Depression in dogs is similar to what people experience. One difference that exists, according to Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, is that dogs don't seem to suffer from long-term depression. This is good news for your dog should his best doggy pal die. By affording him new adventures and continuing a routine of favorite activities, you can bring your canine companion out of his sadness and back to his carefree self.
See the Signs
If his companion lived with him and was sick, your dog may start to go through the grieving process before the dog even dies. This is the time to keep a watchful eye for sadness and depression. As soon as his best friend dies, he may get disoriented or stressed. If he refuses to eat, has trouble sleeping, won't participate in backyard games and play, and doesn't have an interest in his daily walk, your dog is likely suffering from the loss of his friend. He might also let out a mournful howl once in awhile.
Fill His Days
For the next several days and weeks, your pup needs some extra attention in the form of behavior modification and environmental enrichment. Weave daily, enjoyable activities into his schedule, such as longer walks, a new hike, a day at the beach, playing ball in the backyard or swimming. When he shows signs of happiness, give him a treat and lots of praise. Dr. Christopher Pachel, a Portland, Oregon, based Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, says it may also be helpful if the dog sees his best friend's deceased body so he can better understand what is happening. Another option is to get a replacement companion. But be careful -- the wrong match will create more anxiety and could lead to behavior problems.
Antidepressant medications such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft serve to alleviate doggy depression in extreme cases. Get a veterinarian to confirm this as a short-term solution and arrange a prescription. Most dogs will need six months to a year to get better; it takes about two months for such drugs to begin working. Keep in mind side effects such as vomiting, aggression and lethargy may manifest.
What Not to Do
Your dog could be responding to the grief of others. Maybe he misses his friend, but most of his anxiety is coming from the fact that you are distraught or that he isn't getting the attention he is used to. Keep your emotions in check in the presence of your canine companion, and refrain from showering him with treats, love and praise when he's pouting. This rewards him for his bummed-out behavior and negative emotions. In addition, allow the deceased dog's blanket or favorite toy to stick around. The sight and smell might be comforting to your dog.
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.