Is My Dog Sad? How To Tell And What You Can Do About It
Dog owners want their dogs to be happy and contented. But unfortunately, a dog can get sad, or depressed, just like humans do. How do you recognize the symptoms and what can you do about a sad dog?
There is a difference between being “sad” and being “depressed”. Sadness can be a temporary state of mind, while being truly depressed can lead to more serious long term issues.
How do you know your dog is sad?
You know your dog better than anyone, and you’re the best person to notice when your dog is sad. A dog’s facial expression and body language can indicate sadness. But the easiest way to know whether there is a problem is observe changes in the dog’s behavior, mannerisms, or routine. The following are indications of a sad dog:
- A loss of interest and being apathetic. This happens when things that previously interested your dog no longer hold the same attraction. Like going for walks, playing, riding in the car. A lack of excitement about a previously enjoyable activity is a sure sign of a sad dog.
- A change in appetite. Like humans, a depressed dog can lose interest in food he previously enjoyed, or he may suddenly eat everything in sight. So watch out for sudden weight gain or loss.
- A change in sleeping patterns is another warning signal. Even though dogs do spend a lot of their time sleeping, be on the lookout for a dog that suddenly sleeps much more than before.
- An increase in aggressive behavior can also be a sign of depression. It may be the dog’s way of trying to cope with whatever is making him depressed.
- A dog that suddenly spends a lot of time grooming herself mustn’t be taken lightly. Be particularly on the lookout for excessive paw licking. Before these behaviors are seen as signs of depression, it’s important to exclude any physical reason.
- When your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy the company of his human and animal “family” like before and isolates himself, there can also be a problem.
What is the cause of the sadness?
Once you are fairly sure that your dog is sad or depressed, you need to try and find the cause. This will enable you to do something about it.
- The first step is to visit your vet to rule out a physical cause for the sadness. Remember that dogs can’t always differentiate between physical and emotional pain. If an underlying health issue is the reason for the change in behavior, he will probably prescribe medication for your dog.
- A change in a dog’s circumstances, like being re-homed, or the family moving to another home, even a large renovation; can bring about a feeling of being unsettled, displaced, and a loss of the familiar.
- Dogs can experience grief. The loss of someone who died, or moved away, or the loss of a playmate – for instance a sibling he has known all his life – can all cause sadness.
- A change in the owner’s mood, like the death of someone close, a divorce, or the owner’s own depression, can be picked up by the dog. Dogs are sensitive to a human’s mood and can realize something is wrong with the owner.
- A change in the owner’s schedule may also impact on the dog as they are creatures of habit and loves routine. Working longer hours, spending less time with the dog, or another change in routine can cause the dog uncertainty and a loss of the familiar.
- An addition to the family, human or dog, may create a feeling of being discarded. A dog may not always welcome a new playmate, and may feel the new dog gets preferential treatment. Simply put: he’s jealous and doesn’t want to share his human! Some dogs take naturally to the arrival of ababy or four legged friend, but others may need special assurance that they’re still important. Be sensitive to these situations.
- Another reason for sadness may be a dog that’s exposed to punitive training, aggressive or taunting treatment – which may lead to a feeling of helplessness. This is particularly true if your dog is exposed to people that treats her in some undesirable way. Be aware of people who come into contact with your dog when you’re not around. If your dog’s behavior changes after these interactions, it may be time for a change.
What can you do to help your dog get over his depression?
So, what can you do to get your happy, confident and carefree dog back? Quite a bit actually, once you’ve determined the cause of the depression.
- If the cause is physical, your vet will prescribe medicine or treatments. There are also natural remedies available.
- Spend special time with your dog, you are the most important thing in his life and he craves your attention. A scratch behind the ear, cuddling up together on the couch for a while, even just a few special words telling her how special she is may help. Dogs are very appreciative creatures.
- Play with him, have fun! This can mean walks with lots of sniffing time, energetic ball games, hide and seek, or just a gentle stroll if s he’s an older dog. An active dog is a happy dog, and even if you have to encourage her at the start, she’ll probably soon get to enjoy it. Just make sure the physical activity is right for the particular dog.
- You can try and fill the void, if your dog is sad because of some loss. It may not be possible where children have returned to school after holidays or even left the house, but you can distract her with interesting activities mentioned above. If he misses a companion, think about getting another dog. This may not always be possible or desirable, but can be the solution in some cases.
- Be patient, and give her time to get over the change or loss. Dogs are adjustable creatures, as long as you provide a secure home, attention and exercise.
- Don’t crowd the dog! Give him space and don’t fuss too much. That may just reinforce the behavior
To be able to recognize the signs of sadness, or even depression, it’s important that you’re familiar with your dog’s basic, baseline behavior. Just another good reason to spend time with and get to know your furry friend!