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Can a Dog Become Depressed

By Susan M. Keenan 2007

Although conflicting opinions exist on this topic, many people believe that dogs do have the emotional capacity to become depressed. The reasons for their depression typically stem from the loss of a family member including an adult, child, or family pet.

Puppy first day home
Dog depression can have signs similar to depression in humans

Loneliness Can be a Cause

Even though dogs probably do not understand why someone suddenly disappears from their life, most dogs certainly do feel the loneliness that ensues. Perhaps a child in the family has grown up and moved away to college. A parent might have left the home due to a divorce. In both of these cases, the depression might be relieved somewhat when the individual returns home to visit.

Unfortunately, some families even discover that they need to find a new home for their dog due to health problems or work issues. The worst case scenario involves the death of a family member. In this instance, the individual is never coming back to visit and the dog’s depression can become severe.

Puppy first day home
A dog's behaviour can provide insight into how he's feeling

Behavioral Clues

A dog’s behavior is a good indicator as to whether he is depressed. The dog continues certain behaviors that had a purpose when the missing individual was present at the home. For example, the dog continues to wait at the front door for his master to come home or he sits at his master’s favorite armchair every night while waiting for his master to come join him.

The dog might bark excitedly every time he hears a noise that reminds him of his missing companion, only to walk away with his head down in the dumps when he realizes that his companion has not returned. Moreover, the dog might wander aimlessly through the home looking for the missing individual.

Signs are Similar to Depressed Humans

The signs of depression in dogs mimic those that manifest in depressed humans. He might become lethargic and uninterested in any of his daily routines. Additionally, the dog might show a distinct loss of appetite and he might even begin to lose weight.

Love is the Best Treatment

At times like these, the best reaction is to shower the dog with a consistent dose of attention. Cater to the physical and emotional needs of the dog, realizing that a dog that is well-taken care of will bounce back from depression more quickly than a dog that is neglected.