Many dog lovers may wonder about dog depression and potential dog depression symptoms. There is a lot of news coverage and information about human depression, so if people get depression, why can’t dogs? In this article, we will look at the topic of dog depression and review dog depression symptoms.
Depression in dogs is much harder to define or document than it is in humans. After all, grief and sadness are normal human emotions but not emotions we commonly recognize in dogs. What can make understanding depression in dogs even more difficult is the fact that every dog can respond differently to any given situation.
Common Dog Depression Symptoms
The symptoms of depression can vary not only between dogs, but also between breeds and breed lines. Even dogs from the same litter can respond differently just as children from the same family can respond differently to a situation or stressor.
Signs of depression in dogs may include:
- Withdrawn and less social – One of the most common symptoms of depression in dogs is withdrawal. This is a very common symptom of depression in people as well. Many people with depression will prefer to stay home and generally avoid interaction with friends and family members. An example of dog depression can be a dog that is less interactive or less engaged with the family. Some pet owners notice that their dog doesn’t greet them at the door or doesn’t sit in the same room with the family when they are watching television.
Mike wrote, “My beagle “Rusty” started hiding in the laundry room after I retired. Rusty used to go to work with me every day and when my routine changed, he started hiding and not participating in family activities. For example, Rusty would normally be in the same room when I watched TV and he stopped. He just didn’t want to interact with the family as much.”
- Loss of interest – Some dogs that are depressed will lose interest in doing the things you know they love to do. It may be not playing with their favorite toy or that they don’t want to go for walks, or they don’t do their normal strut around the yard to smell everything.
- Appetite changes – Some dogs with depression will have a decreased appetite or will quit eating altogether. Other dogs with depression will eat more as a way to comfort themselves.
- Changes in weight – Weight loss or weight gain can be the result of the appetite changes. Dogs that eat more calories, will gain weight. Dogs that eat less will lose weight. Activity changes and sleep patterns will also impact weight gain and loss.
- Changes in sleep patterns – Depressed dogs may sleep more and this can be seen with the less social behavior or by itself. Some dogs will increase their sleep by 10% to 40% or even more in some cases. On the other hand, some dogs will sleep less and become “restless”.
- Anxiety – Some dogs with depression will appear more nervous. They will startle more at loud noises, seem frightened when company comes, and may be more restless in general. John D. wrote to me, “When I moved across the country, my dog Gus became anxious. He used to sleep through the night and all of a sudden he would be up pacing. He would bark at noises that never used to bother him.”
- Behavior changes – Some dogs will change their routines. For example, some dogs will not sleep on the bed with their owners or in their favorite bed although they have done that for years. Alexandra wrote, “When I lost my job, my Jack Russell terrier that always slept in his bed on the sofa in the living room. He did this for years. Then all of a sudden she was wanting to sleep on the bed”. Sharon S. wrote, “When my husband died, our Beagle ‘Franny’ would pace back and forth. She would sit by the door as though she was looking for him to come home then pace some more. She seemed as though she couldn’t get comfortable or relax.”
- Loss of housebreaking behavior – Some dogs with depression may revert to earlier behavior and start having accidents in the house.
- Self-mutilation behaviors – Some dogs may begin chewing or licking themselves. Some dogs will lick areas on their bodies such as their legs or paws as a soothing behavior. Some behaviorists believe self-licking behavior, also known Acral Lick Dermatitis, arises out of the confusion as a displacement activity. The self-licking behavior that can stem from depression can become ritualistic and compulsive.
- Vocalization – Some dogs with depression will start a new behavior of barking or howling.
- Aggressive behavior – A small minority of dogs with depression can exhibit aggressive behaviors such as growling, snapping, biting or fighting with other dogs.
Symptoms That Show if the Depression is Severe
All the above are serious symptoms however the dog depression symptoms that impact the health of your dog or have the potential to cause injury to you or other dogs are most important.