Dogs have emotional ups and downs and sometimes they suffer a bout of depression. It is an emotional response to a range of factors, usually adapting to changes in their lives. These changes could be moving house, a new baby or pet in the home or losing an animal or human companion and the resulting grief.
Symptoms of depression in dogs
• Low mood and lack of purpose. No interest in playing or interacting with others.
• Sleeping excessively.
• Loss of appetite.
• Wanting to be on his own.
Sometimes depression can be a secondary symptom where the dog has an undiagnosed illness. If you think this is the case take him for a checkup with your vet.
How to beat depression
You can help to lift your dog’s depression.
Spend more quality time with him, talking and cuddling. The best medicine for any ailment is care and love.
Go for walks. Good quality walks where you give him your full attention, not looking at your phone. Try walking somewhere different to awaken his curiosity and boost his senses with new smells and sights. A morning walk in the sunshine is sure to cheer him up and lift your spirits too. Exercise boosts the immune system because the lymph system is activated by movement. Also, the increased oxygen intake improves every process in the body.
Exercise with purpose is very positive. Giving your dog a raw meaty bone to chew on will exercise his jaw, clean his teeth and keep him focused on a task. The challenge of deciding how to hold it in different positions to extract the meat will help lift his mood too.
When you have to leave your dog alone give him a puzzle toy to investigate. Hide healthy treats around his room. This will motivate him to stay busy and not mope around missing company.
Reward your dog for showing positive behaviours. When he shows signs of happiness, give him a treat or cuddle.
If your dog is grieving another dog in your family, consider adopting a new one. In the meantime give your dog opportunities to socialize with other dogs at the park or dog sitters.
There are many natural remedies available to treat depression in your dog. St. John’s Wort, sandalwood and flower essence can help, ask your vet or health food shop for advice.
If your dog is not responding to any remedies refer him to the vet. He may need to have a short course of an anti-depressant like Prozac. This will take about 2 months to work and he should be much improved after 6 months.