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Anxiety and Depression in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and How To Help

Anxiety and Depression in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and How To Help

While you may not think it at first, depression and anxiety can affect dogs just as much as they can affect humans. Here, our Oakland vets explain some strategies you can use to help cheer up your canine companion. 

It may be a bit strange to hear, but it's true! Our dogs are capable of suffering from anxiety or depression just as much as humans are. This is because they are intelligence creatures who, just like humans, experience a whole range of emotions. 

What causes depression and anxiety in dogs?

Any significant change or distressing event in the life of a dog may be enough to bring on symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

For example, the loss of an owner, a bonded companion animal, or even the grief of people surrounding them may have a significant impact on the emotions and demeanor of a dog. 

Big life changes, such as a move to a new house, a new baby or a new pet, may also have an impact on a dog's emotions. Generally, any significant change to your dog’s daily routine may bring on symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

How do I know if my dog has depression?

The symptoms of depression in our dogs are similar to those symptoms experienced by people.

Common symptoms include low activity levels, a definitive loss of interest in things that they once enjoyed and a notable change in either their sleeping or eating habits. 

Some dogs may also show signs of aggression, including uncharacteristic howling or whining.

How do I know if my dog has anxiety?

The signs of anxiety in pups can include trembling, hiding, tail-tucking, reduced activity and passive escape behaviors. Your dg may also show signs of panic like pacing, panting and more active escape behaviors. 

Physical symptoms of anxiety in dogs may include sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity, like diarrhea, or lesions causing them to lick or bite their own body. 

How can I help treat my dog's depression or anxiety?

There is good news! And that is that our dogs can often overcome depression or anxiety on their own. Depending on the specific situation and the affected dogs, it may take days or even months to recover. But no matter what, the love and care of their owners, in addition to guidance from veterinary professionals can help them to overcome their condition. 

Pet owners can try the following techniques:

  • Keep your dog active with regular walks, playtimes, and other activities you know they enjoy.
  • Give your dog more attention than you may normally. Make sure you wait to see some signs of happiness, such as a wagging tail, before rewarding them for their good behavior. 
  • If your dog's symptoms are related to the loss of an animal companion, consider getting another pet or start socializing them with other pets.

Depending on the severity of your dog's symptoms, your veterinarians may also prescribe them with anti-anxiety medication and behavior management training and techniques. 

In some cases, depression and/or anxiety may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition in a dog. If your pet has not recently experienced a major life change or distressing event, talk to your veterinarian about what else could be troubling them.

If you would like to learn more about anxiety and depression in your dog as well as to seek treatment options for a companion that is feeling this way, contact East Bay Veterinary Clinic today.

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