DOGS AND DEPRESSION By Claudia Bensimoun

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Dogs And Depression

Depression doesn’t only happen to pet parents. It also affects our dogs.

Change in environment:  Any change can create stress and depression in your dog. Visit your shelter and you’ll come across shy and scared dogs. These dogs will not bark excitedly when they see you, but will seek shelter at the back of their runs. Serious emotional trauma affects many shelter dogs that wait for their families for months or even years. These dogs will not eat, suffer from anxiety and will tend to sleep a lot. Even after being adopted, these dogs have to form new bonds.

Change of schedule: Less exercise in a dog’s daily routine is a sure depression inducer, since less endorphins are produced. These endorphins have an important role in our dog’s sense of well- being. Keep your pooch well-exercised!

Change of status in bonding with their humans: Tests have revealed that behavioral reactions in a small child and canine are similar. Separate Fido from his family, and you’ll have a depressed pooch. Depression can be helped by taking your dog to the vet and getting an anti-depressant like doggie Prozac. This is because there are the same biochemical processes that happen to both humans and canines alike. Aromatherapy works as well!  A combination of exercise and aromatherapy is often favored!

Change of behavior patterns. This is often seen in depressed canines. Submissive patterns of behavior such as that seen in a low ranking dog will become evident. Look for tail down, slow gait, loss of appetite… Bonding with their families is an expression of canine love. Should a change occur such as a death of a family member, loss of attention or affection, your dog will be emotionally affected. Emotional identification in your dog connects all families with their furry best friends. Should this connection be broken, depression will set in.

Change in canines social circles. The death of your dog’s best friend or house-mate is hard. Humans feel it too. Canines will refuse to go out for a walk, will refuse to eat and become depressed. Research has shown that pain of a loss and death are two separate concepts for canines. Children only understand death at around age eight. Canines will feel death and behave in ways that humans do, that suggest grieving. A new addition to the canine home pack will bring on feelings of jealousy and anxiety, possibly expressed as disgust or disdain towards the new puppy or canine. If too much attention is placed on the new canine family member, disdain can turn into depression, and if not looked into very quickly, this condition can last for months. One has to look at all the variables within the canine family home, to see if there are any contributing factors aiding in his depression.

Changes in health. Sometimes canine depression is brought on by illness. Make sure that your pooch has regular visits to the vet and a full physical at least once every year. Brain chemistry can be affected by your dog’s sense of smell. Certain odors will improve his mood by changing your canine’s brain chemistry, so that it produces proteins, making your dog feel feel good. Lavender can used to induce relaxation.

Changes that one can make to help ease depression in canines

Whether one is a shelter volunteer, or has been recently affected by doggie depression, there are a few suggestions that may ease the pain.

Introduce your canine to the pack at the dog park. Initially your dog may be shy or just too depressed, but encouraging him to play ball or Frisbee will help to get those endorphins going. Even a slight wag  from your pooch is a sure sign that things are improving.

Making him a home- cooked meal with his favorite ingredients.

Extra trips  to the dog beach! Alone time with your furry friend!  

 Canine massage! Any holistic vet can recommend one.

Trips to Petco or any petstore with Fido is similar to that of taking your children toy shopping. There are many great interactive canine toys on the market.

Dogs have emotional ups and downs. As long as we are committed to helping these lows, and creating effective changes in Fido’s environment, canine depression can be cured.


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