7 Best Methods to Cheer Up a Sad, Depressed Dog
Dogs can become depressed, and sometimes they do need to be cheered up.
Why bother? As we have learned from human medicine, depression can have a lot of side effects. A depressed dog is more likely to contract an illness, and if your dog is depressed sometimes he will not be able to get better.
Depression may be an everyday occurrence; some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and will become stressed and depressed every time they realize they are about to be locked away alone. Depression might happen only once in a while, like when something special upsets your dog.(A new baby in the house?)
Depression may be a very unusual happening (hopefully once in a lifetime) like the death of a special playmate, or even a human family member.
You can deal with all of them.
How Do I Know My Dog Is Depressed?
If your dog is depressed you will most likely see the following symtoms:
- Sleeping excessively.
- No interest in going for walks.
- Sleeping in a different spot. Some dogs will hide behind the couch and sleep there.
- No interest in playing with a ball or old toys.
- Eating much less or more than normal.
- Lick granulomas, chewing for "fleas", licking the paws.
How Can I Tell if My Dog is Sick?
Not all dogs that suffer from depression have a pyschological cause for their problem. Sometimes it is a health problem, and until that problem is cleared up your dog is not going to get better.
If your dog is showing clinical signs of depression, you should have him examined by your local vet. After the exam he may want to do bloodwork to make sure there are no internal organ problems. Since some of the symptoms of depression are so similar to arthritis, he may want to do x-rays.
If everything is normal, you need to look into ways to cheer up your sad dog.
Ways to Cheer up Your Dog
If no abnormalities are found when you take your dog for an exam, these are a few things you can try:
- If you can take your dog for a walk in the morning, when the sun is shining, it should help him throughout the day. If this is not something you do set your alarm a half hour earlier in the morning. Your dog´s well being is worth those few minutes of sleep.
- Spend extra time with him. As I mentioned above, this should really be walking, even if it is only in the normal times and areas.
- Take your dog away to a new place. I do not mean that you should take him for a ride in the car. This needs to be a walk, a long walk if you both can handle it (this is not always easy with a depressed dog), so that he gets plenty of exercise and comes home and sleeps normally.
- Take some special treats with you when you go for a walk. When your dog is playing ball or acting normal praise him lavishly, and give him some of those treats. It is possible that your dog will associate acting normal with rewards. (Using this same logic, you do not want to go up and give him treats when he is acting depressed. Giving him treats when he is acting depressed might actually encourage the behavior you are trying to control.)
- Bring him home a new toy. As well as distracting him, a new toy might make your dog happy. This should be the kind of toy that you both will interact with.
- Play music for your dog. This is a controversial topic and some behaviorists think it has no effect whatsoever. Maybe not, but it will not hurt.
- Dogs are social animals. If you really are not able to take much time away from your regular schedule, sometimes a new puppy helps. This is not always a solution, however, and if you do get a second dog and your older dog becomes more depressed you should be sure you can take him back to the breeder if you have to rehome him.
What is Making My Dog Sad?
There are many causes for depression.
- A new baby in the house.
- A new puppy. Babies and puppies get a lot of attention and older dogs might become jealous and then depressed when they are ignored.
- The loss of a favorite family member. Dogs do grieve, and depression is one of the few ways they can express themselves.
- An owner who goes back to work and leaves the dog alone all day.
- A new house or apartment, especially when the dog loses his back yard and ability to go out and play.
The Last Alternative
If his examination and bloodwork is acceptable, your vet may recommend medical therapy. Prozac and Zoloft can be prescribed for your dog, and big pharmaceutial companies always have new antidepressants on the market.
I suggest you try behavioral changes first and then try drugs later. Even if you do have to resort to the medications, you need to realize that these drugs take a long time to start working.
Behavioral therapies might be more effective. If you start the drugs right away, you will never know if the dog responded to them or to the improvements you made to his lifestyle. They have several serious side effects, so for the sake of your dog, I would prefer families handle this problem naturally if at all possible.
More Help For Your Dog . . .
- My Dog Is Jealous
Dogs have emotions. Jealousy is one of the strongest, and when your dog feels it she may do all sorts of funny things. This article lists a few tips to deal with the emotion if it becomes a problem in your house.
Do you know the best way to cheer up your dog?
Questions & Answers
Ten-year-old beagles - a brother and sister - were left at our animal shelter. We went to adopt them, but someone had taken the sister. We still want to get the male but are worried about behavior problems. What are your thoughts?
© 2013 Dr Mark