Is Your Dog Happy?

 

happy dog

Dogs are generally good-natured, upbeat and happy companions for many of us. But how do we know if our fur babies are truly happy? 

We often think of emotions as only belonging to humans, due to our place at the top of the animal kingdom. But have you ever considered animals and emotions? Dogs (and a host of other animals) can experience emotions similar to ours. Emotions such as happiness, love, sadness, grief are also experienced by other animals, including our canine friends. 

Canine Body Language

Dogs aren’t able to tell us how they’re feeling at any one moment; instead they speak with body language. For instance, what does your dog do when he’s happy you’ve returned home? He wiggles and squiggles, barks, and wags his tail—expressing joy in his entire body! This is an example of canine body language. 

Just as dogs express happiness, they can express other emotions, too, such as sadness, confusion, etc. 

Can Dogs Be Depressed? 

The short answer is yes. Dogs can experience depression for the same reasons we do. Sometimes life throws our pups a curve, too. They may become depressed from any type of major life change, including a move to a new place, trauma of any type, abuse, experience separation anxiety, the loss of a canine or other animal companion, and especially the loss of their owner. 

Signs & Symptoms of Depression in Dogs

The signs & symptoms of dog depression are similar to what we humans experience. Symptoms are usually short-lived, unless they’ve suffered a major loss or trauma. In that case, depression can last for longer periods.

sad pug

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of depression in dogs:

Eating habits: your dog may eat less or refuse to eat at all, and may even begin to lose weight. However, some dogs have a tendency to overeat to compensate for their depression—just like humans. Watch to see if your dog won’t take his favorite treats and if he’s gained or lost weight recently. 

Loses interest: dogs may lose interest in their favorite activities and become less active. If your dog doesn’t enjoy playing, going on his favorite walks or seems to be generally slowing down, it could be a sign of depression.

Sleeping habits: your pup may experience a change in sleeping habits if he’s depressed. Some dogs have a tendency to sleep longer than normal and may appear tired or exhausted after a long sleep. 

Depressed human: dogs also show signs of depression if their humans are depressed. Dogs mirror us, their human companions, and if you’re depressed, then your pup may be, too. So be sure to check in with your own feelings. If you’re depressed, then this could be why your dog is, too. 

These signs of canine depression can also be symptoms of physical illness, pain or even an injury. It’s a good idea to see the vet and get your pup evaluated if he’s showing any of these signs and symptoms. Proper attention to any medical problem could just fix your fur baby right up! However, if your vet doesn’t find any underlying medical issues, your dog could be depressed. 

Treatment of Canine Depression

Canine depression is often treated the same way it’s treated in humans. Once your fur baby has been evaluated by his vet, then your vet will offer some guidance on how to treat the depression, which may include:  

1). Offering some TLC: try to spend extra time with your dog, doing things he normally loves. Does he enjoy walks in a favorite place? Then try to take him there to enjoy some time together. Does your pup like to play catch and fetch? Try to play with him more often—whatever his favorite activity. You might also try to feed him his favorite treat once in a while—just to get the wag back in his tail. 

2). Routine exercise: this is a huge help for humans, and it works the same for depressed dogs. Routine exercise relieves stress, increases endorphins and help your fur baby manage his weight. Try to create a regular exercise program you and your canine companion can enjoy together. 

3). Socialization: has your fur baby just lost a beloved companion animal? Then you might consider introducing another pet after a time. This can help perk up a depressed pup! Another option might be to consider other ways to socialize, including visiting a doggie daycare or even spending time in the dog park. The idea is to get your fur baby interacting with other dogs or animal companions on a more regular basis. 

4). Natural treatments: sometimes the methods mentioned above may not be effective. In this case, your vet may suggest trying natural remedies and supplements. 

5). Prescription medication: some dogs just can’t shake their depression. In this case, your vet may suggest using prescription medication to ease your pup’s blues. Vets may prescribe similar medications that we humans take, such as Paxil and Zoloft, among others. Be sure to avoid giving your fur baby any human medication—even if it’s one that dogs can take. The doses will be different from your dog, and human meds sometimes contain ingredients that are harmful for dogs. Work with your vet to find the best medication for your dog. 

Depression in dogs can be a serious issue; however, the prognosis is happy for most dogs. If caught and treated early, most dogs bounce back in a few weeks or months. You’ll see a wag and a wiggle, along with bounce in your fur baby’s steps once he’s feeling better again!

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