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What Causes Dog Depression and How You Can Help

Posted: 11/06/2023 | BY: Erin Cain | Categories: Uncategorized

Dogs are known to be one of the happiest animals on the planet. They love to play and run around, and they are always excited to see their owners come home. But sometimes, dogs can experience periods of depression. This state is caused by various factors, such as changes in their environment or separation anxiety. Untreated stress and anxiety can affect your pet’s health over the long term. Let’s examine what constitutes dog depression, what causes it, and how you can help your dog overcome it.

A sad Pug dog lies on the floor.

What are dog depression symptoms?

Depression affects more than 16.1 million American adults every year. Canines are not exempt from this condition. It seems they experience similar feelings as humans, such as low moods, aches and pain, a loss of desire for food, and an overall lack of motivation for daily activities.

It’s not always easy to identify depressed dogs until an owner notice changes in their behavior. Signs of dog depression include:

  • lethargy
  • lack of appetite
  • no interest in food and treats
  • lose interest in playing or in normal activities
  • uncharacteristic aggression
  • refusal to play with other dogs or pets
  • a change in sleeping habits or sleeping more than usual
  • excessive paw licking
  • isolating or hiding
  • excessive and uncharacteristic whining or howling
  • accidents inside the house

Diagnosing your pup’s mental health condition can be difficult because there are many signs and symptoms to look for. Additionally, there are many possible causes and common triggers for why an animal companion might seem sluggish or sad.

It’s best if your veterinarian examines your pet, evaluates the dog’s symptoms, and rules out any medical issues. Suppose your pup’s physical health is fine. In that case, it’s time to examine whether changes at home, with their food, or with family members could account for the abnormal behavioral issues exhibited by your dog. Following your vet’s lead is the best way to address your pup’s health and behavior issues.

A sad Labrador Retriever lays on a park benchl.

What causes depression in canines?

Dogs are more emotional than a dog owner may realize. They experience a wide range of emotions, from the joys and laughter that we enjoy to deep sadness, just as humans do. The problem for dogs is they cannot communicate these feelings with each other or their owners. It can be easy not to know when something’s wrong until you notice unusual behavior in your pup. Here are some of the top causes of dog depression:

Changes to the home environment or routine

It is essential to be aware of the effects that a significant change in your pup’s routine or environmental changes can have on them. Situations such as moving, adding a new baby, new spouse, new pets, or changes in a pet parent’s work schedules can throw off your dog’s schedule. Dogs thrive on consistency and a daily routine, and sudden or drastic differences in their everyday life can result in a sad, depressed dog. Careful environmental management can make a world of difference in preventing doggy depression.

A retriever mix lies sadly on the floor.

Loss of a family member

When a family member passes away, it can be devastating to a dog’s emotional health. This loss can include other animals in the home, too. Dogs often bond with certain people or fellow pets. The dog experiences suffering, sadness, and grief when those people or pets are gone. Therefore, losing a close pet parent or friend is the most common cause of dog depression.

Lack of adequate exercise

Walks are important not just for your dog’s physical health but also for emotional wellbeing. Dogs who do not receive adequate exercise can become bored and depressed. In general, dogs need about five miles of walking per week to get movement’s physical and mental benefits. Be sure you let your dog be a dog, and allow her to stop and smell things while on the stroll so that they can experience everything good in the outside world.

Fears and phobias

If you think your dog is depressed, it could be because she has a fear or phobia. Some dogs show their depression by hiding from things that make them uncomfortable, such as strangers and loud noises. Many dogs suffer from fears that cause them to act depressed. At the same time, other canines may not show fear to avoid appearing vulnerable in the face of what frightens them.

Physical illness

If you notice signs of depression in your dog, contact the vet immediately. It is essential to rule out any physical causes or health problems in your pet before things worsen. Physical pain can impact emotional health in people as well as dogs. A medical condition may be the source of your dog’s depression. A diagnosis and treatment plan will improve the situation outright or give her some relief while the vet looks into other potential sources for behavioral problems.

Your depression

2019 Scientific Reports study proves that dogs often experience depression because their owners are going through the same sadness. Suppose you are grieving a loss, dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or struggling with depression in general. In that case, your furry friend can sense your mood and mirror your stress, anxiety, and depression levels. Other signs such as lethargy and lack of desire for food.

A boxer mix looks up sadly at the camera.

How to Treat Depression in Dogs

There are numerous ways to address depression in canines. As a first step, consider reducing stress levels in the home. Playtime and exercise are one way to reduce anxiety in your dog. Bring your dog on an adventure by taking a car ride or trips to explore new places together. If your pet has symptoms of depression, these activities will stimulate interest again while also providing some much-needed fresh air and exercise.

Take care of your pup’s emotional wellbeing during a move by confining them to one area for several days. After those initial days, slowly let your pup explore a little bit more of her new surroundings. Step by step means your dog won’t be overwhelmed and stressed out by the new environment.

In rare cases, a dog may need medication for their depressed moods and benefit from anti-anxiety drugs, which help calm canines like those with panic disorders. The prescription medications typically take several months to work, so patience should undoubtedly be a factor when trying out any new treatment options on your dog.

If your dog is grieving for a favorite furry companion, consider getting a new pet or trying some animal-friendly toys. You can also encourage socialization by inviting friends with dogs to the home or taking your dog to a dog park for socialization with other canine companions.

Should these options fail to bring your dog out of a depression, discuss a treatment plan with your veterinarian and a certified animal behaviorist.

 A retriever mix stands by the door.

Raise your dog’s spirits with the help of pet insurance

Helping your dog be happy is vital to their health and quality of life. While it’s true that most dogs with depression will resolve the condition on their own after a short time, you should still take steps towards proactive treatment with your vet. There are some signs of depression in dogs which could point to serious illness rather than just being sad or anxious.

The best way to keep your pet living a happy, healthy life is with an insurance policy. Pet Insurance Review helps you find the perfect plan for your dog! With coverage for nearly every canine medical issue, a dog insurance policy can help pay for significant portions of your dog’s treatment for anxiety or depression. Find your dog’s free quote now, and plan for the rest of your dog’s life.


1. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (2020). Facts & Statistics. Retrieved from

2. Coren, S. (n.d.). Which Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience? Retrieved from

3. Dodman, N. (2016). Canine Phobias. Retrieved from

4. Sundman, A., Van Poucke, E., Svennson Holm, C., Faresjo, A., Theodorsson, E., Jensen, P., Roth, L. (2019). Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners. Retrieved from


The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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