There are all kinds of ways to tell if people are depressed. They might stop eating — or eat more to dull the pain. They might cry a lot more — often unexpectedly. There’s a good chance that they’ll start withdrawing from life in general by avoiding friends and family members and possibly even calling in sick to work.
And, of course, they can simply tell us that they’re not feeling good.
Our dogs don’t have this option, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t feel sad or even depressed. While there’s not as much research out there as there is for humans (for obvious reasons), all kinds of anecdotal evidence exists pointing to dog depression.
Some stories seem more obvious, such as a dog suddenly shutting down and sleeping all day in the back of a closet after another dog in the pack dies. Others aren’t quite as straightforward, where dog owners might notice “moping” or “mood changes” after something like a move.
So, how do you know if your pup is experiencing canine depression? Here are several common signs — many of which are similar to signs of depression in people.
When some dogs are extremely sad, they lose interest in food and often lose weight. Alternatively, there are dogs that seem to use food as a kind of solace when they are depressed and want to eat more, leading to weight gain.
Sleeping all the time
Dogs sleep a lot. That’s old news. But typically this happens when their owners are gone. If you leave your dog for a long time (say, for work) and he continues to sleep after you get home, barely reacting to your presence, something is probably wrong.
Check for physical problems first, but if you can’t find anything and the symptoms continue, he may be depressed. Also know that this can work in the opposite direction, with your pup having trouble sleeping and becoming restless.
Loss of interest
If your dog suddenly loses interest in playing, going for walks, and other things that would normally excite her, take note. Dogs who become less active, slow down, or seem to lose purpose may be suffering from dog depression.
Excessive licking or chewing may be rooted in physiological or psychological issues. Depressed dogs will often lick or chew their paws to soothe themselves.
Avoidance and hiding
Above I mentioned the story of the dog hiding in a closet because he was depressed. This kind of behavior typically means one of two things: illness or injury (with depression falling under the “illness” category). Dogs that suddenly hide or want to be left alone behave that way because something is bothering them. If it’s not physical, it’s likely emotional.
The biggest thing to remember is not to assume that your dog is depressed right off the bat. Often, issues that seem emotional really stem from physical, medical causes. The first thing to do if you notice a behavior change is to have your pup checked by your vet.
Has your dog shown signs of depression? What caused it and how did you treat it? Let us know in the comments!