Is your beloved furbaby not acting like their usual self? If your normally energy-filled pup is acting listless and reserved, there might be an underlying issue. Can dogs get depressed? In short, the answer is yes. 

We as humans have included dogs in our lives for over 10,000 years, and they have evolved to live and work alongside us. As a result, our canine companions are incredibly sensitive to our lifestyles and routines. When we alter our routine, say with a move, death of a family member, or bringing home a new baby, it may affect our dogs’ attitudes. 

tan pug puppy

Can Dogs Get Depressed?

As a more complicated answer, we can’t know why dogs get depressed because we can’t ask them. However, in certain situations where other possible medical explanations have been ruled out, depression is all that there is left as a possibility for what is wrong. 

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Can Dogs Get Depressed: Symptoms

The symptoms when dogs get depression are very similar to those in people. Dogs will not act as they usually do. They will be less active, their eating and sleeping habits might change, and they will participate less in general activities. They might not be as affectionate or cuddly with you as they usually are. 

Of course, these symptoms could indicate a medical issue, so it’s always best to have your dog checked out by a licensed veterinarian before determining your dog is depressed. For example, a dog with less energy who does not want to play or go for walks could suffer arthritis pain, not depression. 

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Can Dogs Get Depressed: Causes 

Dogs enjoy stability. Their primal instincts cause them to be suspicious of changes in routine or environment. Any change could become a threat for your dog’s wild ancestors, so it was best to view them with caution and fear. For our pampered pooches, they might not always fear change, but they don’t welcome it either. A few common but significant changes that might lead to depression in dogs are:

1. Moving to a new home

As we stated above, dogs don’t respond well to changes in their environment. Moving to a new home is a tremendous change. Whether you brought your dog home as a puppy or an adult, they went through an adjustment period. Try to remember back to when your dog was a new member of the household. They probably acted a bit different than they do now that they’ve been with you for a while. Now, your dog has to go through that kind of adjustment period again. Give them time to take in the new house, new yard, new neighborhood, new smells, etc.

2. A new spouse, baby, or another family member in the household

Your dog loves your attention. When new people come into the home, the family dynamic changes, which might mean less attention than your dog is accustomed to. If the latest member of your household is an adult or older child, it’s essential to observe how they interact with your dog as well. 

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3. Loss of a companion animal or owner

Dogs bond very strongly with their packmates, whether those family members are human or canine. It is not uncommon for dogs to exhibit symptoms of depression when they lose a family member or companion. For dogs that are strongly bonded to one person, losing that one person can be incredibly traumatic.

Can Dogs Get Depressed: Treatment

The good thing about dogs getting depressed is that it’s very rarely long-term or chronic. Usually, within a few days to a few weeks, dogs can bounce back with just a little extra attention and care from their people. Here are a few tips to help get your pup feeling back to their old self.

Keep Them Engaged

You’ll be shocked at just how far a little attention can go. Keep your dog engaged as much as you can throughout the day. Whether it’s more exercise, playtime, or cuddling together on the couch, the more energy you can give your dog, the more response you will get from them. New toys can also go a long way towards increasing your dog’s engagement. Novel experiences can help reengage your dog as well. Try taking your dog somewhere they’ve never been before and let them experience the new sights and smells.

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Reward Them For Signs of Happiness

Reward your dog for signs of happiness with whatever they find rewarding. For most dogs, treats are a fantastic reward, but physical attention or playing with a toy might be reward enough for others. Adding a positive stimulus when your dog does something you like increases the chance that that behavior occurs again. If you see your dog engaged and happy, reward that behavior, and your dog is more likely to continue and repeat that behavior. This addition of a positive stimulus to increase the likelihood that a behavior reoccurs is called positive reinforcement

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Get Another Pet

When dogs get depressed due to the loss of a companion, the answer might be to get another pet. You should think carefully and perhaps even consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist before taking this leap to ensure it’s the best choice for all involved. Your dog’s temperament, age, and energy level, and family dynamic all play a crucial role in whether or not adopting another dog will help your pup feel better.

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Medication

If nothing else works, there are medications to help when dogs get depressed. They are the same medications used by depressed humans: Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac being the most common. If you feel like you’ve tried everything to get your dog feeling like their old self, consult with a veterinarian about possibly prescribing your pooch an antidepressant. 

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Can Dogs Get Depressed? Yes

Dogs can get depressed. You should reach this conclusion with a licensed veterinarian after ruling out all other possibilities for your dog’s change in behavior. Your vet may prescribe your dog medication or just suggest you give your canine companion a little more tender, loving care for a few weeks. In most situations, after an adjustment period and a little extra love, your dog should be feeling back to their usual self in no time.

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