Depression in people is a topic often discussed, and for good reason, as it can be a crippling condition for even the strongest of personalities. Unfortunately, the condition is not only limited to human beings, and animals can suffer from depression.
Dog owners, generally, take great care of their pets, providing them with the best food, and all the comfort we can, so depression is not something we think about when it comes to our dogs. We give them everything they could need, and our love, so we don’t expect our dogs to have to deal with depression; however, this is the reality of things, so it is important for dog owners to know and be able to recognize the signs of depression.
Changes in Appetite & Weight Loss: If you notice weight loss, which cannot be explained any other way, or notice that your dog is no longer eating his food completely, then there is the possibility that your dog may be depressed. On the other end of the spectrum, if your dog seems to want to gorge itself, and use eating as a soothing mechanism, then that can also be a sign of depression.
Excessive Sleep: As a matter of course, dogs sleep quite a bit, but usually this is during their down-time, when the owner is away. So if you are gone for the day, it is likely that your dog will sleep most of that time; however, if upon your return she shows you little interest, and continues to sleep even in your presence then there is a possibility that he is suffering from depression. Of course, there are other reasons why your dog might be sleeping excessively, such as an illness or physical pain.
Interestingly, if the opposite happens where your dog is not sleeping enough, and is always anxious, this may also point to depression.
Destructive Behavior: If your otherwise calm and docile dog begins to demonstrate destructive behavior, it might either be a sign that she is not getting enough exercise, or that she is suffering from depression, so if there is enough exercise during the day, then you may want to pay closer attention for other signs of depression, and if you notice any other hints, then it’s possible that she may be depressed.
Paw Licking: Licking (and chewing) on the paws is a method of self-soothing for dogs. So if you notice your dog licking and chewing on its paws on a regular basis then this might be a sign of depression. Dogs will do this type of licking and chewing as a means of grooming, of course, so if this happens periodically then it’s just normal behavior.
Hiding and Avoiding People: When dogs are ill, they try to hide and have solitude. Since depression is a form of illness, the same type of behavior manifests itself if your dog is depressed. If your dog suddenly starts displaying such behavior (e.g. hiding under the bed, or just wanting to be left alone) then there is a fair chance that she is either experiencing a physical illness, or is depressed.
If you notice any of these signs, you can consult your veterinarian and get recommendations for a course of action.