Last Updated on 11 months by Dr Alisha Barnes

Can Dogs Be Depressed

Sometimes, you may notice that your dog seems to lose their energy or their “spark.” This can come and go, or if you’ve had dogs for many years, you may have observed that some dogs experience a change in their behavior or personality that never seems to go away. What is this? A common question that we hear often is “can dogs be depressed?” No one wants to think of their furry friend losing their zest for life, but there are many reasons why this can happen. Yes, dogs can be depressed—but there are often ways to combat this and help restore your dog’s energy and spark. Read on to learn more!

Depression from lack of movement

One of the most common reasons that dogs become depressed is because of a lack of movement. Dogs experience the world through their senses, and the more they are able to explore and move, the richer their experience will be. When dogs are crated, isolated to a small space, or not often given the ability to move and explore, they may become depressed.

Solution: increase exercise and free-roaming space.

If you suspect that enclosure and a lack of exposure to the outdoors (or to additional space, in general) is one of the contributing factors to your dog’s change in personality and behavior, increase their exercise and free-roaming space.

Depression from lack of play

Just like children, dogs—especially young dogs—love to play. A lack of play and recreation can cause your dog to become depressed and lethargic. Play doesn’t help to just stimulate your dog, it also helps to build and develop their brains and cognitive (thinking) abilities. It’s important to play with your dog regularly to help support their brain health and development, depending on their age, as well as stimulate their natural instincts and abilities.

Solution: play with your dog every day.

Carve out a specific time to play with your dog each day. Set a timer, and for that amount of time, give your dog your full attention. Incorporate toys and various activities, but don’t use this time for anything other than recreation.

Depression from lack of interaction

Like humans, dogs get lonely. For the same reasons that they need to play in order to use their natural instincts and develop their brains, dogs also need interaction. Interaction, both with humans and other animals, stimulates your dog’s brain processes and overall levels of engagement with their environment. Interaction is critical to helping regulate your dog’s mood. Please note that allowing your dog to live in your environment, and dedicated interaction, are not the same thing.

Solution: interact with your dog for a dedicated amount of time, and consider “playdates” with other dogs.

Just like with playtime, make time to interact with your dog if you don’t already interweave interactions with them throughout the day. Mood-boosting interactions are generally one-on-one, dedicated time spent engaging with your dog. This time can include training, talking, petting, touching, or other wellness-enhancing activities other than play.

Depression from malnutrition

Dogs can become lethargic and appear to be depressed without the proper nutrition. Always check with your vet to determine whether your dog’s diet is healthful, how it could be improved, and what vitamins or minerals your dog may need to be supplemented especially for them.

Solution: correct your dog’s diet.

If simply providing a balanced diet does not seem to affect your dog’s mood and well-being, schedule an appointment with your vet to determine (based on blood work or other tests) whether their diet is an influencing factor.

Depression from illness

An illness can cause your dog’s body not to function like it does when it’s healthy. If this happens, it’s natural for your dog to experience a change in mood. If you suspect your dog might be ill, consult your veterinarian to seek out a complete assessment of your dog’s well-being. Doing this quickly (as soon as you notice the change in your dog’s behavior) will give your dog the best chance of recovery and wellness.

Solution: seek medical care for your dog.

Depression from injury

If your dog has experienced an injury that is causing them pain, or that prohibits the normal use of their body, your dog may become depressed. If you notice that your dog is in pain, seek expert help immediately. If your dog is in the process of recovering from an illness or injury, be sure to give them as much care and patience as possible to support their healing process.

Solution: treat the injury and support your dog’s healing.

Chiropractic Care and Pet Wellness

Chiropractic care is a fantastic way to address your dog’s depression and determine what adjustments can be made in both lifestyle and bones and joints to help support better health and happiness for your furry friend. If you’d like to experience the benefits of chiropractic care first-hand with your pup, and you live in or near Boulder, Windsor, Fort Collins, or Broomfield, CA, Tails Animal Chiropractic Care is here to help. Book your pup’s first appointment today!

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