Expert Opinion - Can Dogs Get Depressed

Expert Opinion - Can Dogs Get Depressed

Author WDF Staff


Depression is not something that should be taken lightly, neither in humans nor dogs. Luckily, in recent years, the general public has become a lot more sensitized towards depression. We have great resources at our disposal to battle depression. Still, dogs can’t say what they’re feeling or visit a psychologist that could help them

If you notice your dog is withdrawn, isolates, loses interest in playing, or simply looks sad, you might think - my dog is depressed. But, can dogs get depressed? Or is it something different that causes symptoms similar to human depression? Here’s what experts have to say about it.

Can dogs get depressed?

Even though depression is rarely “officially” diagnosed, it doesn’t mean dogs can’t get depressed. Dogs can get depressed, and they will exhibit many similar symptoms as we do. However, symptoms of depression are nearly the same as symptoms of chronic pain in dogs. If a dog is in pain, they will sleep more, lose interest in playing, and exhibit the type of behavior that can be mistaken for depression.

sad dog on couch

What is dog depression?

Dog depression is similar to human depression. It can be described as a mental health issue that will affect how a dog feels, acts, and thinks. Dog depression can be challenging to diagnose because it has many similar symptoms to chronic pain.

Dog depression symptoms

if you’re worried about your dog’s wellbeing and mental health, you will want to do everything you can to help them battle depression. To do that, we need to confirm our dog is actually depressed. We need to know what depression symptoms to look for. Once we do that, we can move forward with helping our dog deal with it. Here are the most common symptoms of depression in dogs;

  • Lack of interest for activities they loved
  • Loss of appetite
  • More sleep
  • Needy behavior
  • Wanting to be close to their owner all the time
  • Withdrawal
  • Isolation
  • Lack of interest in other dogs
  • Decreased activity
  • Excessive licking (especially their paws)

These are all possible symptoms, but most dogs exhibit only a few. As their owners, we need to notice these signs and help them deal with depression.

sad puppy

What causes dog depression?

It can be difficult to deal with dog depression. To that that successfully, we need to understand what causes it. Think about events that happened recently and tell your vet so they can accurately diagnose your dog. If you’re suspecting your dog is depressed, here are a few things that might have caused it;


Dogs in mourning can get depressed. A sudden loss of a family member, playmate, owner, or someone the dog spent a lot of time with can tip them towards depression. This is not a hard thing to notice. Some dogs are so depressed after losing their owner it becomes nearly impossible to rehome them.


When we are physically sick, we are not the most fun people to be around. The same is true for dogs. If they have a disease, they may be acting depressed. They will lack energy, appetite, and will to do things they usually enjoy. Luckily, this kind of depression is resolved as soon as the disease is cured.

sad akita on bed

Owner reaction

Dogs are susceptible to their owner’s feelings, and if you’re feeling a bit down or going through a difficult stage in your life, your dog might get depressed. They will react to your demeanor and energy with a depressed reaction. Plus, the dog can get depressed if their owners leave them alone for too long.

Changes in environment

Dogs love their routines. If you’re making some significant changes in your life, like moving, renovating, or going on a trip, your dog might get depressed. Behaviorists and vets are not sure why that happens, but it does. If you’re planning on doing something like that, talk to your vet, and don’t forget about your furry family member.


Abused dogs will get depressed. They probably carry a lot of trauma and scars from their abusers, and it is no wonder they are depressed. However, dogs are amazing, and with plenty of love, affection, and great new owners, they will eventually get better.


Like humans, dogs can have phobias. If your dog has an intense fear or a phobia, they can act depressed. However, instead of showing fear, they might simply withdraw and be on a constant lookout. That type of behavior is consistent with dog depression.

sad yorkie

Another possible cause is - unknown. There are many cases where dogs develop depression without any actual reason. You can do everything right as the owner and your dog still end up being depressed. This can be very frustrating because you might think it’s your fault or doing something wrong. That is not necessarily true.

Can dog depression be treated?

The good news is that dog depression can be treated. Their mental state can be changed, and there are a few simple things we can do to make them feel better. Here are a few things you can try to get your dog out of their depressed state;

  • Extra physical activity
  • Comforting grooming sessions
  • Playing with your dog
  • Fun walks


Vets might be reluctant to prescribe medications right away. They might advise you to try different things first. However, if a dog is severely depressed and unable to function the majority of times, they will write the dog a prescription. Dr. Ballantyne put it nicely,

I think it’s important to acknowledge that pharmaceutical options aren’t the only treatment for dogs suffering from mental illness, but rather just a part of the treatment plan.”

She mentioned that the best approach to treating severe canine depression is combining medications, environmental management, and training. With a little bit of your effort, your dog will pull through and feel like the happy and playful dog they were or can be.

One of the possible things you can try to help your dog is CBD. Check out this article - Why You Should Try CBD Oil for Dogs?

In conclusion

Dog depression is a serious mental health issue. It can happen to any dog, but the dog will get over it with a healthy approach, training, and their owner’s effort. There are many possible causes, and it would be great to know them so you can avoid them. Depression in dogs can get resolved on its own. However, their owners need to stick to a healthy schedule, spend more time with their dogs, and engage them in physical activity.

World Dog Finder team

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