We all feel and understand the emotions that our dogs communicate on a day-to-day basis. When we return home from work, they’re there to happily greet us. When we pet them, they lay back and accept it with pure bliss. But what happens when our dogs start to exhibit signs of negative emotions. Do dogs experience the same level of depth when it comes to negative emotions, such as depressions? Let’s take a closer look at mental illness in dogs to better answer the question, do dogs get depressed?

Do Dogs Get Depressed? Photo of a Sad Dog

Do Dogs Get Depressed? We Believe So…

The most important thing to know when it comes to dogs and depression is that we don’t have a full understanding of exactly what they feel or what they experience. As with many other issues, this is due to the fact that we can’t communicate with them. That being said, these animals do tend to exhibit many of the same behaviors that we do when we go through a depressive episode.

Some common symptoms of depression in dogs include:

  • A change in appetite, with your dog eating less than they normally do or not eating at all
  • A lack of interest in things that they would normally enjoy, such as playing with you or with their toys
  • Unresponsiveness when you attempt to interact with them
  • A change in sleeping patterns, with your pet sleeping considerably more than usual
  • Urinating or defecating in the home, even if they’re trained and haven’t done this in a while
  • Showing signs of agitation, disorientation, and confusion
  • Body language like flattened ears or persistent licking of the paws

Depression in dogs can be concerning, but part of getting them the help that they need is making sure that you know what to look out for beforehand.

Why Might a Dog Begin Showing Symptoms of Depression?

Do dogs get depressed? Yes, but why? Much like it is with humans, there are certain triggers that can end up leading to the development of depression within pups. Some of the reasons your dog may be depressed include dealing with a major illness you may be treated or haven’t identified yet, major changes in their environment (such as moving to a new home), a lack of socialization with other pups, being left alone in isolation for too long on a day-to-day basis, grief due to the loss of another family pet or even their past owner, trauma (such as injury or abuse) or even a response to your own depression if something has happened in your life that has led to depression symptoms.

If you or your dog have gone through any of the above situations, take some time to reflect and see whether any of these may have spurred depression in your dog.

What Can I Do If My Dog Has Depression?

Now that we’ve addressed the topic of “do dogs get depressed”, we can start to look into some potential solutions that can get your dog back on track.

The first thing that any owner should do if they notice that their dog is showing signs of depression is to begin to engage them more. See if you can get your pup to play some games with you, eat, and get a bit more active than they’ve currently been. Sometimes, it’s as simple as spending more time with them to get them out of their rut. Just like humans, we need socialization and engagement when we’re down.

If you have a local dog park, doggy daycare, or even are thinking about getting another dog (although this may not be entirely recommended as a new dog could pose the same issues as those caused by a change in environment), try getting them to interact with other dogs and see whether or not that perks them up.

In some instances, you may find that your dog is not getting better with increased socialization and is instead staying the same or seemingly getting worse. In the event that their depression has not resolved itself, reach out to a vet. Some vets will prescribe antidepressants to try to stabilize your pup’s mood.

If you haven’t experienced depression yourself or used depression medication, it’s extremely important to know upfront that antidepressants are not a cure for depression. These types of medications are designed to help you achieve a more even mood. When supplemented with a normal routine and some of the activities listed above, you should see an improvement in your pup’s mental health and well-being. Under no circumstances should antidepressants be used as a cure without tackling some of the triggers we discussed earlier.

Although your dog’s depression can be concerning, there is hope out there to help them get better and recover from their negative emotions!

Dogs Do Get Depressed, But They Can Bounce Back

Answering the question, “do dogs get depressed?” can be relatively complex given the nature of depression and the different forms that it can take in any animal. However, the guide above will provide you with everything you need to know to better understand this mental illness and what can be done about it. If your dog is showing signs of depression, take the actions recommended above to help them get back into that happy puppy state that you know and love!