Depression in Pets: Behaviour Changes to Look For

Pets can suffer from depression just like humans can. Has your family undergone a change recently? A big move? The birth of a new baby? The passing of a human or furry family member? Any sort of sudden change in routine can cause your pet to experience a bout of depression.
Unfortunately, our pets can’t tell us that they’re depressed in words, but they can tell us through changes in their behaviour.
Depression is more than feeling blue. Symptoms in pets include:
Appetite Changes
Has your pet suddenly lost their appetite? Or are they eating more than usual? Either scenario can point to depression.
Changes in Sleeping Habits
Sure dogs and cats are known for sleeping a lot, but if your pet doesn’t wake up or react to your presence when you return from work or school, there could be a problem. Lack of sleep or difficulty sleeping are also signs of depression.
Loss of Interest
If your pet joins you for a walk, pay attention to his activity level. Is he excited and energetic? Or is uninterested and lethargic? When activities that normally make your pet’s heart sing are suddenly falling flat, your pet could be depressed.
Avoidance or Hiding
Dogs (and even cats) are highly sociable. So when a pet becomes withdrawn and begins avoiding his owner, something is stressing or bothering him.
Excessive Licking, Biting, and Chewing
This is a depressed dog’s way of soothing himself. If the licking and chewing becomes excessive, painful hotspots can form on the paws.
Lack of Grooming
Cats are notorious neat freaks. If their grooming habits have lapsed and they’ve developed a matted coat, it could be a sign of depression. Similarly, some cats may overdo it when it comes to grooming as a coping mechanism to deal with the stress they’re experiencing. Look out for bald spots that could be the result of excessive grooming.
Whining and Vocalizing
You may notice that your dog is crying more often or that your cat is becoming increasingly vocal throughout the day. Pets can’t talk, but they could be trying to tell you that something is wrong.
Does your pet pace from room to room with no destination in sight? This could be a sign of depression.
Destructive Behaviours
Dogs act out when they haven’t gotten enough exercise. That lack of activity can leave them feeling depressed and acting out in ways that they normally wouldn’t.
When evaluating your pet’s behaviour, it’s important to consider their usual temperament. If you have a shy dog, it wouldn’t be unusual for them to not greet visitors. However, if your dog is usually the life of the party and suddenly wants to slink away out of sight of your guests, you may become concerned about their mental wellbeing. You know what your pet’s “normal” is, so use your best judgement when looking for signs and symptoms of depression.
What to Do If You Think Your Pet is Depressed
Once you’ve detected a change in your pet’s behaviour, it’s time to visit your vet to rule out any physical ailments. If an injury isn’t to blame for your pet’s sudden behavioural change, you can have a conversation with your vet about whether your pet is suffering from depression.
When you get back home, try to return to the normal routine you had before your pet started feeling depressed (if possible). Your pet will begin to feel more secure. Give them plenty of extra attention and keep them active with their favourite activities. Play games, go for a walk, and spend more quality time together. For example, try getting on your pet’s level on the floor and give him a good brushing while you watch TV.
With the support and love of their owners, many pets are able to overcome their depression on their own. If your pet is severely depressed, your veterinarian may prescribe an antidepressant. We hope this article leaves you feeling a bit more informed and confident when monitoring your pet’s mental wellbeing. 
Did You Know?
In addition to great coverage for traditional veterinary treatment, Pets Plus Us can also cover you for alternative and behavioural therapy? Veterinary consultations to diagnose and treat your pet’s abnormal behaviour, or behavioural problems due to an underlying medical condition, are all eligible expenses. When referred by your veterinarian, we’ll also pay the cost of treatment by a certified animal behavioural therapist.