “Paroxetine”, is a drug commonly used for the treatment of human depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive symptoms, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Paxil® is categorized as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) which work by altering chemicals (serotonin) in the brain that may become unbalanced that leads to depression.
- Sertraline (Zoloft®) – Zoloft® is another drug that works by altering chemicals (serotonin) in the brain that may become unbalanced and lead to symptoms. Zoloft® and Lustral®, also known by the generic name “Sertraline”, are drugs commonly used for the treatment of human depression. This is one of the most commonly prescribed human drugs in the United States. In dogs, sertraline is used to treat various behavioral problems including aggression, fear-based behaviors (such as storm phobia/noise phobias), anxiety-based behaviors (such as separation anxiety) and compulsive disorders (such as acral lick dermatitis/lick granuloma and compulsive tail chasing).
- Clomipramine (Clomicalm®)- Clomipramine, also known by the brand names of Clomicalm® and Anafranil®, is approved for the treatment of canine behavioral disorders classified as separation anxiety. It has also been used to modify owner-directed dominance aggression in dogs. Some veterinarians have used this drug for depression.
- Amitriptyline (Elavil®)- Amitriptyline HCl, commonly known by the brand name Elavil®, is commonly used for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs as well as excessive grooming and occasionally depression.
- Alprazolam (Xanax or Niravam) – Alprazolam, more commonly known as Xanax®, is used for dogs as an alleviant of anxiety and as a muscle relaxant. It is commonly used in dogs for storm phobias and has been occasionally used for treatment of depression.
- Trazodone (Desyrel)- Trazodone HCl, also known simply as Trazodone and by the brand names of Oleptro® and Desyrel®, is used in dog with behavioral problems or various anxiety related problems including fears and anxiety related to veterinary visits and hospitalization.
Once you start your dog on drug therapy, it is important to understand that this will be a lengthy process (months). These are not drugs that you just start and stop. Side effects can occur and the drug may be stopped or reduced until side effects abate and lower doses attempted. Do not stop or start any medication without the guidance of your veterinarian.
How to Know What Option is Best For Your Depressed Dog
Natural treatments work best. The treatment that is going to work best for your dog will depend on your dog. What may work great for one dog may not work at all for another dog. The very best treatment is to identify what is causing the depression and create solutions to make it better. You can start with the natural treatments and move to drug therapy if that doesn’t work.
How to Know if Treatment Is Working
It can take weeks of consistent changes for some dogs to get out of their depressed funk. Improvement may come slow but is often a gradual change. The best way to know if the treatment is working is to see positive changes in your dog such they are more engaged with you and your family and doing things they like to do such as eat and play.
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