Has your pup been less eager to play or seems low energy lately? It might be more than just an off day; they could be experiencing depression.

We're here to help you recognize the signs, understand the causes, and get your furry friend feeling more like themself again.

What is Canine Depression? 

Depression in dogs refers to a state of prolonged sadness or apathy that affects their usual behavior and activities. Just like in humans, dogs can experience emotional lows, often manifested as a lack of interest in play, decreased appetite, and lethargy.

But, what does depression look like in dogs and how can you spot the signs?

Signs of Depression in Dogs

Depression in dogs can manifest differently based on its root cause. For instance, a dog missing a close companion might act differently than one getting used to a new home after a move.

Additionally, and this is very important, symptoms of depression in dogs can closely resemble those linked to underlying medical issues or chronic pain, which, in some cases, might directly contribute to their emotional distress. 

Here are some commonly observed signs of depression in dogs:

  • Your playful pup might suddenly lose interest in their favorite toys or games.
  • They might experience a decreased appetite.
  • Sleeping more than usual, especially during times when they're typically active.
  • Avoiding family members, preferring to stay secluded or hidden.
  • Becoming clingier or showing an increased need for attention and comfort.
  • House-trained dogs may have potty accidents indoors
  • Excessive grooming, such as licking or chewing their paws more frequently.
  • Occasionally exhibiting signs of aggression or engaging in destructive behaviors.

Regular interaction, mental stimulation, and sometimes even medical treatment can help alleviate the symptoms and improve the dog's overall well-being.

Causes of Depression in Dogs

Every dog is unique, and what might affect one may not necessarily have the same impact on another. However, certain events and changes can trigger distress or sadness in most canines.

Some common causes of canine depression include:

  • Loss of a companion: Just as humans grieve, dogs can mourn the loss of a fellow pet or a favorite human.
  • Major life changes: Moving to a new home, changes in the household like the arrival of a new baby or pet, or significant alterations to their daily routine can be unsettling.
  • Illness or physical pain: Dogs may not always show it, but ailments or constant pain can contribute to feelings of depression.
  • Trauma or abuse: previous traumatic events or abusive situations can leave a lasting emotional scar.
  • Aging: Just like humans, dogs might face emotional challenges as they grow older, including the onset of cognitive dysfunction.
  • Social isolation: Extended periods without interaction or engagement can lead to feelings of loneliness.
  • Lack of stimulation: Especially in more active breeds, an insufficient amount of physical or mental activity can contribute to feelings of listlessness.

A Vet's Evaluation of Dog Depression

Noticing shifts in your dog’s behavior can be concerning. While such changes might suggest emotional distress, they can also be indicative of medical issues.

For instance, lethargy, changes in appetite, or altered behavior might be tied to health concerns ranging from minor joint pain to more significant concerns. 

During your visit, be sure to mention any behavior changes you've noticed in your dog. The more you share, the easier it is for the veterinarian to figure out what's happening.

Treatment Options for Dogs with Depression

When your dog shows signs of depression, it's not just about offering extra treats or belly rubs. Effective treatment demands a systematic approach tailored to the specific needs of your furry friend.

Here's some vet-approved ways to treat depression in dogs:

  • Positive behavior training: This is all about encouraging the good behaviors and gently steering your dog away from habits that aren't helpful.
  • Changes at home: Small changes in their space or routine can help lift your dog's spirits.
  • Supplements: Some foods or added supplements can help boost their mood. 
  • Other treatments: If there's a specific cause for the depression, your veterinarian might suggest particular therapies. 
  • Specialized training: An experienced dog trainer can offer excellent advice and support.
  • Medication: After all medical possibilities have been ruled out, some medications can help balance your dog's mood, making them feel more at ease. Some medications to help treat depression in dogs include:

💊 Luckily, BetterVet partnered with Vetsource to offer pet owners with an easy to access online veterinary pharmacy!

How to Prevent Depression in Dogs

To promote the emotional well-being of our pets, it's important to address their daily needs and maintain a consistent environment, reducing the risk of depression.

Building on these measures, here's a few ways to prevent dog depression:

1. Provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation

To prevent depression in dogs, it's crucial to ensure they get regular exercise, which aids not only in physical health but also in mental well-being.

Engaging them with stimulating toys and regular training sessions keeps their mind active and sharp. Additionally, providing a consistent and secure environment helps them feel safe and establishes a comforting routine.

2. Have your dog socialize with others

Introducing puppies to various environments, sounds, people, and other animals during their early life stages can make them more adaptable and resilient adults.

Keep reading: How to Socialize a Puppy

3. Schedule regular veterinary visits

Regular health checkups can detect potential health issues that could lead to depression if left unaddressed. Always stay up to date with vaccinations and ensure they're on a balanced diet.


Recognizing and addressing depression in our dogs is key to keeping them happy and healthy. If you've seen changes that last, it's time to take action.

A behavioral consultation can help to pinpoint what's going on and give you advice on how to best support your furry friend.

Concerned About Your Pet's Unusual Behavior?

Get peace of mind with expert counseling. Identify the reasons behind common behavior challenges and nurture a fulfilling bond with your beloved pet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my dog depressed all of a sudden?

Sudden depression in dogs can result from various factors, including changes in the environment, loss of a companion, or underlying health issues.

How do you cheer up a dog?

To cheer up a dog, offer extra playtime, new toys, treats, or engage in their favorite activities, and ensure they have consistent affection and attention.

How long does it take for a dog to recover from depression?

The recovery time for a dog's depression varies, typically ranging from a few days to several weeks, depending on the cause and interventions taken.