Warning Signs of Dog Depression

Dog depression is similar to the kind we as humans experience. There are all kinds of ways to tell if people are depressed. They might stop eating — or eat more to dull the pain. They might cry a lot more — often unexpectedly. There’s a good chance they’ll start withdrawing from life by avoiding friends and family members and possibly even calling in sick to work.

And, of course, they can simply tell us they’re not feeling good.

Our dogs don’t have this option, but that doesn’t mean they can’t feel sad or depressed. While there’s not as much research out there as there is for humans (for obvious reasons), all kinds of anecdotal evidence exist pointing to dog depression.

Some stories seem more obvious, such as a dog suddenly shutting down and sleeping all day in the back of a closet after another dog in the pack dies. Others aren’t quite as straightforward, where dog owners might notice “moping” or “mood changes” after something like a move.

Importance of Recognizing Dog Depression

Recognizing dog depression is important because it allows us to understand and address the emotional well-being of our furry companions. Like humans, dogs can experience sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. However, they cannot communicate these emotions in the same way we do. What does depression look like in dogs? Decreased appetite, lethargy, withdrawal from social interaction, and changes in behavior are some warning signs. Ignoring or dismissing these signs can lead to prolonged suffering for our dogs, potentially impacting their overall health and quality of life. 

Common Signs of Depression in Dogs 

So, how do you know if your pup is experiencing canine depression? Here are several common signs — many of which are similar to symptoms of depression in people.

Appetite Changes

When some dogs are extremely sad, they lose interest in food and often lose weight. Alternatively, some dogs seem to use food as a kind of solace when they are depressed and want to eat more, leading to weight gain.

Avoidance and Hiding

Above, I mentioned the story of the dog hiding in a closet because he was depressed. This behavior typically means one of two things: illness or injury (with depression falling under the “illness” category). Dogs that suddenly hide or want to be left alone behave that way because something is bothering them. If it’s not physical, it’s likely emotional.

The biggest thing to remember is not to assume that your dog is depressed right off the bat. Often, issues that seem emotional stem from physical or medical causes. If you notice a behavior change, the first thing to do is to have your pup checked by your vet.

Sleeping All the Time

Dogs sleep a lot. That’s old news. But typically, this happens when their owners are gone. If you leave your dog for a long time (say, for work) and he continues to sleep after you get home, barely reacting to your presence, something is probably wrong.

Check for physical problems first, but if you can’t find anything and the symptoms continue, he may be depressed. Also, know that this can work in the opposite direction, with your pup having trouble sleeping and becoming restless.

Physical Signs of Dog Depression 

Physical signs of dog depression can vary from dog to dog. Still, some common symptoms include decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, excessive sleeping, and changes in body language, such as a limp posture or tail. Your furry pal may also show signs of physical discomfort, such as stomach issues, changes in bowel movements, or even self-harm behaviors like excessive licking or chewing. Dog owners must be aware of these signs as they can indicate underlying emotional or mental health issues in their faithful companions. 


Dog depression can make them sluggish because it affects overall mood and energy levels. When a dog is depressed, it may experience a lack of interest in activities it once enjoyed, which can result in reduced physical activity. They may also exhibit signs of fatigue and lethargy, spending more time sleeping or lying down. The emotional state of depression can drain a canine of their usual enthusiasm and vitality, leading to a noticeable decrease in energy levels and overall sluggishness.

Bowel Movement and Weight Loss 

Depression in dogs can cause a loss of appetite in dogs, leading to weight loss. Canines can experience feelings of sadness and depression, which can impact their overall well-being. When a dog is depressed, they may have a decreased interest in food and may not eat as much as they usually would. This can result in weight loss over time. Your furry friend can experience changes in their digestive system when feeling down or depressed. A decrease in appetite leads to less frequent or smaller bowel movements. 

A depressed dog is refusing to eat. One of the signs of depression in dogs is a change in their appetite. Contact your vet if you suspect your pal is going through a tought time.

Warning Signs of Dog Depression

Emotional Signs of Depression in Dogs

The emotional signs of dog depression can vary, but some common indicators include changes in behavior and appetite. If any of the below signs concern you, please reach out to your veterinarian.

Loss of Interest

Take note if your dog suddenly loses interest in playing, going for walks, and other things that would typically excite her. Dogs who become less active, slow down, or seem to lose purpose may suffer from depression.

Paw Licking

Excessive licking or chewing may be rooted in physiological or psychological issues. Depressed dogs will often lick or chew their paws to soothe themselves.

Loss of Interest in Activities 

When a dog is experiencing depression, they may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, such as playing, going for walks, or interacting with other dogs or humans. 

Social Signs of Dog Depression 

Dogs, being social animals, can exhibit depression symptoms. It is important for dog owners to recognize these social signs in order to provide the necessary support and care for their beloved pets.


A dog may become aggressive during depression for a variety of reasons. Emotions can manifest differently. Aggressive behaviors can result from frustration, fear, or a lack of socialization and exercise. When a dog is depressed, it may become more irritable and reactive to certain stimuli, leading to aggression.

Separation Anxiety 

Separation anxiety is a common issue dogs face, particularly when experiencing depression. Dogs are social animals and often form strong bonds with their owners or other family members. When these bonds are disrupted, such as when the owner leaves the house, the dog may become anxious and distressed. This can lead to excessive barking, destructive chewing, or even attempts to escape. Understanding and addressing separation anxiety is crucial in helping a depressed dog regain their emotional well-being and overall happiness.

Interaction Avoidance 

When dogs are depressed, they may exhibit behaviors such as avoiding interaction. This can be due to a variety of reasons. Canines can experience emotional distress, and depression can be caused by various factors such as environmental changes, the loss of a loved one (human or animal), or a traumatic event. When our furry companions are depressed, they may withdraw from social interaction as a coping mechanism. Our pet may need time and space and prefer to be alone for a short time.

Tips for Helping a Depressed Dog 

If you suspect that your dog may be depressed, there are a few things you can do to help them. If your pet’s depression persists or worsens, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian for further guidance and potential treatment options.

Create a Routine

Sticking to a routine is essential for depressed dogs because it gives them stability and predictability. Dogs thrive on routine and structure. When they are experiencing depression, their world may feel chaotic and uncertain. Establishing a consistent daily routine, including regular feeding times, exercise, and playtime, can help provide your dog with a sense of security and purpose. Sticking to a routine can also help regulate their sleep patterns and reduce anxiety. 

Provide Mental Stimulation

By providing activities and exercises that challenge their minds, such as puzzle toys, interactive games, and training sessions, we can help alleviate their depression and improve their mood. Mental stimulation keeps their brains active and helps distract them from negative thoughts and behaviors. Additionally, mental stimulation can enhance their problem-solving skills, increase their confidence, and strengthen the bond between the dog and their owner.

Offer Comfort and Reassurance

Spending quality time with your dog, and engaging in activities they enjoy, such as walking or playing with their favorite toys, can help lift their spirits. Offering comforting touches, such as gentle petting or cuddling, can also provide security and reassurance.

Commonly Asked Questions About Dog Depression 

Can You Treat Depression and Anxiety in Dogs with Medicine? 

Most cases of depression in dogs can be treated with early intervention and carefully changing their routines.  But in some cases, your vet may prescribe drugs. Medication is usually prescribed for anxiety, not depression

How Long Will My Dog Need to Take Drugs If Prescribed? 

As a Pack Leader, you should know that it can take time for depression (or more likely, anxiety) medicine to begin working. However, canines do not need to take the drugs forever; only your vet can tell you what’s best. 

How Do You Treat Depression for Dogs? 

It could take a few days to a few months for your furry friend to start acting like themself again. Stay consistent, keep them active, and give lots of affection and rewards for positive behavior. Once again, if you recognize the early signs of depression, you and your vet can work together to form a plan for healing. 

Has your dog shown signs of depression? What caused it, and how did you treat it? Let us know in the comments!

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