How do I know if my dog is depressed?
Original Question: To describe it most accurately my 6-year-old Shepherd/Chow seems depressed. He has lost his enthusiasm for almost everything. Dog parks, walks and normal interactions with me and other animals seem to bore him. His appetite hasn’t changed although he has always been a picky eater. He shows no obvious signs of being in pain. I have noticed though on walks with him that his breathing seems to be out of rhythm or perhaps laboured. This is most noticeable around the lower stomach area and not the chest. Perhaps through concern for him I’m noticing things that may have always existed but I thought I would point it out. Anyhow back to the beginning and depression. What would you recommend I do? - Anonymous
Thanks for your question.
I can’t say for sure what is going on here but I will share some thoughts.
First, we often ascribe human characteristics or conditions to our pets. When you say that he is depressed, it seems like you’re using it in the same way you would describe a person experiencing a period of depression in their life. Can dogs get depressed? It’s not impossible for a pet to be ‘depressed’ in that same manner, but it would certainly be rare and the things you’re describing are much more common with other issues.
An animal can seem depressed when they are suffering from a physical illness, experiencing chronic pain, not receiving stimulation, and other such circumstances. My first recommendation is to investigate if there are any underlying medical conditions occurring. You could do this by visiting your veterinarian for a physical examination and consultation. Performing routine wellness testing such as a urinalysis and blood test that could find any hidden medical conditions that are either occurring or in an early state that is difficult to identify. The physical examination is key in a case like this. You’ll want your veterinarian to look for sources of discomfort such as arthritis, tooth pain, or discomfort in any part of the body. I think it is completely realistic given the age and breed of your pet that arthritis could be present which could be the sole cause of the symptoms you describe.
In short, the issues you describe are an indication that you should have a thorough veterinary visit and testing. These are behaviors that could indicate something medical is occurring. Don’t pass them off as depression. You could be missing something that could get worse in the meantime.
I hope this helps.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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