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Can You Tell if Your Dog is Depressed?

By Linda Cole

Dogs can get down in the dumps just like we can. Depression can be a serious and life threatening condition if it's not recognized and treated. However, dogs can't tell us when they don't feel right, so the only way we can tell if something is wrong is by observing how they act.

A dog's personality can be just as complicated as their owner's. Just like us, dogs have their own favorite areas of the home where they feel secure and comfortable. If that area is an out of the way spot, like under the bed or in a closet, it can be misread as the dog hiding. A depressed dog may hide, but he could also just want a quiet place to relax. There are other symptoms to look for that are better indicators of depression.

Symptoms of depression in dogs

Depression works much the same with a pet as it does for us. There's an apparent lack of interest in food and sometimes even water. If your dog misses one or two of his CANIDAE meals, there's no cause for concern as long as he's still drinking water. But if his lack of appetite lasts longer than a 24 hour period, and he isn't drinking water, you should have your vet check him out to make sure there's not a medical problem or injury that's causing him to not want to eat or drink. Sometimes a depressed dog may go the other way and overeat.

Besides loss of appetite, other symptoms to watch out for can include no energy (lethargy) in a normally active dog or sleeping more than usual. A depressed dog may appear to be easily startled by a noise or another pet or person in the same room. A dog that wants to be left alone, won't move his head to look at you when you call his name, or paces from one room to another and can't seem to find any place where he's comfortable, is showing symptoms of depression. Your dog may be depressed if he constantly follows you around the house or yard but doesn't want to interact with you, especially if he always has in the past.

Causes of depression

A loss of a family member or another pet can leave a dog depressed and confused. The bond that grows between a dog and his owner is for a lifetime, as far as the dog is concerned. They can also have as strong of a bond with another pet. But depression can be caused by other things, and knowing your dog's personality can help you tell if something is wrong.

Dogs that are adopted from shelters may suffer from depression. Even if shelter employees and volunteers are able to give the dogs attention, it's not enough to help ease a dog that is anxious about shelter life. If they were surrendered to a shelter by their owner, the dog doesn't understand why his owner broke their bond. It’s important to watch for signs of depression when adopting from a shelter. In most cases, the love you give your adopted dog will ease his mind as your bond grows. Separation anxiety can also cause depression when a dog doesn't understand why he can't be with his owner all the time.

Extreme weather conditions that limit a dog's exercise can cause some to slip into a depressed state of mind. We know how important exercise is to maintain a healthy body and mind, and when the weather keeps us and our dogs inside, it can affect both of us. In Do Dogs and Cats Get Cabin Fever?, Julia Williams shares some ideas for helping your dog enjoy his time indoors when he can't go outside.

Other causes for depression in dogs include a change in routine that's upset him, a new home, another pet, a new baby, a medical condition like heart disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, arthritis and kidney disease, or an injury that's bothering him.


When you know your dog, all you have to do is look at him to know something isn't right. Anytime your pet isn't acting normal, a vet checkup is always the best place to start to rule out medical problems. Your dog's depression may be a temporary condition. However, if it continues, your vet can prescribe medication or recommend a qualified animal behaviorist who can evaluate your dog to help you understand why he's feeling down in the dumps.

For most dogs, extra time with their owner is all they need to perk up and leave their blues behind. To our dogs, we are the most important thing in their life and sometimes they just need some reassurance that they are also an important part of our lives. Dogs respond best to the ones closest to them, just like we do!

Photo By Hub Figuière

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