It’s difficult for experts to figure out if pets suffer from depression the same way as people do, because we can’t ask them how they’re feeling. People with depression often report feelings of sadness, irritability, or anxiousness. Although pets can’t relay these feelings with words, they can with their behavior and body language. It’s widely accepted in the veterinary community that pets can suffer from depression, especially after experiencing a major loss or change like a death in the family or a move.
Below are three signs that your pet may be depressed.
1. Decreased appetite: If your dog used to lick his bowl clean and now leaves half full, this may be a sign he’s not feeling on top of his game. Some pets may even lose interest in their favorite treats.
2. Decreased activity level: If you notice more napping and lying around than usual, this could be a sign of depression. Dogs may display a decrease in excitement for their daily walk, while a cat may lose interest in that toy she used to love so much.
3. Decreased interactions with people: If your pet used to follow you and around and love to cuddle, and there is a sudden decrease in these behaviors, that may be a sign of depression. Dogs suffering from depression may even stop greeting their owner at the door.
The above symptoms are certainly not unique to depression, so if your pet displays these behaviors, it’s time to visit the vet. Ruling out other medical causes, like arthritis and hypothyroidism, will help your vet make a more definitive diagnosis of depression. Owners can help pets suffering from the blues by encouraging physical activity, maintaining routine (especially if a pet is thrown off by a move or a new addition to the household), and speaking to their vet about the possibility of medication or an animal behaviorist recommendation.