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Anxiety & Depression in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & How To Help

Just like humans, dogs are able to develop anxiety and depression. In this blog, our Bedford vets discuss the signs and symptoms of these mental illnesses in dogs and how you can help treat them.

If you are wondering if dogs can experience anxiety and depression, the answer is yes. This is because they are very smart animals that are capable of experiencing many different emotions. 

Causes of Depression and Anxiety in Dogs

Sometimes, a major change or a stressful event in a dog’s life can cause the symptoms of anxiety or/and depression, such as when they lose their companion animal or owner. A sense of sadness or grief going on in their environment can lead to these emotions as well.

Major changes in their lives such as moving to a new home, a new pet at home, or even a new baby can affect your canine companion's emotions. Typically if there has been a change in your dog's everyday routine your dog can be at risk of experiencing anxiety or depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Dogs

The symptoms dogs experience when they are suffering from depression are similar to the ones humans can develop. 

Common symptoms include low activity levels, a loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed, and a change in eating and/or sleeping habits.

Some dogs may also show signs of aggression, including uncharacteristic howling or whining.

Signs Your Dog Has Anxiety

The signs of anxiety in dogs can include hiding, reduced activity, trembling, tail-tucking, and passive escape behaviors. They could even experience symptoms of panic such as panting, pacing, and active escape behavior. 

The physical symptoms of anxiety in dogs could consist of sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity, like diarrhea, or lesions causing them to lick or bite their own body. 

How to Treat Your Dog's Anxiety or Depression

Luckily, most of the time dogs can overcome anxiety and/or depression by themselves. But, based on your dog and their situation, it could take days to months for them to recover. No matter what, the love and care of their owners, and sometimes some guidance from your veterinarian, can help them overcome the blues. 

Pet owners can try the following techniques:

  • Offer your dog more attention. But wait until you see some signs of happiness, like a wagging tail, and reward them for that behavior.
  • Keep your dog active with regular walks, playtimes, and other activities you know they enjoy.
  • If your dog's symptoms are related to the loss of an animal companion, consider getting another pet or start socializing them with other pets.

Depending on the severity of their symptoms your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-anxiety medication as well as recommend behavior management techniques.

In some cases, depression and/or anxiety may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition in a dog. If your pet has not recently experienced a major life change or distressing event, talk to your veterinarian about what else could be troubling them.

Contact our Bedford vets to learn more about depression and anxiety in dogs, or to schedule an appointment for your pup's symptoms. 

We're accepting new patients! Book your pet's first appointment today.

(914) 666-8061