How to tell if you have a sad dog

We all know that dogs tend to be upbeat, excitable creatures, which is why they make such great companions and pets. But if your dog is sleeping a lot, has become lethargic, or is uninterested in engaging with you or your family in their usual warm, friendly way, it might be a sign that your dog is depressed.  

Do dogs get depressed?

Although dog brains share many similarities with human brains, what it means for a dog to be depressed is different from what it means for people. 

It’s impossible to say for sure whether a dog is depressed for the simple reason that they can’t communicate their inner states like we do. But if your dog’s behaviour changes for the worse, and all physical causes have been considered and eliminated by your vet, depression may be the only explanation left standing. 

The signs that your dog is depressed are similar to those displayed by humans. For example, your dog may spend long periods of time being inactive, with an increased amount of sleep, and may have a general disinterest in activities that previously gave them joy. 

Is my dog depressed or sick? 

Dogs are at heart playful, energetic creatures, which is why we love them so much and why they are fun to have around. But when you have a sad dog around, it feels as if that playful energy has been sucked out of them, and their natural enthusiasm disappears. Other signs of potential dog depression include: 

  • a change in appetite (either overeating, or losing interest in food altogether)
  • hiding for long periods of time
  • a lack of interest in playing, walks, or going outside
  • nervous shaking
  • excessive vocalisation (like barking or whimpering more than usual). 

However, these symptoms are also consistent with other physical problems – they don’t necessarily indicate that your dog is depressed. You should always bring your dog to the vet for a proper evaluation if you think there’s a problem. 

Why might a dog be depressed?

Like humans, dogs are naturally social animals, and thrive on companionship. And just like us, any major upheaval in your dog’s life may affect them psychologically. That’s why the most common trigger of depression symptoms in dogs is the los of a family member, either human or animal. 

Other common triggers of depression symptoms in dogs include: 

  • boredom, or lack of activity (including not getting enough exercise)
  • a change in environment (including moving home or being put in a kennel)
  • lack of attention from an owner
  • introduction of a new person or pet into the home
  • empathy with depressed owner. 

It’s important to remember your dog may be acting depressed because of an underlying medical problems. Just in the same way that a back strain, toothache or dodgy knee may make you feel down in the dumps, dogs with arthritis, thyroid or dental issues may also act in a depressed manner. So it’s crucial to first check with a vet about the physical health of your seemingly depressed dog before jumping to conclusions.

Please note: Any illness, injury or condition that occurred before you take out a policy is known as a pre-existing condition. Any pre-existing condition will not be covered under the policy. Pet Insurance policies have an initial 14 days exclusion for illness claims so any claim starting before the policy or in the first 14 days will not be covered.  For more details please view our key documents.

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