By and large we understand that our pets are complex animals with a range of varying emotions and personalities, but it can be difficult to think that animals, like humans, can suffer from depression. This article will look in depth into how such a problem can manifest itself and what can be done about it.
Depression in animals occurs for the very same reasons as it does in humans – the animal is overtaken by a profound sense of sadness. This can be for a variety of reasons, but ultimately the effects will be the same. It may be difficult to spot when your pet becomes depressed, so it is prudent to keep a close eye on your pet when it becomes under stress (such as after moving home; this is especially true if a freedom such as access to a back garden has been revoked), when another pet dies or a family member that was close to the pet has moved away.
Not eating, a lacklustre or reduction in an energetic disposition or even becoming even more lazy than normal can be signs that are easily confused for other symptoms of illness that are secretly signs of depression. Animals that exude out of character behaviour that is not linked to an illness may well be showing signs of depression; this can include urinating/defecating in places that are not part of a normal routine, constant pacing in certain areas that were insignificant to the pet beforehand or increased attempts at gaining your attention (this last point is easier to spot from pets that were more independent before).
Depression can be as severe in pets as it can in humans. Animals that stop eating will be causing serious harm to their well-being and should be reviewed by a vet as soon as possible. There have been many cases where a depressed pet has run away, which is all the more reason to check with your vet immediately when the above signs are revealed.
Depression can be treated, and once your vet has ensured there is no serious medical problem with your pet you can begin treatment straight away. The medicines prescribed to treat depression are usually the same as those administered to humans so you can be safe in the knowledge that your pets aren’t taking anything dangerous or completely foreign to you, however be warned – the wrong dosage can prove fatal to your pet, so never administer any form of medication without consulting your vet, and only ever give your pet the exact dosage that has been recommended.
Remember, you play the most important role when it comes to your pet’s recovery. You pet will be relying on you not only for attention and support, but also to handle the issue in the correct manner. By giving your pet more attention and treats to offset the depression, you are merely reinforcing the negative behaviour – instead, treat your pet the same as before to maintain a familiar and secure environment, and always encourage and reward your pet when they exhibit happy behaviour, as like humans many pets can and will just bounce back after a short period of sadness. Finally, if you believe it may be the right thing to do, getting a new pet can often be a great way to alleviate your pet’s depression, and may even help you as well if the loss of a pet is getting you down.