Treatment and prevention of depression in dogs


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  • Identify the symptoms of dog depression. The leaders of the American Society for Animal Behavior have said that depression in dogs has symptoms similar to depression in humans. The most common symptoms include the tendency to withdraw experiencing changes in eating, sleeping and not participating in the things you used to enjoy.
  • Spend more time with the pet to try to get him out of that depressive state. Spend more time playing and doing the things you like, such as walking, exercising, or even riding in cars, as well as spending more time stroking and hugging.
  • Reward him for showing positive behaviors. When he shows signs of happiness he is rewarded with a treat and caresses. Do not use treats as a way to make him happy. When a depressed dog is given treats, he will assume that he is being rewarded for his sad behavior. This will only encourage him to stay that way.
  • Visiting a veterinarian to indicate medications if the rewards for positive behaviors and spending more time with the dog do not work. The medications are the same as those used in humans in this situation, including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. It may take up to two months for the medication to take effect in dogs, but they should be much better after 6 to 12 months.

Tips and warnings

• Do not give dogs anti-depression medication under any circumstances without first visiting a veterinarian.

• Symptoms of depression in dogs may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. When there are symptoms, you should always consult a veterinarian for possible diseases.

Treatment of behavioral disorders in dogs

Dogs are susceptible to different behavioral disordersIn addition to anxiety and depression, such as fear, aggressiveness towards people or animals, and compulsive disorders. All of them should be treated as such so that our dog enjoys good emotional health. Your regular veterinarian can help you solve them, and sometimes you need to use a ethologist, veterinarian expert in animal behavior. He will help you diagnose and find out the cause of depression in your dog so he can treat it.

A therapy based on behavior modification techniques It usually requires several visits to the environment of the animal and a great involvement by veterinarians and owners, with a good dose of patience. Currently, the positive education, with reinforcements and rewards of good behavior, it is having results.

In very severe cases, multimodal therapy that includes the administration of anxiolytic or antidepressant drugs, although the results are variable and it is preferable to leave them as a last option. As therapeutic measures complementary to ethological behavior modification therapy, there are different options. One of them is the synthetic pheromones, which mimic those that mothers secrete when they breastfeed their puppies, and that produces a sense of security and serenity. They are harmless and are sold in different formats: spray, collar or environmental diffusers. Also exist new therapies such as homeopathy, Bach flowers, or acupuncture. Check with your veterinarian which option would best suit your dog.


Arriving at your home and finding that your best friend does not come out to greet you is an indication that things are not right. Before a change of behavior, the first thing is to rule out medical problems, but if after the visit to the veterinarian you continue to see your hairy decayed, sleeping a lot and without appetite, you should pay attention.

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from depression, keep in mind that within the most common causes are the changes in the routines that generate boredom, due to a decrease in both physical and mental activity.

Also, some situations that can generate depressive states may be the arrival of a new member to the house (babies, other pets or temporary visits), the lost of a family member (death or divorce), changes in routines of caregivers, such as untimely trips, new jobs or overwork at home, changes in the hairy routine, either by decreasing the time of walks, games, training and interaction with other dogs or removals and finally , the exclusion of the family nucleus. This is common in dogs abandoned on a terrace, patio or kitchen for long periods of time without the possibility of interacting with their owners.

The breed is not a predisposing factor to depression, but we must bear in mind that there are dogs that need more activity like the Terrier, which are more likely to generate anxiety, depression and some behavioral problems.

The basis of treatment is to increase the interactions and occupational activity of our dog. For this, the following recommendations must be taken into account:

- Increase social interaction time: Dogs are social like us, so it is advisable to allow them to share the spaces with their owners and educate them so that they know how to behave in each situation.

- Improve the routine of walks: Leaving the house is not just to meet your needs, we must give you enough time and space to socialize with other people and pets.

- Create a game routine: Take time every day to do some kind of leisure or training activity, always using prizes. In addition, use interactive toys that can be used when the hairy is left alone at home.

- Dog kindergartens: If we do not have enough time to share with your puppy, we have the option to play and have fun with other animals in the nursery.

- Medication: if the depressive state does not yield to the proposed, antidepressants can be administered, as in humans, of course, under medical prescription.

Symptoms of canine depression
Some of the most worrying signs are:

1. Eating disorders: decreased, absent and even bulimia.

2. Hypersomnia: excessive sleepiness with prolonged periods of sleep at night and sometimes during the day.

Inhibition of exploratory behavior: loss of interest in interacting with the environment.

Vocalizations: moans may appear for no apparent reason.

Organized behavior disorder: loss of interest in daily activities, such as playing.

Loss of initiative: lack of curiosity.

Locomotion disorders: dragging the legs.

Elimination disorders: urinary and fecal incontinence, especially when sleeping.

Compulsive disorders: repetitive behaviors, such as excessive licking.

Questions from our readers

My English pointer is 13 years old but continues to behave like a puppy and barks excessively. How to stop him from shouting the house every time we leave him alone?
Laura Catalina Bohorquez Piñeros. Pet: Dobby. Bogota

Laura, many times without intention we create pathological attachments to the point that our dogs do not know how to live without our company. You have to work on independence, on how you react when he asks for your attention. Ideally, create some exercises so that, little by little, tolerate being alone at home and adapt it to be the most fun while you are not. Because of his age it will not be a simple task, so at the beginning of the treatment, try to turn to someone who can be with Dobby while you return home.

How can I do to help my cocker spaniel not live nervous and anxious?
Sandra Johanna Cepeda Salazar. Pet: Tabatha. Bogota

The first thing is to know that the temperament is different in each pet and if Tabatha is very nervous, it will always be. However, that does not mean that there are no forms or practices that can lessen your uneasy behavior. One thing that can help, for example, is to create clear routines for your basic needs such as eating, walking and playing. Don't scold her for feeling fear and try to promote calm states. Also, improve your control over it by training based on positive reinforcement, that is, every time you execute an order from you, give it a prize.

Why does my dog ​​lick it as much as if it were a cat? This is normal?
Sandra Johanna Cepeda Salazar. Pet: Tabatha. Bogota

Hello again, Sandra. The first thing you have to do is rule out some skin disease. To do this, go to your trusted veterinarian in order to make the relevant reviews and diagnoses. However, from the point of view of behavior it is essential to consider factors such as lack of activity, anxiety and depression, since all these can generate repetitive behaviors that end up being pathological. If we compare it to human disorders, it can be equated to eating nails. Work on enriching your life with walks, proper socializations, games, toys, training and everything you can think of that can keep Tabatha distracted.

By: Juan Camilo González
Veterinary doctor, Master in Clinical Ethology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​in Spain. With his company, Solutions in animal behavior, he looks for pets to live in harmony with their family and their environment.

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