Anxiety & Depression in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and How to Help
Scientists are still trying to scientifically prove that dogs have emotions, but one thing all dog owners agree on is that their canine companions feel human to them.
Like humans, dogs have their share of hormones that can get out of balance. When that happens, your pet may experience feelings of anxiety or depression. This can also be caused or heightened by experiences or changes that may be going through.
Causes of Anxiety and Dog Depression
Dog depression and anxiety can have a variety of causes. Pinpointing what’s upsetting your dog can help you treat the problem.
Separation anxiety in dogs is more common than you’d think. It’s also a significant cause of canine anxiety and upset. Dogs typically experience separation anxiety if:
- They are home alone for long periods
- They lose a family member (pet or human)
- They are rehomed too early
Another cause of dog depression and anxiety is an unfamiliar environment.
Smell plays a critical role in the way dogs perceive the world, and the more a place smells like them, the happier they are.
If you move house, expect some anxiety from your dog for the first few weeks. The new house smell may be pleasant for you, but dogs find it extremely disconcerting. That’s because they like to leave scent markers on their territory. It lets visiting dogs know whose house it is. Without those, any strange dog could claim your living room from under you.
New Family Members
Some dogs become stressed or anxious when there’s a new addition to a family, whether the new member is another dog or a human.
New babies can be a primary cause of canine anxiety. The combination of noise and attention they generate disrupts your dog’s routine and, sometimes, makes them feel like their place in the pack is threatened.
For this reason, getting a new dog immediately after losing an old one is typically discouraged, especially when the loss occurs in a bonded pair.
Like people, dogs need a rich and varied life to keep them healthy and happy. Dogs with regular simulation will be naturally happier than dogs left to their own devices all day.
Of course, dogs also have as many personalities as people, and some dogs are content to lounge all day in sunspots. Others like to be active. So when determining whether or not your dog has anxiety or depression, ensure you take their personality into account.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Your Dog
Although the causes of dog depression and anxiety can vary, there are a few classic symptoms that tip a dog’s hand to the observant owner.
Circling or Pacing
Circling or pacing is a classic sign of depression or anxiety in dogs who feel lonely. You will most likely see this behavior as you get ready for work. The dog becomes so anxious about the separation that they begin pacing to see if you have left yet.
Some dogs couple this with whining, squealing, or even howling.
Another classic sign of canine anxiety is inappropriate elimination. As your dog becomes more stressed, it may start disregarding basic training and do its toileting indoors.
Nervous Tail Syndrome
While not a medical condition, it is how we talk about dog anxiety in our family. Dogs say a lot with their tail, even if it’s not the arrogant question mark cats carry around.
A happy dog wags its tail.
A nervous dog curls its tail under its legs. An anxious or depressed dog always carries its tail this way, not just when it’s frightened or nervous.
How You Can Help With Your Dogs Depression or Anxiety
So that’s what causes canine anxiety and depression. And now you know how to spot it. But what can you do to help?
Pheromone Dispensing Therapy
Typically, treating a problem depends on the diagnosis. But when you have an anxious or depressed dog, pheromone therapy helps, whatever the reason. This is a topic that can be beneficial to talk through with your veterinarian before starting in order to get their recommendations and advice.
To do this, buy a pheromone dispenser and plug it into the wall. These dispensers release calming synthetic pheromones that help your dog relax. These can help break the anxiety cycle and allow your dog to relax.
Another way to treat depression or anxiety in dogs is by introducing more stimuli to their routine.
Dogs that spend all day alone at the house might benefit from a dog walker. Alternatively, dogs that need more attention than you can give may respond positively to puzzle toys.
These enrichment toys don’t need to be expensive. A homemade hide and seek puzzle involving cardboard and a favorite treat will be as effective as anything on Amazon. The important thing is to get your dog active and interested in its surroundings again.
Spending Time With Your Dog
Finally, one of the best cures for depression and anxiety in dogs is to spend time with them. Dogs don’t ask for a lot, but they do like to know you love them.
Crucially, don’t be hurt if it seems your dog wants that extra time from a particular family member. Dogs are hierarchal animals, and if you have a new baby in the house, they will be savvy enough to realize there’s a primary caregiver.
When that happens, dogs naturally want the caregiver’s attention because they’ve marked them as the top dog.
If you’re introducing a new animal to the household, ensure there are still activities you do exclusively with the existing dog until the animals warm up to each other. It will help with the adjustment period and ensure everyone feels included.
Like people, dogs experience anxiety and depression for all sorts of reasons. And since dogs can’t talk, getting to the root of the problem can be challenging.
The important thing is that you know your dog best, so stay attuned to its moods and consider how sudden changes can affect it.
Finally, never underestimate the value of a cuddle by the tv or walk in the park. After all, dogs are man’s best friend for a reason.