Pet Depression: Is It a Real Thing?

If your pet seems sad, it’s possible he’s suffering from depression. You may have no idea that pets can experience depression just as humans do. Although there has been much less research on pet depression than on human depression, plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests it is an actual condition

How Do I Know if My Pet Is Depressed?

Unlike people, pets can’t tell us in human-like language why they feel depressed or sad. However, pet depression can manifest itself in behavior changes, and, as the person who knows your pet best, you’re in a unique position to pay attention to these signs. Indications that your pet is possibly depressed include:

  • Changes in appetite.
  • Excessive sleeping.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. 
  • Decreased interaction with you and other pets.
  • Frequent hiding or avoidance.
  • Obsessive licking of paws.

What Are the Causes of Pet Depression?

If you recognize that your pet is depressed, you need to try to understand why. The following are common reasons for pet depression: 

  • Grief. Pets can’t reason like humans, but they are aware of loss. Pets may grieve over the passing of another household pet and miss the presence of a doggy friend that has moved away or a child who has grown up and gone to college. The loss of a playmate can definitely cause pet depression.
  • Major Life Changes. Moving to a different neighborhood or the arrival of a new baby can affect pets and send them into depression. Animal studies have shown that adding a new pet can be stressful to an established animal. It takes time for pets to get used to these environmental changes, and they may become depressed as they adjust.
  • You. Pets are highly intuitive and sense their owners’ feelings. If you are depressed, your pet may be mirroring your mood.
  • Boredom. Pet depression may happen if your pet is left alone for long periods. Separation anxiety can manifest in withdrawal and depression.

What to Do if Your Pet Is Depressed

If your pet is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, the first thing to do is get a veterinarian examination. Often, underlying health problems can produce similar physical signs to those of depression. However, if your vet determines that your pet is depressed, there are some things you can do at home to help improve the situation.

  • Keep to a schedule – Sticking to a stable and regular routine will allow your pet to know what to expect and help to reduce anxiety. A daily schedule of walks, feeding, and playtime will assist in keeping him calm and happy.
  • Encourage activity – Do your best to engage your pet in activities he used to enjoy. He may need extra enticement, so switch things up a bit if necessary. Take a different walking route, offer new toys (especially ones with unfamiliar sounds and smells), and interact physically by petting him often. Avoid activities that seem to increase anxiety or stress.

Can a Pet Get Severely Ill From Depression?

Unfortunately, reports have shown that pet depression can be severe when significant changes occur in pets’ lives. Highly-attached animals, such as dogs, sometimes go into a deep depression and refuse food and affection from other humans.

  • At Midlands Pet Care, we sincerely hope that your furry friend recovers from pet depression. However, if you reside in or near Lexington, SC, and your beloved pet passes away for any reason, we stand ready to help you through a very difficult time. Please get in touch for more information.