While dogs can’t tell you exactly what they’re feeling, they can still show behaviors similar to human depression. If your vet has ruled out other health conditions, you might have a case of doggie depression on your hands.
10 silent signs your dog is depressed
10 silent signs your dog is depressed
A depressed dog won’t have the same energy levels that it used to, and its usual playtime and exercise won’t excite your pet as much. “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, DVM. Don't miss these other facts you didn't know about your pup.
Losing interest in favorite activities
Not every dog loves throwing a Frisbee or going for walks, so lack of exercise might not be the only telltale sign. The key is to notice if your dog has an unexplained behavior change or stops enjoying other activities it used to love, says Kelly Ryan, DVM, director of veterinary services at the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America. “Maybe every day your dog waits by the door for your kid to come home from school,” she says. If your pet is still moping in its bed after the bus drops your kid off, it might be depressed. Learn why your dog usually follows you everywhere (even the bathroom).
Leaving food in the bowl
Just like how you might lose your appetite when you’re feeling down, your dog might not feel like eating either. If your dog doesn’t show its usual eagerness for its favorite food or even loses weight, it might be experiencing depression, says Russell Hartstein, celebrity dog trainer with Fun Paw Care Los Angeles.
Sleeping more than usual
Every animal is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all number of hours of sleep that would signal dog depression. Just pay attention if your dog is spending more time in bed than usual. “If your 15-year-old dog normally sleeps 14 hours a day and now it’s 20, that would be a big difference,” says Dr. Ryan. Find out why sleeping with your dog could be good for you.
Experiencing a death in the family
You’re not the only one mourning the loss of a family member or another pet—your dog needs to grieve, too, and might go through a blue period. “You can’t really speed up that grieving process,” says Hartstein, “but you can comfort them and be sensitive to their needs.” Give your pooch some TLC with extra cuddles and treats while it gets used to the loss.
Spending too much time inside
Dogs need space to run around and might become sad if they haven’t been given the chance. “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,” says Hartstein. Same goes for dogs, so take time to bring your dog on long walks or to the park. Once it starts getting the freedom it craves, your pet might slowly get its energy back.
Showing sudden aggression
A dog with depression might start tearing up the couch or growling when you touch it. “It’s not always the sad, forlorn basset hound-looking face you think of as the face of depression,” says Dr. Nelson. Depression shouldn’t be your first thought if your dog has always been aggressive, but a cuddly pooch that suddenly snaps might be telling you something’s wrong.
Being alone in the house
Your dog probably gets lonely when you’re gone, so if your job constantly keeps you out of the house for long periods of time, your pet might stop jumping up to see you the minute you come home. “Dogs are social beings, and they’re not content with just being alone for many hours like that,” says Hartstein. Hire a dog walker or ask the usual walker to add another walk to your pet’s schedule, suggests Dr. Nelson.
Don’t be surprised if your dog has been acting strange ever since you moved homes. Change can be tough for animals, and your dog might feel depressed while it gets used to its new environment, says Hartstein. With a little time and attention, though, your pet should snap out of it and warm up to its new surroundings.
Animals don’t just lick themselves to get clean; sometimes they use the action to make themselves feel better. While it’s not a common symptom of dog depression, it isn’t unheard of, says Dr. Ryan. “If dogs have anxiety issues, they could be doing more compulsive-looking behaviors that can be self-soothing,” she says. “They pick a spot and keep licking it.”
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What should you do?
Before you blame your dog’s behavior on depression, its vet will need to do a full checkup to rule out any other health issues that could be bringing your dog down, like pain or a thyroid problem. For instance, look for these 11 symptoms of dog arthritis. If everything else checks out, your vet will likely recommend giving your dog more exercise, a healthier diet, and extra attention to lift your pet’s spirits. As a last-ditch effort, a vet might prescribe one of the same depression medications humans would use, such as Prozac or Zoloft. “We don’t want all our dogs walking around on Zoloft if we don’t have to, and oftentimes we don’t need to,” says Dr. Nelson. “But if giving that little something to take the edge off helps them live a more comfortable life, there’s no shame in that game.”
11 superpowers dogs have
11 superpowers dogs have
Don’t even try to hide treats from your dog. His nose knows you have them. Just don’t let him get his paws on any foods dogs can’t eat. Dogs’ sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than that of humans. Just how powerful is that? As James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, told PBS, "If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well."
Internal storm tracker
There are some weather myths you shouldn’t believe, like lightning never strikes the same place twice. But here’s one you should never doubt: Dogs can sense when bad weather is coming. Researchers don’t have an exact explanation—maybe your pet actually is a superhero!—but they have some theories. Dogs are sensitive to drops in barometric pressure that come with severe storms, and they can hear low frequencies that humans can’t, like far-off thunder and earthquake rumbles. You shouldn’t solely rely on your pet over meteorologists, but don’t let their weird behavior go unnoticed. It could save your life.
Secret tail code
As if having an extra extremity wasn’t cool to begin with, dogs can also use their tails to communicate. (This is what your pet secretly wants you to know.) They lower their tails when they feel scared or nervous. When they’re alert or aroused, the tails wag higher. If a pooch is aggressive or feeling threatened, that tail will stick straight up in the air. Plus, dogs can tell how other canines are feeling based on what direction they wag in. Italian researchers discovered that dogs became more anxious when they saw others wag their tails to the left, as opposed to the right side or not at all. Previous studies showed that left-leaning tail wagging was a result of a dog having a negative experience, like facing a nasty dog.
Dogs and humans know how to take care of each other. You look out for the signs that your dog is sick, and dogs can tell when you’re not 100 percent healthy, sometimes even before you know it. Thanks to their powerful sense of smell, dogs can pick up on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in human bodies, which include diseases like cancer. In 2006, dogs trained at the In Situ Foundation were able to detect lung cancer with 97 percent accuracy and breast cancer with 88 percent accuracy, just by sniffing breath samples from patients. Those are better results than needle biopsies.
Well, kind of. Dogs can’t exactly read your mind, but they do know how you’re feeling. In a study published in Biology Letters, researchers showed dogs photos faces displaying different emotions while also playing an audio clip that showed a distinct emotion. What’s interesting is that the dogs looked at the face that corresponded to the type of voice that was being played, like a mad face when the audio clip was an angry voice. So your pet may not be able to process the words “You ate all of my cereal?!” like humans can, but she can definitely use your facial expressions and tone to pick up that you’re not in a great mood.
Yes, empathy is a superpower (one that humans can harness with a few exercises!). Not only do dogs and pups understand your feelings, but they can also empathize with you, according to a report from Psychology Today. Psychologists from Goldsmiths College in London conducted the same study on 18 dogs: Each dog would watch while their owner sat across from a stranger. The two individuals would take turns talking normally, humming in an unusual pattern, and pretending to cry. The psychologists reasoned that when their owners cried, the pets would lay on them, nuzzle, lick, or otherwise try to comfort them. But the dogs ended up also comforting the crying strangers, even though they had no emotional connection, just because they saw that they were distressed. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all empathized like dogs?
You’ve probably heard stories about pets that found their way home despite terrible odds and long distances. For instance, this cat broke out of a shelter to go back to his rescuer. But once again, dogs’ noses are a crucial part of their uncanny sense of direction. They are able to follow their own scent trails for miles to retrace their steps, and if the wind is right, they can even use their owners’ scent as well, TIME reported.
While we meager humans can only hear sounds up to 20,000 Hz (vibrations per second), dogs can hear up to 60,000 Hz. Dogs’ large ears are on the top of their heads, prime real estate to pick up noises humans miss. Plus, they have about 18 ear muscles, which allow them to rotate, tilt, and raise their ears to get an amplified sound. If you thought these household noises were annoying, just think of how much they bother your pooch!
Our eyes get more accustomed to darkness the longer we’re exposed to it. (That’s why you should never turn on the lights if you hear an intruder.) Dogs, on the other hand, have eyes that are made to automatically see well in the dark. Their large pupils let more light in, and the rods in their eyes work better in dim light. But the biggest factor is the tapetum, which reflects light at the back of the eye. That helps them see in light that’s five times dimmer than what humans need to see clearly.
Take it from us: You don’t want to challenge your dog to a race. On average, canines clock in at about 19 miles per hour, but many can go over 35 mph if they’re running in short spurts. The fastest dog breed is the greyhound, which can reach 45 mph. To compare, the fastest humans can only run 28 mph. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run, though. It can make you live longer.
The best prescription ever
Just being in the presence of a dog can make you healthier. Petting dogs can reduce stress, help your body release a relaxation hormone, and lower blood pressure (which, in turn, reduces your risk for heart disease.) Studies have also shown that pet owners are generally happier and more trusting. Plus, they go to the doctor less frequently for minor problems.