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Anxiety & Depression in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & How To Help

Did you know dogs can experience times when they don't feel like themselves? Here, our Fairhaven veterinarians discuss the causes, common symptoms and treatment options for depression and anxiety in dogs.

Is my dog depressed?

Dogs are emotionally intelligent creatures capable of experiencing a range of emotions. This also means they can suffer from depression and anxiety. 

Distressing events or major life changes can sometimes cause a dog's nerves to go haywire or trigger feelings of sadness or anxiety. Other triggering incidents may include the loss of a dog's owner or companion animal. Your pooch is also likely to sense those around them experiencing grief if there's been a passing in the family. All of these can impact a dog's general emotions. 

Even what many view as positive life changes, such as a new baby, a new pet, or a move to a new house and community, may also affect a dog's emotions. Generally, any significant change in a dog's life or daily routine can bring on symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

Symptoms of Depression in Dogs

Signs of depression in dogs are similar to those experienced by people. They include:

    • Disinterest in playing with people or toys
    • 'Sad' expression
    • Lack of energy
    • Avoiding you or hiding
    • Growling, howling or aggression
    • Sleeping too much
    • Decreased appetite
    • Not sleeping

Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs

When dogs experience anxiety, some of the symptoms they can experience include:

    • Destructive chewing or destroying furniture
    • Obsessive paw licking
    • Spontaneous bowel movement or urination
    • Panting for no reason
    • Pacing aimlessly
    • Whimpering, trembling, or whining

How can you calm your dog's nerves?

The good news is that dogs can often overcome depression and/or anxiety on their own. Depending on the dog and the situation, it can take days to months. No matter what, the love and care of their owners, and sometimes some guidance from your veterinarian, can help them overcome the blues. Here are some ways that you can help your dog:

Bring Them in For a Vet Checkup

Some signs of depression and anxiety can be caused by physical ailments or conditions that need urgent attention. If your dog seems anxious or depressed, you should first schedule a visit with your vet.

While some dogs might recover from depression with some extra affection and attention from their pet parent, your vet will give your dog a thorough physical exam and might prescribe medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety aids to help calm their nerves if the issue doesn't show signs of improving. 

Keep Your Dog Active–Both Physically & Mentally

Boredom can often lead our furry friends to become anxious or depressed. Make sure your pooch gets plenty of exercise before you leave for the day, and supply your pup with enough toys to keep them busy to help quell your dog's anxiety. Look for interactive toys that can be stuffed with treats to keep your pup's body and mind active while you're out of the house.

Allow Your Dog Plenty of Time For Playing & Socializing

Our dogs are social creatures who love being around people and other animals. Suppose your dog is suffering from anxiety or depression. In that case, you may consider getting a companion animal for your pup or taking your lonely pooch to the dog park, group classes, or doggie daycare for additional social interaction.

Give Your Dog an Abundance of Love & Affection

Of course, our pets need lots of love and patience to feel safe and contented - even more so when they are prone to feeling depressed or anxious. By giving your dog some extra time and attention, you may be able to alleviate these issues and restore your pup's sense of fun and happiness.

Depending on the severity of their symptoms, your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-anxiety medication and recommend behavior management techniques.

In some cases, depression and/or anxiety may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition in a dog. If your pet has not recently experienced a major life change or distressing event, talk to your veterinarian about what else could be troubling them.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your dog may be feeling blue? Contact our Fairhaven vets to schedule a checkup. We're here to help you get to the bottom of it.

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New England Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fairhaven companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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