When my husband passed away five years ago, Archer, his Australian Shepherd, was franticly looking for Paul, completely inconsolable.
Then he became sad, depressed, and quiet. I had never had a dog suffer from depression before and my heart almost broke for Archer because what he wanted, I couldn’t fix.
Depression isn’t as common in dogs as it appears to be in humans and a change in the dog’s family is one of the most common causes. A death in the family, a child leaving for college, or a divorce can trigger this immense sadness in the family dog.
Changes in the normal routine, especially those with an impact on the dog’s life, can also cause the dog to feel blue. Work schedules change so the dog no longer gets his walks, playtimes or normal snuggle times with you could make him feel abandoned.
Health issues can also cause the dog to be depressed so a visit to the veterinarian is important to either diagnose a health problem or eliminate any. If there are no health problems, then the sadness, the blues, may well be depression.
Symptoms of Depression
Every dog is an individual so symptoms will vary from dog to dog. Therefore it’s important to look for changes from the normal. Archer is normally a happy, bouncy, jovial dog so quiet sadness was a huge change.
The most common symptom of depression is sadness. A sad dog will usually be less willing to play. He will be quiet in spirit and body. The tail may hang low, the head may also be low, and the dog might even crouch a little when standing. He will probably be moping, pouting or hiding.
If the depression is due to a family member’s death or moving away, the dog may lie on that person’s belongings. I often found Archer in my husband’s closet lying on his clothes and shoes. The dog may also ‘steal’ that family member’s items and hide them in his dog bed.
There could also be a change in the dog’s appetite. He could lose interest in food or less often, he may overeat. In bad cases, the dog may even refuse water and this requires veterinary intervention as it could cause dehydration and potentially, death.
Housetraining accidents can also occur. Some dogs may just not want to get up. They may lose interest in doing something just to please their owner; after all, they’re depressed and often, like Archer, grieving as well.
Some dogs will sleep far more than normal, sometimes 12 to 14 hours a day or even more. Destructive behavior isn’t common but has been reported by owners. The same with aggressive behaviors; it isn’t common but does happen.