Just like his human friends, your dog can suffer from depression, too. Doggie depression may lead to weight loss and other health concerns, so it's important to know what signs to look for should your best buddy fall victim to a case of the blues.
Changes in your dog's life, such as the loss of a beloved human or fellow animal companion, can lead to depression. Dogs have the capacity to form deep bonds with the people and animals they share their lives with. A loss of appetite is not uncommon for dogs experiencing depression. Where they once chowed down with gusto and happily lapped up water, depression can leave them with very little interest in food and drink.
Many dogs love to play even as they reach their senior years. Playtime and social interaction -- whether it involves playing with a favorite toy or simply jumping up on the couch to cuddle with their favorite human -- is the highlight in the days of many companion dogs. When depression looms over your dog, disinterest in these favorite pastimes may ensue. The sparkle in his eyes may fade to sadness. He may seem to stare off into space while showing very little interest in your invitations for playtime.
Depression can make people and dogs alike feel as though they just want to go hide somewhere -- and that's exactly what your dog may decide to do. While he once joined the family in the living room, making himself comfortable and sprawling out in the middle of the floor, your dog may decide to curl up in a more private area. Hiding under a bed or closet might be his area of choice while feeling depressed. Not all dogs react to depression the same way. Some dogs may do just the opposite and cry when they're left alone. They may develop separation anxiety and even destroy objects when you're not at home.
Dogs experience many of the emotions that humans experience. Crying may accompany sadness and depression. It's not uncommon for a depressed dog to let out an emotional howl or cry. They may also vocalize their sadness with whining. It's possible that these vocalizations could be a sign of physical pain. It's a good idea to keep note of their vocalizations. If it continues or they appear to be in pain, a visit to your dog's veterinarian is necessary.
If your dog is experiencing depression, he depends on you to help see him through it. Spend quality time with your dog each day, even if it means simply sitting beside him and petting him. If your dog has experienced a loss, working to maintain a routine schedule each day is important for his well-being. Try to incorporate physical activity that will stimulate his mind, such as playing with a ball, but don't force it if he shows no interest. Daily walks can help to boost your dog's mood while releasing serotonin in the brain. In some cases, if depression doesn't subside for several months, your dog's veterinarian may prescribe anti-depression medication to get him through his darkest days.
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