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Anxiety & Depression in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & How to Help

Just like humans, dogs can also experience depression and anxiety in certain social settings and environments. In this post, our Plains vets share the causes, signs, and treatment of depression and anxiety in dogs.

Causes of Canine Depression & Anxiety

Dogs are emotionally intelligent creatures and are capable of experiencing a range of emotions. Unfortunately, this also means they can suffer from depression and anxiety. Our canine companions can experience depression in the form of the blues, sadness, and grief.

Distressing events or major life changes can sometimes cause a dog's nerves to go haywire, or trigger feelings of sadness or anxiousness. Other triggering incidents may include the loss of a dog's owner or companion animal. Your pooch is also likely to sense those around them experiencing grief if there's been a passing in the family. All of these can impact a dog's general emotions. 

Even positive life changes, such as a new baby, a new pet, or a move to a new house, can have a negative impact on a dog's emotions. Simply put, any significant changes to a dog's life or daily routine can bring on symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

Is my dog depressed?

Signs and symptoms of dog depression are similar to those people experience. You may notice a loss of interest in the things they typically enjoyed, a change in eating and/or sleeping habits, and low energy or activity levels. Depression can also present as signs of aggression, including howling or whining.

Signs Your Dog Is Anxious

While we can’t ask our dogs how they are feeling, we can recognize signs that show that dogs certainly can experience these emotions.

When dogs experience anxiety, they may exhibit physical behaviors such as reduced activity, passive escape behaviors, hiding, tail-tucking, and trembling. You might also notice signs of panic, including active escape behavior, pacing, and excessive panting. 

Physical symptoms of dog anxiety can include sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity such as lesions that cause them to bite or lick their own body, or diarrhea (which can lead to other health issues such as dehydration). 

Treating Your Dog's Depression or Anxiety

Fortunately, dogs can often conquer their depression and/or anxiety on their own. Depending on the dog and the situation, the process can take anywhere from days to months. No matter what, the love and care of their owners (and some guidance from your veterinarian) can help them overcome their sadness. 

If you think your dog is experiencing depression or anxiety, try out the following techniques:

Consult Your Veterinarian

Some signs of depression and anxiety can be caused by medical conditions that require urgent attention. If your dog seems anxious or depressed, the first thing you should do is schedule a visit with your vet.

While some dogs might recover from depression with some extra love and affection from their pet parent, your vet will give your dog a thorough physical exam to make sure there are no health issues behind their sadness. They may prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to help calm their nerves if the issue doesn't show signs of improving. 

Help Your Dog Stay Physically & Mentally Active

Boredom can often lead our furry friends to become anxious or depressed. If you have to leave your dog alone while you're at work or running errands, make sure they get plenty of exercise before you leave them. Additionally, supply your pup with enough toys to keep them occupied to help reduce their anxiety. Look for toys that are interactive or can be stuffed with treats to keep your pup's body and mind active while you're out of the house.

Make Time for Socialization & Play

Our dogs are social creatures that love to be around people and other animals. If your dog is suffering from anxiety or depression you may want to consider getting a companion animal for your pup or take your lonely pooch to the dog park, group classes, or doggie daycare for additional social interaction.

Show Your Pooch Plenty of Love & Patience

Of course, our pets need lots of love and patience to feel safe and content. This is especially true when they are prone to feeling depressed or anxious. By giving your dog some extra time and attention, you may be able to alleviate their sad feelings and restore their pup's sense of fun and happiness.

Depending on the severity of your dog's symptoms, your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-anxiety medication as well as recommend behavior management techniques.

In some cases, depression and/or anxiety may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition in a dog. If your pet has not recently experienced a major life change or distressing event, talk to your veterinarian about what else could be troubling them.

Is your pet showing any signs of a mental or physical emergency? Contact our Plains vets right away to have your pup examined and cared for.

From Happy Pet Owners

  • Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital is a kind and caring environment. The Doctor is very knowledgeable and provided us with clear information that helped us make informed decisions.
    John W.

Contact (570) 208-8877