We know that our companion animals boost our own mental health states, and we can often see the positive effect this can have on them. They make us feel happy and are satisfied in return.
While pets are eager to please, they can be affected by mental health struggles of their own. Pet depression is a very real threat to overall wellness, requiring a steady approach to balance symptoms. As with anything related to your pet’s health, we’re always here to assess, treat, and ease their suffering.
While our pets have the capacity to mirror many of our own feelings, they have a full range of personal emotions absolutely unique to them. This means that pet depression is not necessarily linked to similar emotions found in a pet’s special humans. It can be rooted in a medical or physical condition or disease-specific to them.
What’s Wrong, Buddy?
A physical examination and possible diagnostic testing may not reveal underlying health problems. This is good news, but if symptoms of lethargy, sadness, or withdrawal persist, it’s time to pay attention to any possible changes to a pet’s lifestyle, environment, and more.
- Grief is known to cause pet depression. If a pet has recently lost a litter mate, house mate, friend, or special person, they may show signs of depression. While symptoms may pass over time, they may need distractions and other interventions to heal.
- A change to a pet’s home can be catastrophic to their mental health. This could mean a new baby, new pet, a completely new location, or even construction next door. Remember that your pet is highly sensitive to change and reactions may manifest as pet depression.
- Pet depression can also be linked to lack of physical exercise, obesity, and boredom.
Symptoms of Pet Depression
There are several indicators of pet depression that are obvious to owners in sync with their pets. If you see any of the following symptoms, please seek help for them right away:
- Any changes to appetite (from undereating to overeating)
- Increased sleeping
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Hiding or withdrawal from household interactions
- Paw licking
Support Your Pet
If your pet is feeling a bit blue, you can establish and maintain a routine of mealtimes, bathroom breaks, and enrichment opportunities. This can help assuage any anxiety related to what’s happening at home, and gives a pet a sense of security when they know what to expect. You can also:
- Keep your pet moving as much as possible. Switch things up to reduce monotony and give lots of praise and rewards for participation. It may be that all they really need is extra time with their favorite person.
- If your pet can handle it, facilitate social interactions at the dog park or daycare. If you are fully prepared to care for another pet, consider a playmate for your pet.
- Consider acupuncture to ease depression-related stress and anxiety
Patience and Understanding
Pet depression is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Every pet is different and deserves a customized treatment plan. If nothing else works, your vet might recommend prescription medication to help your pet feel better. A qualified animal behaviorist can also provide extra support.
For additional help with pet depression, please call Long Animal Hospital and Emergency Center at (704) 523-2996.