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Healthy Dogs

Depression in Dogs

Even dogs can get the blues. Learn about symptoms and treatments for dog depression.
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Causes of Dog Depression

Beaver said major changes in a dog’s life could lead to periods of depression. Those include moving into a new home, a new spouse or baby in the household, or adding another pet. Even a change in the dog’s schedule, for instance a stay-at-home owner who takes a job, can cause a dog to get down.

But the two most common triggers of severe dog depression are the loss of a companion animal or the loss of an owner. And be careful the dog isn’t simply responding to the reactions of other people in the home.

“Dogs pick up on our emotions, so if the owner has died, the dog could be responding to the grief of others,” Beaver said. “Or the dog may not be getting the attention he’s accustomed to, which is stressing him out.”

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.

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