Is your dog depressed? It is not always easy to tell if your canine friend is feeling blue. They can't exactly tell you how they are feeling, but there are certain telltale signs that you can look out for if you are concerned that your dog is suffering from depression. After consulting with the experts, Reader's Digest compiled a list of warning signs. Here are eight of them:
- Not wanting to play. Low energy levels and loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable is a major symptom of depression — in humans and animals. If your dog has lost interest in playtime this could be a warning sign. "It could be that their favorite thing in the world was to throw a tennis ball, and all of a sudden they don’t want to do that," says Virginia-based veterinarian Katy Nelson.
- Leaving food in the bowl. Another symptom of depression is a change in appetite. This could translate into either a loss or increase in appetite. If you have noticed that your dog is leaving food behind in the bowl and not wolfing dinner down with the same gusto, you may have doggie depression on your hands.
- Sleeping more than usual. If you have noticed that your dog is suddenly sleeping a lot more than usual, it could be a warning sign of depression. It is important to also rule out other health risks but if your dog has cleared the health test, then it may very well be depression.
- Grief. Animals also experience grief so if there has been a loss in the family, whether it was a relative or pet, your dog may need time to grieve. And they may also need the support and comfort of their owners as they mourn. "You can't really speed up that grieving process," said Russell Hartstein, a celebrity dog trainer with Fun Paw Care Los Angeles. "But you can comfort them and be sensitive to their needs."
- Spending too much time indoors. If your dog spends most of the day locked up indoors, this could affect their happiness. "If you were locked indoors all the time and not exposed to the outdoors except the immediate yard and around the block, you would not be fulfilled and would be depressed," said Hartstein. Take your dog out for regular walks and playtime outside for a mood boost — for pet and owner alike.
- Sudden aggression. In humans, depression may be accompanied by irritability. In dogs, this could show up as aggression.
- Home alone. Dogs get lonely, and if they spend most of their time alone at home while you are at work, they could become depressed. A dead giveaway is if they are overly excited to see you when you walk in the front door. "Dogs are social beings, and they're not content with just being alone for many hours like that," explained Hartstein.
- Constant licking. Despite popular belief, a dog does not just lick itself to get clean, it can be a self-soothing action. "If dogs have anxiety issues, they could be doing more compulsive-looking behaviors that can be self-soothing," said Kelly Ryan, DVM. "They pick a spot and keep licking it."
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