A cause of unsocial or disruptive behaviour in dogs
Like humans, dogs do occasionally suffer from bouts of depression.
They become, lethargic, stop eating and drinking properly, lose weight and loose interest in their favourite toys. They will sleep more and may lie down with their heads turned to a wall or start hiding behind furniture.
They can become irritable, hyper-vigilant and suffer from sleeping
They can even loose enthusiasm for walks and playing and may become rather clingy.
They can be twitchy, on the alert all the time and cower at sudden
movements and noise and seek to spend a lot of their time alone,
shutting out external stimuli.
Dogs can suffer from many of the same causes of depression as humans - even PTSD.
The loss of a family member or another family dog. Even the loss of a doggy
friend they would regularly meet and play with on walks. A move to an unfamiliar area or house. Seasonally affected Disorder (SAD). Physical
Even picking up on the sadness or ill health of it's family or
We humans do not give that much credit to the
intelligence and cognitive abilities of other animals.
is a need to convince ourselves that we are somehow a superior race
rather than just a more developed species of animal. Maybe that
attitude helps us justify our total exploitation of other species
for our own benefit.
But as time goes by we are beginning to
understand that in many respects we differ very little from many of
the other species we share the planet with and we share many common
traits, needs and abilities with a lot of them.
We also have many
problems in common, both physical and mental so to understand
animals better we should look at ourselves and understand what
affects us, how it affects us and how we deal with these issues when
we are affected.
Physician, heal thyself.
Animals grieve and some species, like dogs, grieve in a similar
ways to us. they share our feelings on more ways that we think.
There are correlations between the intelligence of an animal and the
depth of grievance it can suffer from.
Dogs are pretty smart so
they are likely to suffer more powerful feelings of loss and grief
and when they do it can become just a difficult to snap them out of
it as it can be to turn around a human suffering from the same
It is important to spot these problems early and
take action quickly. This will prevent the problem from becoming
ingrained or habitual and make the chances of a successful and
speedy recovery more likely
If you are an observant person you will be in tune with the moods of
your dog and if your dogs is depressed you will look at it and know
something is wrong. By looking closely you will identify the
problem as depression but the cause can be elusive.
In most cases of depression in humans we turn to medication - anti
depressants. These work by increasing serotonin and noradrenaline, the group of
chemicals in the brain which can improve mood and emotion.
One drawback with reaching for the pills too quickly is that these neurotransmitters also suppress
chronic pain to a degree so if the issue is a physical one which requires another form of intervention it may well cover up the real cause which could result in a bigger problem further down the road.
It's not easy to recognise depression.
It's not something that manifests itself physically until it is quite advanced so picking up on early symptoms can be problematic as some of these symptoms can also
indicate other problems.
A dog may suffer some of the
symptoms but not others.
Treatment will very much depend on the cause so if you do detect depression in your dog, look around and see if you can identify what may have brought it on.
Have there been drastic changes in routines or have you moved house or has some family member or close friend or playmate left home or passed on?
Is someone in the family ill or depressed themselves? Could the dog be picking up on their mood?
Has the dog gone through a traumatic experience of any kind or an extended stressful period for any reason whatsoever?
Could the dog be sick? Is there something going on that is causing chronic pain that is not obvious or visible on the surface?
It is important to know the reason behind the issue before attempting to apply a cure.
The first step is to eliminate the possibility that there is a physical problem affecting the dog.
A trip to the vet, a thorough examination, some blood tests and maybe an x-ray if a damaged bone is suspected may save your dogs life and remedy the
depression after treating the problem.
It may simply be a
case of chronic pain brought on by a rheumatic condition like
arthritis. Anti inflammatory drugs will alleviate the pain and
the depressive effect should go with it.
In cases of loss or a
dramatic change of circumstances, time is often the best healer.
If you are
absolutely sure this is the case then try and lighten the dogs mood, interact more frequently, offer praise and stimulation and try and identify and then implement some activity or situation that seems to make the dog more
enthusiastic about life. Keep it distracted and busy.
light and cheerful around the dog. Emanate confidence. Reassure
the dog that all is well by behaving like it is.
do - do not make little sympathy sounds. Poor dog, poor little
mite just act to assure the dog that something really is wrong!
Your own moods can have a great effect on your
If you are feeling down in the dumps don't be
surprised when your dog joins you.
If your dog has a bond
with you it will sense your moods and this will affect it's own
so another thing to look at if your dog is showing signs of
depression is at yourself.
You should also look at your
family to see if anyone else has a problem or are unduly anxious
about a situation or another individual.
PTSD is a more difficult
problem to treat.
A traumatic experience will leave your dog with associated triggers that bring back the state of fear that the dog previously went through.
Physical abuse. Long term neglect. Insecurity and fear.
Accidents. Isolation and deprivation of companionship can all
bring on this condition. Dogs that are born with a fearful and
timid temperament or those poorly socialised are most at risk.
In the case of an obvious physical experience identifying the
cause could be straightforward.
A near death experience or
involvement in an accident is a common cause of PTSD. Exposure
to something unknown or frightening can also bring on the
condition. Being left alone too often and for long
periods is traumatic to any pack animal that thrives on
Dogs are particularly sensitive to companionship deprivation and of all breeds of dog, the Border Collies suffers most.
Systemic Desensitisation is a form of behavioural modification that can be used to treat CPTSD
It should be applied very carefully as misuse can make matters worse.
It works by the gradual exposure of the dog to the triggers that bring on the CPTSD, gradually increasing the intensity and duration of the exposure until the dog become inured to it.
Couple this with positive re-enforcement training and distrations with the occasional treat thrown in and the results can be astonishing.
But this form of behavioral training can easily go sour if the dog is outfaced by being over exposed to the trigger that brings on the CPTSD.
Seasonally Affected Disorder also affects dogs.
In fact changes in the weather can have an impact on a dogs
mood. Prolonged periods of low pressure and overcast sky can
make a dog depressed - people too!
When there is less
daylight the brain produces more melatonin and less serotonin
which can have an adverse effect on their mood. For a start
their bodies, like ours, will produce less vitamin D.
periods of overcast and short days with very little direct
sunlight can cause a dog to start to lose it's coat because it's
Pineal gland has less exposure to the sun. Another effect of
dysfunction of the Pineal gland is the disrupting of the
production of melatonin which also effects moods.
humans reach for the vitamin supplements and start to increase
our intake of vitamin D but as dogs are sensitive to high levels
of this vitamin it is unwise to use this as a solution. A
balanced diet should provide enough vitamin D.
can make sure the dog has adequate exposure to sunlight by
getting it out more often and for longer periods and by changing
lighting in your home to a type of bulb that imitates natural
You can also buy light boxes that provide high
intensity natural light. Both you and your dog will benefit.
Companionship Deprivation is a common cause
of depression in dogs.
It's extreme manifestation is a form of
behaviour known as 'separation anxiety'.
Border Collies are
very prone to this condition.
Why get a dog and then
leave it alone for long periods of time? Dogs are social
animals. They live in social groups and isolation is an abnormal
condition for them. For a dog, to be left home alone all day is
an unpleasant experience and can lead to mood swings, irritation
and depression if it goes on too long.
This is a form of
depression that can easily be avoided. Spend more time with your
dog. Make sure it has your company and interaction.
Do not expect the
situation to be rectified if you get another dog - it is your
company the dog desires.
Don't expect the situation to be
rectified by getting a dog walker to come in and take your dog
out - it needs you.
Don't expect taking the dog to 'doggy day
care' to be a substitute for your responsibility for it's
If you cannot provide a dog with the
companionship it requires you should not have a dog. Simple as
asking the vet for Prozac - briefly - here are a couple of
First in any case of a dog needing
any form of medication for any reason - consult your vet.
you want to use any herbal or complimentary medicines make sure
your vet is aware and preferably sympathetic.
Homeopathy - Ignatia has proved to be a good tool in
fighting depression in humans and dogs.
Flower Remedies - Rescue Remedy is a popular choice for
stress, shock and depression and there are other flower remedies
that are useful in depression - Mustard - Star of Bethlehem -
Gentian - Honeysuckle - Gorse.
St John's Wort - Sandalwood Oil - both useful in lifting
Aromatherapy - Lavender -
Bergamot - Ylang-Ylang - Chamomile - all are essential oils used
to treat depression.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
are now also thought to help depression by inducing a relaxed
state of mind.
If administering any of these
treatments, or any other, it is important to keep your vet in
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