Anxiety & Depression in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & How To Help

Just like in people, depression and anxiety can affect our dogs. Here, our veterinary teams at Whites Road and Highway 2 share some of the symptoms to look for in your pup and how to cheer them up. 

While it may be surprising, dogs are capable of suffering from anxiety and depression. They are intelligent creatures who, like people, experience a wide range of emotions. 

What causes depression and anxiety in dogs?

A significant change or a concerning event in your dog's life may sometimes cause the onset of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

As an example, a dog losing its owner, a companion animal, or being surrounded by individuals experiencing grief will all have an impact on your pup's emotions. 

Big changes in your dog's life can also influence their emotions. A new pet, a baby, a move to a new house, or any significant change to your dog's daily routine may also bring on symptoms of depression or anxiety in your pup.

How do I know if my dog has depression?

The symptoms of depression in dogs are similar to those that are experienced by people. 

Common symptoms include a loss of interest in things, like games or toys, they once enjoyed, reduced activity levels, and changes to their eating or sleeping habits. 

Some dogs experiencing depression may also show signs of aggression, including whining or howling that is out of character for them.

How do I know if my dog has anxiety?

The signs of anxiety in dogs may include hiding, reduced activity, trembling, tail tucking, and passive escape behaviours. Your pup may also experience signs of panic like pacing, panting, or more active escape behaviours. 

The physical symptoms of anxiety in your dog may include sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity like lesions which cause them to bite or lick their own body or experience diarrhea. 

How can I help treat my dog's depression or anxiety?

There is good news though! Dogs can often overcome depression and/or anxiety on their own. Depending on the dog and their unique situation, it can take days or even months. No matter what, the love and care of their owners and guidance provided from your vet can help to overcome your dog's condition.

Pet owners can try the following techniques:

  • Provide your pup with more attention than normal. Wait until you see them express signs of happiness, including tail wagging, and then reward them for their positive behaviour.
  • Provide your dog with activities like regular walks, playtime, and anything else you know that they enjoy.
  • If your pup's symptoms are associated with the loss of a companion, considering socializing them with other pets or getting another pet to keep them company.

Depending on your symptoms and their severity, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety medication as well as recommend techniques for managing their behaviour.

In some instances, depression and anxiety may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition in your pup. If your pet hasn't recently experienced a major life change or a distressing event, talk to your vet about what could be troubling your pet. 

DO you suspect that your dog is experiencing anxiety or depression, or has undergone a significant life change and may start showing symptoms? Contact the vets at Whites Road Animal Hospital and Highway 2 Veterinary Office for advice and insight into helping your dog stay healthy and happy.