Skip to main content Skip to footer

Can dogs get depressed?

Dogs are known for their loyalty, enthusiasm and boundless affection. However, just like humans, dogs can experience a range of emotions, including happiness, fear and even sadness. But can dogs get depressed?

Can dogs get depressed?

The short answer to this question is yes, they can. Canine depression, sometimes called ‘doggy blues’, involves prolonged sadness or low mood in dogs. However, while our dogs may feel depression in the form of sadness or grief, depression in dogs is not as complex a condition as it is in humans.

What are the signs of depression in dogs?

The signs of depression in dogs will vary depending on the individual dog and how severe the problem is. But there are some key things you can look out for:

Changes in appetite. Dogs may lose interest in food or show a significant decrease in appetite, leading to weight loss or changes in their eating habits.

Lack of energy. Depressed dogs often seem sluggish and are not as interested in physical activities they used to enjoy, like playing or going for walks. But if your dog has a PitPat Dog GPS Tracker or a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor this is a simple thing to spot. Our devices will track all the walking, running and playing your dog does each day, making it easy to notice any changes to their activity level.

Withdrawal and social isolation. Dogs experiencing depression may want to be on their own more, and may begin distancing themselves from family members or other pets in your home.

Needing more attention. While some dogs withdraw, others may do the opposite, becoming more clingy with their owners and struggling with separation anxiety.

Sleep disturbances. Dogs who are depressed may exhibit changes to their sleep patterns, either sleeping a lot more than usual or being more restless at night. To spot this one, you don’t need to set up cameras or try and stay awake yourself. Instead, pop a PitPat on their collar, and you’ll be able to see how much they are moving around at night easily.

Changes to behaviour. As well as your dog’s mood changing, you may notice changes in their behaviour, depending on their personality. Some dogs will become more destructive, try and escape, become more aggressive or even regress with toilet training.

Reduced grooming habits. Some dogs begin to neglect their grooming routines, so you may notice that your pup is looking more dishevelled than usual or is starting to have an unkempt coat.

Loss of interest. A dog’s enthusiasm for previously enjoyed activities like fetch or other games may diminish or disappear altogether.

What are the causes of depression in dogs?

Many factors can impact a dog’s emotional state, so it’s best to begin by looking at anything that has changed in their life and environment. Here are a few of the most common:

Major life changes. Dogs are creatures of habit, and they love a routine, so significant changes like the loss of a loved one, moving to a new home, or the arrival of a new family member can trigger depression.

Separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety can experience distress and may display depressive behaviours when left alone for extended periods of time.

Illness or pain. Physical discomfort caused by illness, chronic pain or injury can affect a dog’s emotional well-being, potentially leading to depressive symptoms.

Traumatic experience. Dogs that have been through abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences may develop depression. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Like humans, dogs may experience changes in mood due to changes in seasons and having less exposure to sunlight.

Lack of physical and mental stimulation. All dogs need a combination of physical and mental stimulation, and if they aren’t getting enough, they can become bored and frustrated, leading to them feeling depressed.

How can you treat depression in dogs?

Woman holding a Border Collie wearing a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor

If you think your dog may be depressed, the first thing to do is to consult a vet. That way, you can rule out any underlying medical conditions. And, of course, if you’re a member of PitPat LIFE™, getting access to a vet 24/7, any time of the day or night, is easy. Just get in touch with FirstVet. Once any other medical conditions have been ruled out, there are different approaches you can use to help support your dog’s emotional well-being.

Maintain routines. Dogs thrive on consistency and predictability, so maintaining a routine can give them a sense of security and stability.

Provide physical and mental stimulation. Regular exercise and mental stimulation through puzzle toys, play, or training can help alleviate depression. If you need help determining how much exercise your dog needs, download the free PitPat app, and we’ll give you an exercise goal tailored to your dog.

Enrich their environment. Ensure your dog has a comfortable living space with access to their toys, a comfy bed and safe spaces they can retreat to if they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Positive reinforcement. Use positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, when your dog displays desired behaviours. This can help boost their mood and overall confidence.

Professional help. In severe cases, you may need further consultation with your vet, who may be able to recommend additional interventions such as medication or behaviour modification techniques.

While there is no one size fits all approach to treating dog depression, the good news is by following your vet’s advice and giving your pup the love and support they need, you are taking the right first steps. And remember to ensure that some of those steps are taken in the form of doggy exercise. Exercise plays a huge role in your dog’s well-being and greatly influences their behaviour. So pop a PitPat GPS on their collar, and you’ll be well on your way to helping them get the balance just right.

You might also like