It’s no surprise that most people prefer the company of dogs more than that of other pets. Their enthusiasm is contagious; their company, comforting. When people talk about dogs, they conjure images of their pooch at their best—tail wagging, ears perked up, starry-eyed as they greet you excitedly after your long day at work.
But the truth is, your dogs get sad too. In fact, they experience a wide range of emotions, including depression, and it can be triggered by multiple causes.
What Causes Unhappiness in Dogs?
Sudden life changes are the biggest factors that often lead to depression in dogs. Instances like a loved one dying or leaving (either human or another pet), having been injured, or moving into a new residence all affect your dog.
Another potential cause is an underlying medical condition that may have been undiagnosed. Bodily changes that remain undetected can be silently wreaking havoc to their physiology and mental health.
In both of these cases, it’s important that you need to get familiar with the signs of depression in dogs before the root of the problem gets worse. Here are the most common signs.
Reduced Interest in Food
Boredom is a common reason why your dog might appear picky come mealtime. But generally, they will come running with the sound of the food bowl on the counter. If your dog’s appetite changes to the point that it’s seriously taking a toll on their weight, it’s not far off to assume that they might be going through something physical or emotional.
You are most familiar with your dog’s temperament but it’s safe to say that most pooches don’t display aggressive behavior unless they are threatened or are in a painful situation. So if your pooch is normally very sweet or generally enthusiastic and he’s suddenly tearing up the couch or barking at you when you try to pet him, it’s possible that they may be in pain or are not emotionally well. Consult a veterinarian about the problem.
Avoiding All Sorts of Interaction
Dogs are social animals, and they relish social interactions, especially with their owners. Although hiding is normal, it is often caused by a direct threat or discouragement, which dogs normally soon get over with. However, if your dog maintains his or her distance for more than is normal, the behavior may be traced back to a physical or emotional issue.
Their Sleeping Pattern Is Unusual
Sleep patterns among dogs fluctuate depending on the breed and their age. Regardless, some breeds and pups do sleep a lot, getting up to 12 hours of sleep a day. You, as the owner, are more knowledgeable about their sleeping schedule. So if they are sleeping more or less than usual, you will probably notice that immediately. It will also affect their energy levels. If there’s a recent household event that caused a change in his or her routine, sleeping can be an emotional response to cope with the stress. The same stress can cause agitation and keep them awake all night.
Chewing and licking are all normal canine behaviors. Dogs usually do so to scratch a part of their skin or clean out knots in their fur. But one often-overlooked reason for licking is self-soothing. In times of stress, your dog licks itself as a form of emotional relief.
So if you notice your dog doing this often, the best thing to do is to first rule out the possibility of parasite or skin problems. Once ruled out and the excessive licking persists, it can be that your dear pooch is feeling blue and needing extra tender, loving care.
Reduced Interest in Treats and Play
Going out for a walk or playing with a chew toy are universally two of dogs’ favorite things to do. If dogs are their normal self, they’re enthusiastic about walks and often aggressively taking treats and toys. But not when they’re feeling melancholy.
Just like depression in humans, depression in dogs can cause your pooch to lose interest in things they normally find joy in.
What to Do When You Notice These Signs
All these are signs that your dog may be unhappy, but they can also be symptoms of a potential medical problem. For this reason, the best course of action is to visit the veterinarian first to properly diagnose any health issue.
If medical trouble has been ruled out, try these tips:
- Give them exciting treats to curb possible destructive behavior.
- Take them out for a walk regularly. This will help regulate energy levels and improve mood.
- Establish a routine, possibly similar to the one they had before the life-altering event at home.
- Take them to the park to socialize.
- Engage them in activities they usually enjoy.
It’s this time that your dog needs your love and support the most. So show them what you know they have always done and will always do for you when you need it.