A happy dog is easy to spot: eyes are bright and alert.
His ears are often perked, and his tail is wagging. Some dogs even seem to smile. Going home to a happy dog can erase the effects of your worst day. There's nothing like going for a walk or a romp, or even just spending a night watching TV with your furry couch potato to get you feeling good again.
But even the happiest of dogs can have the occasional down day and most dog owners agree that their dogs have moods. If your dog is having too many bad days in a row, he may be suffering from depression.
Signs to Look For
Many symptoms of depression in dogs are similar to those in humans. His eating habits may change, and he may suddenly stop eating almost entirely. He may seem sleep all the time. Or the opposite could be true: he might be fidgety and restless and unable to relax and go to sleep. He may have no interest in favorite toys or activities. His face and eyes don't seem as alert. He seldom wags his tail. He just isn't acting like the friend you know so well.
Depression in dogs is most often brought on by a sudden change. Moving from familiar surroundings can depress your dog. If a favorite person or pet leaves or dies, your dog may grieve that loss. Even a change of seasons can trigger depression in dogs.
As soon as you realize your dog may be depressed, you should take him to the vet. Some illnesses can cause symptoms very similar to depression. You need to rule sickness out as a cause. If your vet does diagnose depression as the cause for your dog's strange behavior, tests can be run to discover if there is a chemical imbalance in your dog. If so, drugs can help alleviate those causes.
Steps You Can Take
Most depression in dogs is fairly short-lived; and there are things you can do to help you dog feel better.
Engage him in a favorite activity. Take him for a drive if he enjoys car rides. Play catch with him. Give him a favorite treat. Play with him and his favorite toy. Praise him when he perks up a little. If he seems a little happier or wags his tail a little, lavish praise on him. Dogs want to please their owners, so let him know how happy you are when he's happy. You don't want to ignore him when he's depressed, but be careful about showing him too much attention or he'll think you're rewarding him and that can make his depression linger.
Check your own mood. Dogs often mirror their owner's moods. Are you down in the dumps? If so, your dog may just be commiserating with you. As you get happier, you may find your dog does, too.
If he's lonely, consider getting another pet. If the loss of a pet has triggered your dog's depression, weigh this decision carefully, and make sure it's the best choice for your circumstances.
Even if your vet has put your dog on medication, most dogs only require medication for several months or a year. You know your dog better than anyone else. Be attuned to his moods. With a little time and TLC, your dog will bounce back to his chipper self before you know it.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.