Depression in Dogs

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Boredom and fatigue are typical signs of depression in dogs.

Dogs are known for always being cheerful and a man’s best friend. But what happens when the joy vanishes and your dog is depressed? Find out through this article the most important information on the subject of depression in dogs.

Symptoms: What are the signs of depression in dogs?

Depression can emerge suddenly or gradually. Affected dogs can often suffer from this mental illness for several months if owners do not recognise and treat the causes in good time. 

During the depressive phase, the behaviour of your otherwise cheerful four-legged friend changes, they tend to appear sadder and more listless to you. The following symptoms are also typical signs of your dog being depressed: 

  • They eat less. 
  • They sleep more than usual. 
  • They don’t react to invitations to play. 
  • You really have to encourage them to go for walks. 
  • On walks, your dog just trots alongside you bored and shows no interest in other people or animals. 
  • Your dog wants to be stroked less. 
Yorkshire Terrier dog is sick and refuses to eat. No appetite, and depressed. © velimir /
Depression in dogs can also manifest itself by your dog showing no appetite.

Diagnosis: How is depression in dogs detected?

Only your vet can find out whether your dog really is depressed or their behavior has changed due to a serious illness. 

Your vet will ask you first of all if anything has happened recently that could have influenced your dog’s psyche. This includes, for instance, if you have taken on a second dog or have moved recently. 

If you can’t identify together any event that could have led to your dog being depressed, the vet will solely examine its physical health. This is important, because even pain or fever can lead to your dog not wanting to eat and sleeping a lot.

Treatment: How is depression in dogs treated?

You have to be very patient in order for your dog to be full of joie de vivre again. There is no special remedy for depression. Only psychotropic drugs can help to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness. However, administration of these drugs requires a prescription and must be given by a vet. 

Before you give your dog medical treatment, you should try to manage its depression with the help of a qualified dog trainer or dog psychologist. 

They will closely examine how your dog behaves and what it may be lacking. They will analyse how you interact with your dog and whether it needs more physical or mental stimulation.

Causes: What are possible triggers for depression in dogs?

Depression in dogs manifests itself similarly to in humans with generally low spirits. The following events are examples of possible triggers:

Moving home

Your dog also gets used to its surroundings in the long run and sees them as its territory. If you move home, the new home can confuse your dog and lead to severe stress.


There is a set hierarchy in your family from your dog’s perspective. As well, every family member is a familiar social companion for your four-legged friend.

If a family member passes away or is away for a long period due to travel or moving home, you dog may experience a strong sense of grief. In severe cases, this leads to your dog showing depressive behaviour.

Human or animal additions

Along with the loss of a family member, adding a second dog to the family or a newborn baby can also influence your dog’s psyche. Hence, consider before taking on a new pet if your dog is ready for this change and if it will cope with a second dog in the household.

Incorrect housing

It is important that you keep your dog in a species-appropriate way. Along with a balanced diet, this also includes you offering your dog the required physical and mental stimulation.

This means you taking it for walks several times a day and integrating little mental tasks into the day-to-day routine. Hide treats or try out a fun dog sport with your canine friend. If dogs are under-stimulated, this can lead to depression.

The content in this article is created for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice. If your pet is feeling unwell, consult your veterinarian for a professional diagnosis and treatment.

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