What is Puppy Depression (the Kind People Get)?

Do puppies get depressed? The answer is they can. Probably. But that isn’t what “Puppy Depression” is about when you search on Google.There are two types of puppy depression.

  • The Puppy is Depressed. The first type is when a puppy has symptoms of depression. Maybe they withdraw from family activities. They don’t spend time with their owners. They sleep more. They don’t eat, eat less or overeat. Learn more about this type of puppy depression.
  • The Owner is Depressed. The most common use of the term puppy depression isn’t about the puppy being depressed. The puppy is perfectly fine. Probably home tearing up the house and maybe having an “accident” or two. This type of “puppy depression” is about the owner being depressed from having the puppy.

Below we will address the type of puppy depression that affects people.

What is Puppy Depression?

Puppy depression, also known as the “Puppy Blues”, is a syndrome of depression that can occur to humans after acquiring a puppy. Some behaviorists create parallels from puppy depression to “postpartum depression.

Puppy depression can be a normal response from a substantial change in lifestyle. Some pet owners go from a relaxed routine with a clean home to a home that has been turned upside down. This is most common in homes that did not previously have a dog or in homes where there are adult dogs with a well-established routine.

One big reason puppy depression occurs is from loss. How, may you ask, does getting a puppy have to do with loss? Getting a new puppy can be an amazing time but it can also turn a person’s life upside down. They can cause the following:

  • Loss of sleep – by waking them up throughout the night
  • Loss of property – some puppies will tear up and destroy things
  • Loss of freedom – no more meeting friends for drinks or dinner after work. You need to get home to take your puppy out
  • Loss of time – time spent training, cleaning up after the new puppy, training classes, going to the vet, going on walks, etc.
  • Loss of money – having a puppy can be expensive. It is not uncommon for a puppy owner to spend over $1000 on a puppy without thinking about the fact that the puppy also needs vaccines every 3 to 4 weeks until it is 20 weeks old, spayed or neutered, microchipped, dewormed, fecal checks, heartworm prevention, or flea and tick control. This doesn’t even consider what if the puppy gets sick. You could be looking at vet bills for thousands of dollars. By the way – when you have a new puppy – this is the perfect time to consider pet insurance. Let them help you pay for the vaccines, surgery but also be there if you have a problem.
  • Overwhelmed with new responsibilities – getting a new puppy can be somewhat similar to having a new baby. You need to train, walk, feed, deal with accidents, be woken up at night and for some puppy owners develop a routine that they never had before.

For some new dog owners, especially puppy owners, it truly changes their lives.

How Long Does Puppy Depression Last?

Puppy depression can last from weeks to months depending on the puppy and the owner. Sometime it will last until some of the more difficult behavioral issues like housebreaking and chewing have resolved or improved.

Puppy Depression in People: Signs To Look For

Signs of puppy depression in people can manifest as frustration, annoyance, depression and can even escalate to the point where they relinquish their puppies.

A recent study suggests that dogs under the age of 1 year have been rehomed 3 to 4 times before they find their “forever home”. Some new puppy owners suddenly realize that they don’t have the time, their apartment is too small, they can’t afford the cost of care, and many more reasons.

How do You Treat Puppy Depression?

There is help. First and ideally, research the breed you are to adopt. This can help give you some guidelines on the care they will need. For example, Border Collies are amazing dogs but they need a job. They need to stay busy. If you give them the right opportunities, they will be very happy dogs. You put a Border Collie in an apartment where they are cooped up for 16 hours a day, they are likely not going to be a happy dog.

If you already have your puppy, it is important to know what a puppy can do physically and what a puppy can’t do. For example, an 8-week-old puppy can only hold his urine for 3 hours. A 12-week-old puppy can only hold his urine for 5 hours. If you leave a puppy that is 8 weeks for 8 hours – he is going to have an accident. Understanding what a puppy can and can’t do at each age is critical to understanding your puppy and avoiding problems.

How Does Dog Depression Treatment Work?

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.

Articles Related to Dog Depression

Dog Depression: How to Spot it and Treat it
Is My Dog Depressed? How to Help Your Pup
What are Dog Depression Symptoms?
What is Puppy Depression (the kind People Get)?
Dogs that Lick Themselves – Understanding Acral Lick Dermatitis
Our Stress, Depression, Joy…Can Dogs Tell?
Not Feline Fine: Dealing with Feline Depression
Does Your Dog Need Anxiety Medication?

What are Dog Depression Symptoms?

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.

Is My Dog Depressed? How to Help Your Pup

At some point in a dog’s life, owners may ask the question, “Is my dog depressed?” After all, how do you really know? This is a time both veterinarians and pet owners truly wish their dogs could talk. We will focus this article on what you can do at home to help your depressed dog.

Signs That Your Dog is Depressed

There are many signs of depression in dogs. Symptoms of depression in dogs can vary from dog to dog. Signs may include withdrawing from family activities, playing less, and eating either more or less. Learn more about the symptoms of depression in dogs with this article: What are Dog Depression Symptoms?

It is very difficult to make generalizations as to how a certain breed, dogs within the same breed, breed line or even litter will behave.

Is My Dog Depressed? 6 Points to Consider as You Develop a Plan

If you have a dog that you believe is depressed, there are multiple options to help. Before taking action, consider his lifestyle, capabilities, and personality, and what really drives him.

Here are some important points to consider before developing a plan to help your dog:

  1. A Day in the Life. As you consider solutions, consider what your dog’s day is like. Is he in a crate for hours? Does he get daily exercise? Is he fed at the same time every day? Does he get petted? Does he feel loved? Is there consistency in what is expected from everyone in the household? Is your dog mentally stimulated or bored? Does your dog get to play with other dogs?
  2. Consider…”Why Your Dog is Depressed?” When developing a plan to help your dog it is important to look at the reason or reasons why you think your dog is depressed. Is your dog in a new home? Did someone close to your dog die? Did another dog in the home die? Did a child leave for college or start school? Was there a divorce? What changed in your dog’s environment? It is important to look at the underlying cause as you consider the treatment that will work best. Learn more about the common causes of canine depression. Go to Dog Depression: How to Spot it and Treat it.
  3. Evaluate Your Capabilities. Evaluate your time, environment, budget, and capabilities. If you believe your dog needs more play time and you live in a small apartment in the city, or you work long hours, a dog walker or doggy daycare may be a great way to provide more stimulation for your dog.
  4. Evaluate Your Dog’s Health. When considering a strategy to help your dog, consider your dog’s health. Does your dog have underlying health issues such as congestive heart failure or arthritis? Are there health problems that may impact your play or exercise plan for stimulation? For example, if your dog is a senior with health problems, going for a big run daily at the dog park is not going to be a good solution. Smaller frequent walks or intellectual toys may be a good option. Consider a plan that works for your dog’s functionality and abilities.
  5. Look at What Your Dog Likes. Does your dog like to chew on bones? Does your dog like to chase Frisbee? Look at your dog’s age, breed, and interests to consider what will give him the most stimulation and enjoyment. Or does your dog enjoy puzzle toys where they have to figure out how to get the treat out? Some dogs love to be brushed and groomed and others do not. For example, if you have a small dog that doesn’t fetch, more time at the dog park playing “ball” is not going to work. Consider what your dog likes and develop a plan to give him more time doing the things he enjoys the most.
  6. Personality Issues. Some dogs are more people-dogs (meaning they like people more than dogs), some are more dog-dogs (they enjoy other dogs more than people), and others dogs enjoy being with people and other dogs equally. This is important to consider as you evaluate what will work best to help your dog. For example, if your dog gets in fights with other dogs, then going to the dog park or signing him up for doggy daycare with other dogs is not going to be a good idea if you are trying to get more play time with your dog. On the other hand, if your dog seems happiest when playing with other dogs, then that may be the magic ticket.

Is My Dog Depressed? Tips to Help Your Dog

Below are things you can do at home to help a depressed dog. Based on the above things to consider, review the tips below to see what might work best for your dog.

  • Keep a Routine – Some dogs that are depressed have had a change in their lives. Someone dies, leaves, or maybe it is an entirely new home. If possible, keep your dog’s routine as consistent as possible. For example, if your dog has always gone for a morning walk and suddenly you went back to work and can’t do this, consider having a neighbor take him on that walk. If you move to a new house, things can definitely be in chaos. Keep as much of your dog’s routine the same. Feed the same food at the same time, etc. as much as you can.
  • Keep Some Things the Same – If your dog is rehomed, keep as much the same a possible from his previous home. A client recently adopted his mom’s dog when his mom died. We discussed a plan to create the best transition which included using the dog’s own familiar bed, collar, leash, kennel, blankets, food, and bowls. After the dog is acclimated to the new home, you can then gradually change some things little by little. This may not always be possible but when it possible, it can be helpful.
  • Play – One of the best things for depression is playtime. Some depressed dogs are bored and just under stimulated. If your dog is healthy, engage your dog in play. Buy some toys. Learn more about “What is your dogs play preference” to help you choose the best toys for him.
  • Exercise – A tired dog is often a happy dog. Just like kids, many dogs need to stretch their legs and run until they wear themselves out! If your dog is healthy, increasing your dog’s exercise routine can be helpful in treating dog depression.
  • Spend Time – Some of the happiest times dogs spend with their owner is just being together. This can be watching TV, being petted, belly rubes, or just sitting together while you read a book.
  • Talk to Your Dog – Some dogs enjoy it when you talk to them. Things as simple as talking to your dog in that voice that makes your dog wag his tail and feel special is enough to make him happy and can help with dog depression.
  • Predictable Feeding Schedule – Some dogs are food motivated. They want to know when their next meal is coming. Providing a predictable feeding schedule can allow some dogs to feel more comfortable and less depressed.
  • Clear Communication – Having a clear set of guidelines for your dog that is consistent across all members of the family is important for dogs to understand what is expected of them. Inconsistency can be stressful and cause depression. For example, if some members of the family allow the dog to get up on the sofa when they are watching television and another member does not, this produces conflict. Another example is someone in the home that encourages their dog to jump up on them and others reprimanded them for the same. Try to be consistent so your dog knows what is expected from them.
  • Consider a Playmate – Getting another dog is a great solution for dog depression for some dogs. Other dogs might hate the idea of another dog but some dogs truly love it. If you don’t want to commit to a full adoption, consider talking to your local rescue group and foster a dog. This allows you to see how your dog responds to a new dog and determine if it helps with his depression before making that full adoption commitment. Learn more about How to Introduce a New Dog.

In some ways, treatment of canine depression is really about lifestyle optimization. It is providing the optimal exercise opportunities, predictable feeding schedules, clear communication of expectations, and play time.

Dog Depression: How to Spot it and Treat it

Depression is common in humans and dog depression may be just as common. How common is depression? According to Healthline, it is estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States suffer from depression. The CDC documents that approximately 9% of Americans report they are depressed at least occasionally, and 3.4% suffer from “major depression.” Approximately 6.7 percent of American adults have at least one major depressive episode in a given year. The definition of major depression in humans is “a mental health condition marked by an overwhelming feeling of sadness, isolation and despair that affects how a person thinks, feels and functions.

Dog depression may be just as common but is harder to recognize.

How to Spot Signs of Dog Depression

Just as with people, every dog responds differently to stress. For example, a person that loses their job may become depressed while another person may see opportunity and be relieved or rejuvenated. One dog being rehomed may be withdrawn, less interactive, guarded, scared, nervous, aggressive, stop eating, or have a decreased appetite while another dog may be euphoric. Learn more about how to recognize depression in your dog. Go to: What are Dog Depression Symptoms?

What Causes Dog Depression

What causes depression in one dog can be entirely different than in another dog. Just as it is difficult to predict or generalize how people will respond to stress or what will make a person depressed, it is difficult to determine or predict what will make a dog depressed.

The most common things associated with dog depression are the following:

  • Illness. Dogs that are sick and don’t feel good may be depressed.
  • Loss of mobility. Just as illness can cause depression, loss of mobility can also cause depression in some dogs. For a previously active dog to not be able to run, play, walk, and exercise can really take an emotional toll on some dogs. This can be caused from a back injury, trauma such as a fracture, or from degenerative disease (arthritis) in older dogs.
  • Loss of routine. Some dogs can become very depressed from a change in their routine. This can occur from when the kids go back to school, an owner loses a job or takes on a new job, or a change in work hours that leads to disruption in the dog’s day-to-day rituals.
  • Loss of an owner or caregiver. A very common cause of depression in dogs is the loss of someone close to them. The loss can be death or from someone moving out or leaving the home. The death of an owner, a child leaving for college, or someone moving from a divorce can all create a profound sense of loss and void in a dog’s life.
  • Loss of a housemate. Just as the loss of a caregiver can impact dogs, so can the loss of another pet in the home. Most commonly the pet is another dog but could also be a cat or other species. When you think about it, if a dog’s routine is to see the other pet, eat with it, walk, play and they suddenly aren’t there, they can become depressed. It is important to note that a change in your dog’s behavior can be from their depression or can be them responding to your sadness. If you are mourning the loss of a dog and depressed yourselves, this can affect them.
  • Moving. Moving can be stressful for us but also for our dogs. They suddenly lose their territory and safety net. Usually, the move is a huge disruption in the routine and environment. Movers, moving boxes, packing, unpacking, etc. can all impact the daily walks and time spent with you. This can cause depression in some dogs.
  • Rehoming. A new home and family can be exciting to some dogs but depressing to others. They may miss something from their prior life or feel displaced. On top of that they are trying to understand the new owners, new rules in the house, new routine, getting new food, new bowls, and well…new everything, which can be stressful. Stress can cause depression.
  • New Pet or Person. Just as pet loss or human loss can cause depression, some dogs will become depressed when a new pet or person enters their life. This can impact their routine and day-to-day lifestyle. The new pet may take attention away from them.

What You Can Do for Dog Depression

Treatments for dog depression can be categorized into pharmacological (drug) treatments and nonpharmacological treatments.

The best recommendation to treat dog depression is to do the following:

  1. Figure out why. The best thing to do is to consider why your dog may be depressed. As you consider the possible cause, also consider what your dog’s life must be like on a day-to-day basis. Is there lots of stimulation? Playtime? Exercise? Attention? Or is it boring? Is he ignored? Even tied to a dog house or in a crate for hours?
  2. Optimize your dog’s life. Make sure your dog has a great routine consisting of plenty of exercise, daily walks, frequent opportunities to go to the bathroom, predictable meal schedules, belly rubs, and plenty of assurance that they are the best dog in the whole world. Here are some tips on how to help your dog. Go to: Is My Dog Depressed? How to Help Your Pup
  3. See your vet. Make sure your dog is healthy and that you are not mistaking symptoms of depression for symptoms of illness. They can seem similar and it can be hard to tell. Your vet may want to do a physical examination and run some routine blood work.
  4. Natural remedies. Some natural remedies that can help some dogs with depression include Bach flower, Ignatia, Spirit Essences Grouch
  5. Remedy, Green Hope Farm Grief, and Loss Remedy. Check with your veterinarian and see if they have a product that has worked well for them.
  6. Drugs. As a very last resort, you could work with your veterinarian to try pharmacological treatment for your dog’s depression. Most dogs respond to playtime, exercise, and quality time with you. To learn more about possible drug therapies, go to: How Does Dog Depression Treatment Work?
  7. Give it time. It can take time for the treatments to work. Relax and enjoy being with your dog. Give it some time. Most times they will come around and return to their normal dog selves.

Articles Related to Dog Depression

Is My Dog Depressed? How to Help Your Pup 
What are Dog Depression Symptoms?
How Does Dog Depression Treatment Work?
What is Puppy Depression (the kind People Get)?
Dogs that Lick Themselves – Understanding Acral Lick Dermatitis
Our Stress, Depression, Joy…Can Dogs Tell?
Not Feline Fine: Dealing with Feline Depression
Does Your Dog Need Anxiety Medication?