dog ​​with very sad smart eyes. depression in dogs is a real illness

Can Dogs Get Depressed? Here’s the Truth About Dog Depression


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The world is becoming more and more aware of the importance of focusing on our mental health. Talking about issues like depression and anxiety are less taboo, and people are more open to treatment. Win! But have you ever thought about whether your dog has mental health issues or, on a broader scale, depression in dogs?

With Mental Health Awareness Week taking place on 18 – 24 September, we’re diving into the lesser covered topic of dog mental health, particularly dog depression. We’re starting from the most basic question, like whether dogs actually can get depressed, to looking at how to help a pup suffering from depression.

A depress dog  with mental health issues

Can dogs get depression?

The answer is yes.

Just like humans, our furry friends can go through tough emotional times and develop a range of dog mental health issues. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from local pet owners and veterinarians, but let’s look at some reported sources…

A 2022 study by Milla Salonen and her colleagues analysed the behaviours of 13,715 pet dogs from Finland and found that the prevalence of canine depression has increased significantly in recent years.

Similarly, the Dogs Trust, a well-known UK-based dog welfare charity, acknowledges that dogs can become depressed, often due to changes in their routine, loss of a companion, or other stressful situations.

So, it’s crucial to pay attention to your dog’s behaviour and seek advice from a vet if you suspect they might be going through a rough patch emotionally. They may need extra care, attention, or even professional help to overcome their depression.

Collie dog sad eyes closeup hanging on bench.

What are the symptoms?

Depression in dogs can manifest through various symptoms. It’s essential to keep an eye out for these signs of dog mental health issues:

Changes in appetite

Your dog may lose interest in food or overeat. Either extreme can be a sign of depression.


Depressed dogs tend to be less active than usual. They might seem tired all the time and not want to play or go for walks.

Sleep disturbances

Just like humans, dogs with depression may have trouble sleeping or have excessive sleep. Dogs naturally sleep longer than humans, Puppies sleep 18-20 hours a day, adult dogs typically sleep between 12-14 hours a day and senior dogs sleep 16-18 hours a day. Take note if your dog is exceeding this amount.


They might become socially withdrawn, avoiding interactions with family members or other pets.

Excessive licking or chewing

Some dogs may develop compulsive behaviours like excessive licking or chewing on themselves as a way to cope. Read our piece on obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs for more on this.

Loss of interest

They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, like playing fetch or going for car rides.

Potty accidents

Depression can sometimes lead to house soiling, even in house-trained dogs. Remember that this could also be the result of another condition, such as a urinary tract infection, so it’s important not to see this as the sole symptom of depression.


Some dogs might bark or whine more than usual when they’re feeling down.

It’s important to remember that these symptoms can also be indicators of various other health issues, so it’s a good idea to consult your vet to rule out any underlying medical problems.

What causes depression in dogs?

Depression in dogs can be triggered by a range of factors, just like in humans.

  1. Loss or change in routine: Dogs thrive on routine and any significant changes can lead to depression, like a move to a new home, a family member leaving, or even a disruption in their daily schedule.
  2. Loss of a companion: If a dog loses a close human or animal companion, they can experience grief and loneliness, which may result in depression.
  3. Medical issues: Sometimes, underlying medical problems like pain, illness, or discomfort can cause behavioural changes that mimic dog depression. As mentioned, it’s essential to rule out any health issues through a vet check-up.
  4. Social isolation: Dogs are social animals, and if they’re left alone for extended periods without proper social interaction, they can become depressed and/or develop other dog mental health issues. Check out our tips on how to make it easier for a dog to be home alone.
  5. Trauma or abuse: Dogs that have experienced physical or emotional trauma or abuse in the past may develop depression as a result of their past experiences affecting their mental well-being.
  6. Genetics: Just like some humans are predisposed to depression, certain breeds or individual dogs may have a genetic disposition to be more prone to depressive behaviour.
  7. Environmental factors: Living in a stressful or noisy environment can also contribute to depression in dogs.

Remember, every dog is unique, and what causes depression in one may not affect another in the same way. If you suspect your dog is depressed, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog behaviourist to determine the underlying cause and develop a suitable treatment plan.

How can I help my dog if they have depression?

There are so many mental and emotional benefits of pet ownership, it’s only right we take care of their mental health, too. Here are some dog depression management tips, plus sources for further information:

  • Consult your vet: First up, schedule a vet visit. They can rule out underlying medical issues potentially causing your dog’s behaviour changes.
  • Maintain a routine: Dogs thrive on routine, so keep their daily schedule as consistent as possible. Regular feeding times, walks, and playtime provide stability.
  • Provide plenty of exercise: Exercise is not only physically beneficial but also mentally stimulating. Regular walks and play sessions can help improve mood. Explore dog breed exercise requirements to ensure your pup’s getting the right amount of exercise.
  • Social interaction: Spend quality time with them. Engage in activities they enjoy, such as fetch or cuddling on the couch. Social interaction is crucial for their mental well-being.
  • Mental stimulation: Offer puzzle toys and interactive games to keep their mind engaged, alleviating boredom and lifting spirits.
  • Healthy diet: Ensure they eat a balanced diet appropriate for age and breed. Good pet nutrition can contribute to overall well-being.
  • Avoid punishment: This goes without saying, but never ever reprimand your dog for depressed behaviour. Focus on positive reinforcement and helping them get better.
  • Consider professional help: In severe cases or if your vet’s unsure how to help, consult a professional pet behaviourist or trainer. They can provide guidance tailored to your dog’s specific needs.
  • Medication: In some cases, your vet may recommend medication to manage your dog’s depression.

Remember every pup is different, and it can take time to recover from depression. Patience, love, and understanding are key.

Always consult with your vet for guidance on the best approach for your individual dog’s situation. You might recognise some tips from the video below:

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