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Signs your pet may be suffering from depression

Yes! Pets get depressed too

Many people don’t realise that their beloved pets can suffer from bouts of depression. Just like humans, they feel deeply and are prone to suffering from depression when their lives change.

The leading causes of pet depression can come from:

  • Illness – diagnosed or undiagnosed diseases

  • Fear – being left alone

  • Grief – losing another family pet they had a bond with, or a family member, or owner

  • Environmental changes – moving houses, renovations or weather changes

  • You – not having you around (separation anxiety) or sensing your stress

With many of us now returning to working away from home (or going away if we’re lucky!), we must keep an eye on our pets.

They’ve been used to having you home and having company 24/7. So now we’re all out and about more, be mindful that your pet may start to show signs of stress and depression, fearing they’ve been left alone.

How can you tell if your pet is depressed?

As with humans, if your pet starts to withdraw from their usual behaviours, it can signify that they’re suffering from depression.

You may notice that your pet is:

  • Lethargic and sleeps more than normal

  • Not interested in playing with their toys

  • Less than interested in a walk or playing in the backyard

  • Eating less than normal

  • More agitated than usual

  • Having ‘accidents’ around the house and refusing to use a litter box

As their owner, you will know your pet’s usual behaviour. If you notice anything that is not ‘normal’, it could be a sign that they’re suffering from depression.

Pay particular attention to changes in attitude. For example, if your dog is usually full of life but is moping around – that’s a good indication. Or if your pet is calm and is getting snappy and agitated – that’s also a good sign.

The first thing to do if you think your pet is depressed

As with any health concern you have for your pet, the first thing you should do is visit your vet. Explain the change in your pet’s behaviour and how it’s out of character. Your vet will ask you things such as changes in behaviour, mood and appetite.

They will check over your pet's general health and make sure no underlying health issues are causing the depression. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best things to do to help your pet.

Ways to help your pet overcome depression

Aside from healing underlying health issues, there are ways you can help your pet deal with depression.

  • As with humans, exercise is a great way to deal with the effects of depression. Games, walks, teaching the tricks and training will not only boost their mood but help you create a stronger bond with your pet.

  • You can try a local doggie daycare where your dog can socialise with other dogs during the day. If you’re back at work, you can even consider a pet minder who’ll pop in, check on your dog and even take them for a walk.

  • If you’ve got the space and the time, often getting another pet is a great way to help deal with depression. They will have a companion during the day when you’re not home and provide some distraction from feeling alone.

  • Your vet may also recommend medication (such as Prozac) as a last resort. Most of the time, medication is avoided with changes in lifestyle being tried first. There is also animal behaviourists that you can seek advice from.

It’s recommended that you don’t overly comfort your pet (excess cuddles etc.) as they may see this as positive reinforcement and continue their depressed behaviour. It’s best to continue with your routine.

A daily walk can help curb your dog’s loneliness and depression

As a pet minder, I’m here if you need someone to look after your pet while you’re away or returned to the office. I can not only provide your pet with some company during the day, but I will take them out for their daily walk if you no longer can find the time.

Also, if you’re planning to get away over the Christmas/New Year break and need a pet minder, please book in asap, as my availability is filling up fast.

Take care and pat your fur babies from me.


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