Decoding Depression In Pets: Do Cats And Dogs Get Depressed?
Though we tend to focus more on our pets’ basic needs like food and water, they also depend on us when it comes to their mental health.
If you’ve noticed lately that your happy-go-lucky dog isn’t feeling as playful, or your friendly, talkative cat hasn’t been so chatty, they could be experiencing a depressive episode.
Symptoms Of Depression In Pets
Dogs and cats experience a complex range of emotions similar to that of humans. They experience grief after the loss of a loved one, anxiety in new environments, and loneliness when their family members are not home.
However, it’s unheard of for animals to experience true clinical depression, the chronic condition in humans that causes feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and fatigue that extend beyond life’s ups and downs.
When our pets seem depressed, there’s usually an underlying cause, even if it may not be obvious to us. It tends to be situational and, thankfully, temporary. During a depressive period, you may notice symptoms like sleeping more than usual, eating less, and decreased playfulness.
Symptoms of depression can actually be due to arthritis, an infection, or an unnoticed injury. It’s imperative that you consult your veterinarian to rule out any physical health conditions that can be impacting your pet’s mood.
Common Reasons For Depression In Pets
Though clinical depression is not known in pets, their mental health is still worth caring for, especially if there are external influences with which you can help them cope.
Cats and dogs will mourn the loss of a loved one, be it a human or another animal. They can also become distressed when they are rehomed or otherwise separated by the ones they love. Extra attention, walks, or snuggles can help your pet get through a period of grief, though it will take time for them to heal emotionally.
Changes in your household can also have an impact on your pet’s mental health. If you’ve recently moved, had a baby, or added another pet to your family, your pet might be feeling overwhelmed, confused, and lonely.
Another common cause of depression in pets: relationship troubles. If you’ve been struggling with training, for example, your pet is intuitive enough to perceive when you’re not happy with them. If you’ve been feeling frustrated and unable to make progress with training, seek a professional trainer or behaviorist. A big part of their job is to help foster a strong bond between you and your pet.
Can My Vet Prescribe Depression Medication For My Pet?
Many mental health medications that humans use are also prescribed by veterinarians. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat separation anxiety and fear-related behavioral issues in pets. They’re typically used in conjunction with training and other therapies. Never use medications prescribed to a human to attempt to treat your pet. Your veterinarian will help you create a mental wellness plan with appropriate medications, dosages, and if you’re not ready to try prescription medications, you can try natural over-the-counter anxiety aids like CBD products, Adaptil for Dogs, Feliway for Cats, or Homeopet Anxiety Relief, all of which may help your pet feel better.