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Depression in Dogs

Even dogs can get the blues. Learn about symptoms and treatments for dog depression.

Dog Depression Treatments

Most dogs bounce back from depression within a few days to a few months with just a little extra TLC, said Ciribassi. “Keep them engaged, do more of the things they like to do, get them a little more exercise, and they should be fine,” he said.

And reward them when they show signs of happiness, Beaver said. “If the only thing that still gets a little tail wag out of your dog is a car ride, then take him for a series of short rides each day, praising and rewarding him when he appears happier,” Beaver said.

And be careful not to encourage the negative behavior by lavishing a depressed dog with attention and treats while he is moping, Beaver said. The dog will think you’re rewarding him for that behavior.

Sometimes, if the dog is depressed because of the loss of a companion, getting another pet can help, said Ciribassi. But it has to be done carefully with both the family’s and the dog’s needs taken into account, he said.

Medications for Dog Depression

If nothing else works, medications can help dogs get past their depression. Karen Sueda, DVM, a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, said medications for depressed dogs are the same as those used by depressed humans -- Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. She also uses Clomicalm, an FDA approved drug for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs.

“It’s important that people deal with the problem before it gets too bad,” Sueda said. “By the time cases get to me, they’re bad. But most cases can be successfully treated early on with behavior modification and environmental enrichment, so it doesn’t have to get to the point where we need to use drugs.”

Beaver said it can take up to two months for drugs to become effective. But unlike people, who often remain on antidepressants for years, most dogs can get better in six to 12 months and then be taken off the drugs, she said.

Bouncing Back From Dog Depression

In the end it wasn’t the car rides or dog parks or even the antidepressants Richer tried to help her dog, Terrace. Instead it was a friendly rescue dog she agreed to foster for a week. “Benji walked in, ran up the stairs, found Terrace behind the mirror and when I got up there he was lying next to her and licking her,” Richer said. “Within a week, she was better. Now she’s the happiest dog ever.”

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Reviewed on April 27, 2012

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