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Here are six indicators that your dog is stressed or depressed, along with suggestions for how to handle the situation

If you have a dog, you probably already know they can express their feelings like humans do. That means your little pup can become sad and withdrawn when they are stressed out, which can lead to depression if it lingers for too long. To get them feeling happy and relaxed again, you might want to meet with a vet to see what's going on—and to rule out any physical conditions. You can also try a few habit changes and lifestyle tweaks to get them back to their happy selves.

Signs Your Dog May Be Depressed

Dogs can be depressed for a variety of reasons. "Dogs can be depressed if they lost a family member, a kid went off to college or another dog in the house passed away. I see depression a lot in dogs whose families have gone through a divorce," says Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinarian at Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital in Whitehouse, Texas, and a contributor for Senior Tail Waggers.

Ochoa adds that dogs can get very attached to people and other pets, so when these relationships change, they can show signs of depression. If you think your dog is down in the dumps, here are the signs to look for and ways to help perk them back up.


"Most dogs that are depressed will lay around more and not really want to interact with other people in the house," says Ochoa. It could be their age, but if it's suddenly come on, or they're sleeping way too often, then it might be depression."

Have you recently changed your routine? Try to play with your dog using their favorite toy or take them for a walk. "Fresh air does a world of good for the brain," says Conrad Rossouw, a former certified dog trainer based in Scotland.

Changes in Appetite

Sad and stressed dogs may also not want to eat or drink. "They may also stop eating their food, but will eat people food," says Ochoa. So, look for any change from the normal diet and cravings. "Any change in appetite can be a sign of depression but can also be a sign of something else," adds Ochoa, so get your pooch to the vet for a checkup to rule out anything else.

They could also be gaining weight. "This usually goes hand in hand with a lack of exercise and stimulation. Try and take your dog for a walk," says Rossouw. And look at their calorie intake. Are you feeding them too much? They might be getting too much food compared to the exercise they're doing, which would be unrelated to stress and sadness.

Hiding and Withdrawing

If your pup is disappearing or withdrawing to odd places in the home, they could be feeling stressed or sad. "You may find them sleeping under the bed or in a closet. This is a common sign seen with depressed dogs," says Ochoa. Try playing a game or giving them more attention to make them feel happier and more relaxed.

Licking Its Feet

When a dog is depressed they may lick their feet. Why? "This is a calming method for many dogs," says Ochoa. Constant licking and grooming is a sign that your dog is trying to comfort themselves.

If your pup has been self-grooming a lot over a long period of time, it may be a sign of something else. "Doing it too much means it becomes a habit. If you've ruled out any medical issues, then I'd recommend getting your dog back into a routine, and playing games with them to stimulate their mind," says Rossouw.

No Interest in Playing or Walking

Depressed dogs might suddenly not want to go for walks anymore. They might not jump up and down when you get their leash, run to the door or react when you try and get them to take a walk, according to Steffi Trott, a professional dog trainer, and owner of SpiritDog Training. "Depressed dogs have a generally decreased sense of excitement and happiness, and this might show in their refusal to go for walks," says Trott.

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Lack of Interest in People or Dog Friends

Dogs love people, especially if you have a breed that is known for being extremely outgoing and friendly, such as a golden retriever or Labrador. "Depressed dogs feel low, generally sad and uninterested about life, and this may be shown in their reaction to people," says Trott.

The same goes for their dog pals, too. "If your dog also does not want to play with his doggy friends, he is definitely depressed. Exuberance is a common sign of dog-to-dog play, and if it is missing, your dog may be depressed," adds Trott.

How to Help Your Dog

First, see a vet to ensure your pup is in good physical health. "Often dogs become depressed as a result of pain or illness. If your dog shows the above signals, take him to the vet to make sure he does not have an underlying condition," advises Trott.

If something has recently changed (a move, another dog in the family died, the schedule is different, etc.), dogs may be depressed and confused due to the recent stress. Make sure to keep your daily schedule on track as much as possible, since routines make dogs feel safe and secure.

And "give your dog plenty of time to rest, and a comfortable and snuggly space to do so. Feeling well-rested and relaxed will make your dog much happier," adds Trott.

You can also plan an adventurous outing. "This can be getting him a vanilla ice cream cone at a drive-through or going to the park. Cheer him up with a fun activity," encourages Trott.

Like humans, dogs can feel down and depressed. If you notice a change in your pup's mood, set up an appointment with your vet to rule out any physical reasons behind the change. Also, assess any lifestyle changes that may be contributing to the sadness, and be proactive in making sure your pup is getting plenty of exercise and attention and has some sort of routine. It won't be long before they're back to their tail-wagging ways!


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