When we talk about a depressed dog, we tend to think of a dog that is having a little bit of a flat day and that just needs a hug or a biscuit to perk them up. However, this largely glosses over the fact that depression in dogs can be a chronic and very real health condition, just as it can in people.
Very little is known about how depression in dogs works on a chemical level in their brains, and the use of prescription antidepressants as are often prescribed for humans is something that remains reasonably controversial, and which tend to be used only in very specific and narrow situations.
However, much as is often the case for people, bouts of depression in dogs tend to occur due to a combination of a chemical predisposition to low serotonin levels, and a certain triggering situation or ongoing issue. Again like depression in people, dogs can and sometimes do also become depressed due to a situation or set of situations alone, even if they do not have a serotonin imbalance or other potential predisposition to depression.
Whilst the situation or trigger for a bout of depression will be different for every dog, there are several universal scenarios that are likely to cause depression and unhappiness in your dog if unchecked-and being able to recognise what they are is the first step in identifying the cause, and doing something to change it.
In this article we will look at five things that can make your dog depressed, and how to go about resolving them. Even if your dog seems fine and not depressed at all, if one of these scenarios seems similar to how things are in your home at the moment, it is wise to take steps to counteract it to prevent a potential problem. Read on to learn more.
All dogs should be trained to tolerate being left alone on occasion, for up to a few hours at a time-this is essential if you go out to work, and at plenty of other times too. However, around four hours at a time is the upper limit that you can reasonably expect a dog to stay on their own happily for, and not much more! If you routinely leave your dog on their own for longer (such as for a full eight or ten hour working day without a sitter or walker) your dog may well become unhappy and either begin acting out, or simply become insular and depressed.
Making provisions to arrange for a walker or sitter to take your dog out during the day should resolve this, and you should also ensure that your dog has plenty of toys and games for when they are left alone.
Getting a second dog (or another pet) generally works out well for all concerned, and the existing dog will often bond strongly with the newcomer and they will of course provide entertainment and company for each other too.
However, adding a new pet to the home can make the first dog feel pushed out, and it is vital to ensure that you still pay plenty of attention to your original dog, and do not neglect them.
Don’t forget too that even if you and your partner are vigilant about making sure that your dogs are treated equally, your kids might be enthralled by the novelty of the newcomer-especially if it is a puppy-so talk to them about the importance of being fair with both dogs at all times.
As well as the challenges that can arise when you get a new pet, your dog may feel much the same if you have a new baby, get a new partner, or even if someone leaves-such as an adult child going to university, or due to a relationship breakup.
Spending lots of time with your dog and again, involving them in family life and ensuring that they do not feel pushed out is once again vital.
Even if you spend all day every day at home with your dog, it is important to take care of their needs for exercise, entertainment and mental stimulus as well as company. Dogs do of course like having someone around all the time, but if you do spend most of your time with your dog, it can be all too easy to get lax about their walks or finding things to do with them. In contrast, people with limited time often have to make more of an effort to do this and so, manage it more effectively.
Make sure your dog gets a good walk at least once a day without fail, and spend time playing and interacting with your dog too as well as simply sitting around!
Dogs like to know exactly what they can expect from their lives, in terms of when they will be fed and walked, and having limitations and curbs on their behaviour and what is and is not allowed-all of these things are vital to make your dog feel safe and secure.
A lack of a regular routine can really upset your dog and make them feel insecure and unhappy, and this can happen very easily without your realising. For instance, if your dog is always fed a couple of times a day and has no reason to fear missing a meal, you might think it is no problem to switch and change their feeding times around to suit you-but your dog will not like this at all!
Analyse how predictable your dog’s day to day life is and if they are following a set routine and if not, take steps to change this.