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Dealing With Doggy Depression

No pet owner likes the idea of leaving their beloved dog at home, but reality is most people work and it’s a necessary evil.  Dogs tend to be very sensitive creatures and often get depressed or develop serious anxiety issues when left alone.  They, just like humans, develop symptoms and have trouble dealing with the anxiety.  Here is an article giving you some clues that your dog is suffering and some suggestions on how to deal with this depression.


Under Pressure: Relieving Doggy Depression and Anxiety

Many veterinarians believe that canine depression is a psychological condition similar to depression in humans, in which a dog may display symptoms such as lack of energy, lack of appetite and lack of sociability. Canine depression has not been scientifically proven to exist, but it seems a likely explanation for changes in dog behavior that have not otherwise been explained. Like humans, dogs may be mildly or severely depressed for short or long periods. Changes in environment or routine often trigger changes in a dog’s moods and behavior. But according to WebMD, severe canine depression is most often triggered by the death of a human or canine loved one.


What are the Symptoms?

Though dogs won’t tell you that they’re depressed, attentive dog owners tend to know when their dogs are happy, nervous, scared, excited or sad. Depressed dogs tend to exhibit more negative than positive emotions and appear to lose interest in the activities they once enjoyed. A dog who sleeps and eats too much or too little, doesn’t want to go outside, exhibits unusual degrees of fear or anxiety (such as shakiness), and whines or mopes may be depressed. However, most of these symptoms can also be associated with physical ailments; make sure your dog doesn’t have a fever or a parasite before treating for depression.


How to Help

The real question for dog owners is, what do you do if your dog appears unhappy? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to doggy depression, these steps can help to get you and your pet back on a path to happiness:

Get a Check-Up

If your dog’s behavior changes for the worse, exhibiting signs of anxiety or distress, your first stop should always be a vet. Symptoms of psychological distress in dogs often look remarkably similar to symptoms associated with physical illnesses. A vet can tell you whether or not recent changes in your dog’s health might be responsible for changes in their behavior. Some vets (or even dog trainers) will also be happy to help you understand and treat psychological problems.

Be Caring and Compassionate

In most cases, doggy depression can be cured by positive and thoughtful attention. Make a little extra time for your dog, and make sure that his or her basic needs are consistently met and hopefully exceeded. Take him or her for walks, on car rides, and to dog parks — whatever the dog enjoys most. Exercise, affection and time are the best medicine.

Don’t Spoil a Depressed Dog

Dogs need to be engaged, and they need to know that they’re cared about. But if a dog begins to believe that they’re being rewarded for moping or whining with extra treats or attention, the problem could get worse rather than better. Be careful to maintain your rules and boundaries while treating depression.

Allow Time for Your Dog to Adjust

While depression isn’t pleasant and should be addressed positively, it is a natural part of both human and animal life. In canines, depression tends to be triggered by environmental factors and to work itself out in time. If you move from the suburbs to the city or take a new job with longer hours, don’t be surprised if your dog experiences some downtime during the transition. Try to be attentive and supportive, and the dog will usually work through it in time

Consider Adding a New Pet to the Family

The most common cause of severe and extended depression in dogs is the loss of a human or animal companion. While it isn’t possible to replace those we love, it is sometimes important to recognize that a busy dog owner may have trouble meeting all of his or her dog’s emotional needs. The decision needs to be about your own needs and desires as much as the dogs, but adding another pet to the family will often help to remedy doggy depression. If getting a new pet isn’t a realistic possibility, fostering or dog-sitting another pet may provide the temporary boost your dog needs to recover.

Gabriela Acosta is the “Community Manager” at MSW@USC


About The Author: Gabriela D. Acosta is the community manager for the University of Southern California’s Online MSW programs and manages the blog. She is passionate about social justice, leadership development, and she adores furry friends of all kinds. Connect with her on Twitter @Gabyacosta101