Just like us humans, our pets are capable of feeling a whole range of emotions. And also like humans, they can sometimes become depressed. But what are the causes of depression in pets? What are the symptoms? And most importantly, what are some things we can do to help them feel better?
What causes depression in pets?
Depression in pets is a little different than depression in people. Typically, our pets might find themselves depressed if something particularly distressing has occurred, or if their routine has changed drastically.
Here are some other things that might cause your pets to be depressed:
What are some common signs of depression?
Because our pets aren’t capable of outright telling us that they’re feeling depressed, it’s up to us to recognize the signs. Here are some things to watch out for if you suspect that your pet might be feeling down.
Sudden changes in appetite
A loss of appetite tends to be one of the biggest indicators that your pet might be depressed. If your pet begins leaving food in their bowl, or seems to have a general disinterest towards their favorite foods and treats, they might be trying to tell you that they aren’t feeling their best. And if this loss of appetite persists, it’s time to take a trip to the vet. Unfortunately, a loss of appetite isn’t just a symptom of depression and could be a sign that something else needs to be treated, so it’s important to consult with your veterinarian when you notice that something is wrong.
Low activity levels
When our once-active pets begin to show signs of lethargy or a decreased interest in playtime, they might be feeling depressed. Not only is exercise and activity good from a health standpoint for our pets, but it also releases dopamine and serotonin, which helps them feel good. When your dog or cat isn’t as active as they usually are, they can become bored and boredom can quickly turn to depression. Combined with poor appetite or a change in eating habits, you’ll have a pet who might be acting listless, even when it’s time for walks or a game of fetch.
Clingy or overly withdrawn behavior
If you spend a lot of time with your pets, you may notice a shift in their behavior. Your overly social dog might start hiding more and seem almost distrustful of you, or your once-shy cat might become your shadow and grow distressed if you aren’t giving them attention. These shifts—both big and small—can often be indicative of depression.
Sometimes, if our pets are feeling down, they may begin to exhibit destructive behaviors like excessive chewing or scratching. If you notice your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t, having accidents indoors, or ripping apart their toys, it’s probably time to consult with a vet.
What can I do to help my pet feel better?
Fortunately, depression in our pets is easily treatable once it’s been identified. In fact, your pet will probably begin to feel better in a few months so long as they’re being actively cared for. Here are some little things you can do that make a world of difference.
As frustrating as it is when our pets “act out,” responding negatively to them can oftentimes make the issue worse. Instead, try to reward them with treats or words of affirmation when they exhibit traits of their old behavior, even for something as simple as finishing all of their food or expressing interest in playtime.
Maintain a Routine
This is especially important if your pet began to show signs of depression after experiencing major routine disruptions. Our pets like consistency, and the consistency of a maintained routine will help them begin to feel like their old self. By sticking to a regular routine, you can help provide stability and predictability to your pet’s life.
Provide Some Extra Stimulation
Sometimes, our pets become depressed simply because they’re bored. By providing them with various enrichment toys, puzzles, or other games, you can help stimulate their minds and keep boredom at bay. You can also spend some time exercising with them, going on longer walks, or visiting new parks and places that might excite your pet. Not only will this help you bond, but it’s also an excellent way to provide a little extra stimulation to an animal who might have the blues.
Get Some Outside Help
If your pet doesn’t seem to be improving, it’s important to consult your veterinarian. While depression can often be treated with improvements to routine, nutrition, and stimulation, sometimes a little outside help is necessary. Your vet may prescribe a temporary antidepressant or anxiety medication to help with your pet’s depression.
There are also several supplements on the market that can help improve your pets’ mood. One of our favorite supplements is Super Snouts Lion’s Roar, which uses lion’s mane mushrooms that can help balance and improve mood.