What Causes Pet Depression?

The reasons for pet depression can vary widely, but they usually have to do with loss or change. Common causes of depressed dogs or depressed cats include:
  • Death of a beloved person or animal companion
  • Stress in the household
  • A move
An otherwise healthy pet can become depressed if left alone for many hours. This is especially true of dogs, since they are pack animals and like company. It’s also possible your pet is mirroring what he sees in you. “Pets are sensitive to their owners’ moods and know when their owners are upset,” Dunn says.

How to Treat Pet Depression

How can you help your depressed cat or dog snap out of his funk? Dunn says to first try to minimize stress in your home. Plenty of exercise and playtime is also a good way to stimulate his mind to focus on other things. Bringing your depressed dog to a local dog park is a great way to help him play and mingle with other animals. When your pet is depressed because of the loss of another pet, bringing another animal into the family can help.

If you’ve moved to a new home with your pets, make the transition easier by confining them to one area. After a while, slowly introduce them to other parts of the house to reduce their stress levels. Dunn says cats are more apt to become stressed or depressed because of a move and may refuse food. If your depressed cat stops eating, call a vet. “A cat that doesn’t eat for 48 to 72 hours can have serious medical issues,” she says.

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Rarely, medication is needed to get your depressed dog or cat out of his blue mood. “Sometimes appetite stimulation is required, and sometimes pets are put on specific anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications, just like people,” Dunn says. And as with people, results don’t happen overnight. Dunn notes that it can take several months for the medicine to work its best.

You might not be able to prevent pet depression, but involving your furry friend in family activities and being aware of how changes will affect them can help. Keep your regular veterinary appointments, too — generally a healthy pet is a happy pet. Following these tips can help keep your cherished four-legged family members healthy in both body and mind for years to come.