Dog Depression: Symptoms and Treatments

sad dog

Your sad dog could be suffering from depression

As a society, we realize that our pets can get a lot of the same diseases as us. Our dogs can be diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, colitis, heart problems or any other number of problems. Yet somehow it seems silly to think that our dogs can become depressed just like a person can. But just because you don’t see your dog lounging around in his bathrobe, staring off into space doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t going through some sort of emotional instability. You may notice that your dog is depressed if he’s exhibiting some of the following behaviors:

• Seems mopey or lethargic

• Not eating or drinking

Dog depression can often take the form of some sort of anxiety. This includes separation anxiety, when your dog seems extraordinarily upset at being apart from you or being left by him/herself. Symptoms can often include:

• Pacing

• Yawning

• Drooling

• Destructive chewing

• Urinating or defecating in areas that they aren’t supposed to

• Excessive barking or whining

In addition, dogs that might be suffering from a serotonin imbalance (the chemical in your brain that regulates moods), might also exhibit signs of aggression. Some of the symptoms of an overly aggressive dog include:

• Excessive barking

• Attacks on other animals

• Overprotection of food and possessions(including snapping or growling)

• Snapping when being petted, lifted or groomed

• Fearfulness of new situations or strangers

• Overprotection of possessions

• Repeated escapes from home

While there can be many reasons that your dog is exhibiting these behaviors including grief, a change in environment, chemical imbalances and weather changes, often the behavior changes aren’t recognized by owners as a symptom of a larger problem, and they just try and correct the behavior itself.

If you notice that your dog is acting strange or seems overly aggressive, explain your concerns to your vet. They may put you on a monitoring program to watch for other symptoms and they might have suggestions on how to combat the problem. Since we have become more aware of the fact that depression can affect dogs, there have been developments with the methods of treating it.

Treating your Dog’s Depression

There are three ways that you can help lift your dog out of their mood: Training, Medication, Naturopathic Remedies, and of course any combination of the three.


Often engaging your dog in some sort of new activity can help stimulate them and improve their thinking. Try joining a class that will teach your dog some behavioral basics and the benefits of this will be two-fold; they will learn which behaviors are unacceptable, thus getting a better-behaved dog and they will also be grateful for the mental stimulation. Dogs like to learn things and they also like to spend time with their owners, so taking training classes will please your dog.


As explained earlier, dogs can have serotonin imbalances which could explain their depression. Like a human, this is a medical condition that sometimes needs medication in order for the afflicted to feel better. In the past couple of years, the equivalent of Prozac has become available for dogs. This drug can have a calming influence on your dog, and you may notice a big change in the demeanor of your dog after they’ve been on the medication for awhile.

Naturopathic Remedies

If you take a more holistic approach to treating diseases, you might be more interested in improving your dog’s mood by a naturopathic method. Treatments like Sleepytime Tonic help to calm a nervous or anxious dog.

Although your dog’s behavior may seem frustrating at times, try and remember that sometimes the way they behave is not because they are a bad dog but instead may be a symptom indicative of a larger problem.

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  1. This is a very interesting post. Dog behavior problems, such as aggression, can result from changes in the brain. When a dog starts to behave in a way that is very different than usual, you should be concerned, as it may be a sign of a more serious problem.

  2. My dog lost her partner of 16 years. They were raised and lived together until one recently died.

    Understandable that the survivor dog is depressed. She’s use to bark in a happy way and climb into people’s lap at any chance she got. Not she weeps and sleeps. Outside of seeing if time will help her adjust, what can be done?

  3. Our 3 1/2 year old Chihuahua (sp?) has never liked nor played with any dogs, no matter the size or breed (some even smaller than she. She is the only pet we have and have traveled with us on trips. My husband thought that if we got another dog, Marli would get used to it and learn to love another dog. We tried honey, a 2 year-old lasso apsa (sp?) who is very sweet and loving to Marli but Marli will not play with her and has become very lethargic and does not even come when we call her any more, even though we give her an exhorbatant amount of attention since Honey has been here. We want Marli to like and adjust to Honey since we have gotten attached to her. What should we do? We think that Marli is depressed!

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