We love our four-legged friends because we see so much of ourselves in them. We truly identify with the way they make us feel. It’s hard not to feel loved when a dog comes and snuggles with you or licks your face when you are feeling down. It’s as if they read our minds at times. But what about how they feel… Can they become depressed? Do they get down in the dumps and have bad days like we do?
This is definitely something that is worth exploring. If you’ve got a pet that you love, you’ll be interested in some facts regarding how to identify and treat anxiety or depression in dogs.
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Dog anxiety – what are the symptoms and causes?
Pets don’t cry or speak human, so it can be hard to know how they’re feeling sometimes. However, they do experience anxiety in the same way us humans do.
Here are some of the symptoms of anxiety in dogs:
- Barking loudly or howling
- Panting or shivering no matter what the temperatur
- Urinating or house soiling
- Cowering in a corner
- Pacing around the house
- Frantically digging or trying to escape
- Destroying furniture
- Self-harm, including excessive licking or chewing
- Loss of appetite
Some of the most common forms and reasons for dog anxiety are:
- Bad past experiences
According to AKC, “Fear-related anxiety can be caused by loud noises, strange people or animals, visual stimuli like hats or umbrellas, new or strange environments, specific situations — like the vet’s office or car rides — or surfaces like grass or wood floors. Although some dogs may only have brief reactions to these kind of stimuli, they may affect anxious dogs more consequentially.”
The dog experts continue, “Separation anxiety is estimated to affect around 14% of dogs. Dogs with separation anxiety are unable to find comfort when they are left alone or separated from their family members…
…Age-related anxiety affects older dogs and can be associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). In dogs with CDS, memory, learning, perception, and awareness start to decline, similar to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. This understandably leads to confusion and anxiety in senior dogs”.
A bad experience can cause anxiety too. Let’s say, for example, that you adopt a rescue dog and they startle easily when you reach for them, or they won’t come out of their crate. You have no idea what this animal has been through and if they’ve been abused in the past, they may have extreme anxiety.
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Dog depression – what are the symptoms and causes?
As well as suffering from anxiety, animals get depression, too. The symptoms are quite similar to dog anxiety:
- Changes in behavior or mood
- Becoming withdrawn
- Not as active
- Licking paws or hiding
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping more regularly
The reasons that they may get depressed are not unlike human reasons. If a companion animal in the house suddenly passed away or is lost and not found, animals will mourn that loss.
Dogs can miss cats, cats can miss dogs, and even other types of animals can form bonds with each other. Once there was a story of a dog and cat that fought and picked at each other daily. Their owner was exasperated and felt that they’d never learn to like each other. One day, the dog died and the owner was completely shocked that the cat refused to eat for many days, lost weight, and laid in the dog’s bed during this time – obviously in mourning for his friend. Their spats were their way of interacting and playing with each other. They were actually the best of friends.
Similarly, a dog who has suffered a dog abortion or miscarriage may be lethargic or depressed. Pets can also become depressed when they are ill, when their living situation changes, or when they lose a pet or person they were close to.
5 ways to treat dog anxiety and depression – the natural way
In some cases, dog depression may be due to an underlying medical condition. If your pet has not recently undergone a change like moving house or owner, or an upsetting event, make sure to take them to your veterinarian to have them checked over. Their moping around or lack of enthusiasm for walks may indicate that they are in pain.
Similarly, with anxiety, the best way to treat dog anxiety is to ask your veterinarian for advice and a treatment plan. However, you should always try to solve the problem naturally first before reverting to strong medications. Here are some natural solutions for both depression and anxiety in dogs:
Create a safe, familiar environment and keep them engaged
If you have recently moved to a new home or perhaps there has been a new arrival of a baby or pet, dogs can get flustered and anxious or depressed.
As a pet parent, you can mitigate this stress by creating a safe, familiar environment for them and keep them engaged with activities they are used to. This will also keep their brain stimulated which is very important for older dogs. When they show happiness or look pleased to get up and go for a walk,, reward them with a treat.
CBD oil for dogs
According to the experts at Innovet Pet, CBD oil is a great method of calming dogs with anxiety or depression.
Dogs Naturally Magazine explain “CBD oil (Cannabidiol) is a natural substance found in the hemp plant. For 1000s of years, people have been using the hemp plant for everything from rope to medicinal purposes. One of those medicinal purposes is anxiety relief in people and pets, but not for the reason you might expect.
There’s a lot of confusion between CBD and marijuana. This is because they both come from the same source, the hemp plant, but they’re not actually the same at all. While both are derived from the hemp plant, CBD doesn’t contain the levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the ingredient that makes you “high.”
Instead, research shows CBD oil works by interacting with the body’s naturally occurring endocannabinoid system to soothe and calm anxiety naturally.”
Music and dancing
It may sound strange but music and dancing are fantastic methods to help with dog anxiety, depression and obesity too. Putting on some calming music and dancing with your dog is great for bonding, exercising and making your pooch feel calm and happy.
Check out this compilation of dog music on YouTube and get your pooch’s tail wagging!
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Give a massage
If you have never given your dog a massage, it’s time to start! As well as helping with anxiety and depression, dog massages have a range of other health benefits: decreasing blood pressure, improve lymphatic fluid movement, strengthen their immune system, aiding digestion (ideal if they are struggling with their food), and stimulating the kidneys and liver.
In other words, massaging heals the body and the mind. If you’re not sure on the technique, there’s some great advice on how to perform a massage on Wiki How.
If the anxiety or depression is quite deep set, counter conditioning may be necessary. Counter-conditioning basically is enlisting a certified behaviorist or pet counselor/trainer to help with changing your pet’s emotional response, feelings or attitude.
You can use the methods listed above to help alleviate their anxiety or depression symptoms while a behaviourist works with them to earn trust and develop new behaviors.
As you can see, identifying dog anxiety and depression isn’t much different than noticing it in the people around you. Through understanding the symptoms of anxiety that we’ve listed here, you should be able to understand their actions and reactions better to determine when there is an issue that needs your attention.