Just like humans, dogs can become depressed for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes of depression in dogs is grief over the loss of a human or animal companion, change in their environment, or change in season. Many dogs will also feed off of their people, so if you are going through a hard time, your dog could be feeling it, too.
Each dog is different in how they react to change, grief, and how long they may take to overcome their sadness. It’s important to understand what the root cause of the depression is, and to be patient and supportive of your pup’s needs. Be sure to contact your veterinarian to come up with a plan to help your dog.
Once your vet has cleared your dog of any illness or other cause, the next step is to help and support your companion during this period of time. Engaging your dog in different activities can definitely help! Walking outside and letting your dog sniff all the smells will activate a large part of their brain. Their smelling receptors are about 40 times greater than ours!
Walking, running, or playing outside is a great way to release serotonin and endorphins to boost your companion’s mood.
If the weather isn’t cooperative for exercising and playing outside, then create an indoor environment that engages them. You can teach them a few new simple tricks or set up food puzzles for them to problem solve! Setting up a “smelling box” with a few twigs, leaves, and other interesting smells from outside can also engage their minds to get them more involved and less withdrawn.
If there was a loss of an animal or person, then your dog is grieving along with reeling from the lack of structure if they looked to a housemate or person for their daily walks, meals, or other routines. Be sure to try and stick with their previous schedule so they don’t feel anxious or unsure of what will happen next.
Acupuncture from a trained veterinarian can help boost your pet’s mood, along with increasing their energy and appetite which may have decreased with depression. It can take 3-5 sessions to see a difference, but your dog will be so thankful for their acupuncture treatments!
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Dog calming pheromone sprays, such as Adaptil, can help ease your dog’s anxiety that may accompany or exacerbate their sadness. Rescue Remedy Pet also is a natural calming aid you can try for extra support.
If these signs persist even with the above recommendations, then discuss with your veterinarian if pharmacological intervention is beneficial. Medication can help support your pup through this tough time, and get them engaged again.
Bottom line is that dogs go through ups and downs just like us, and giving them support, love, and quality time with us is important for their mental health – and ours!