by  Cindy Wright

Depression is a mental disorder that is very common in humans, which can be caused by various factors. It is a feeling that they get when they lose something or someone or just feel tired and lonely. It can affect pets also. Your pet’s mood will probably change if you buy another pet for the family or maybe they have lost a brother or sister. Yes animals become attached to there friends and family just as humans do also animals have very different personalities A cat or dog can get depressed if one of their friends or family dies even if it is just a short period of time that they know that one animal. In the case of dogs, it is usually caused by a loss, major change or chemical imbalance.

Although people still debate on this subject, most vets believe that dogs and cats can become depressed. Just like human depression, depression in dogs and cats also can be complex and hard to evaluate. Even though there is no commercial test to diagnose such things as serotonin levels in animals, veterinarians today have the ability to properly diagnose and treat depression in pets.


Causes of Depression

A member of the family may have to move away or leave home: They will sense that a person or animal that they love is missing. They feel the loss almost instantly. This could lead to depression.

A new pet or person may move into the house: some pets get depressed when someone new–a person or a pet joins the family, and they realize that they are not the center of attention anymore.

You may move house to change your surroundings: It is up to the owner to identify what change is bothering their pet. It could be a change in the environment or a move to a new place. The pet may be unsure of his or her new environment. Changes in weather or season can also affect your dog’s mood. 

Stress in the household: If the surroundings are too tense and there are people fighting around the house, the pets can feel this. Unhappiness of the people in the house can also get them depressed.

Lack of attention: If owners are too caught, up in their work and do not give the pet the attention that it needs, it could feel left out. Ultimately even depressed. Pets need love and attention. 

Any type of negative change: Most vets agree that change is the number one cause of pet depression. Change in the weather like storms and rains or even change in season can affect the pet. 

Medical needs: It can be quite difficult to identify if your pet is feeling well or not. Often, they display signs of depression when they are not feeling well. These changes may show that they need medical attention.

Symptoms of Depression

General loss of interest: Your pet might no longer be interested in playing with their toys, going outside to play, going for walks or other things that it loves doing. A lack of interest in activities is a sure sign of depression. 

Excessive Sleeping: If you find that your pet is very lethargic and sleeping constantly, he or she might be experiencing depression. Especially dogs, they are active during the day and sleep at night. If you notice that are sleeping more than the normal quota, they may be depressed. 

Lethargic Movements: Pets may tend to be lethargic and have slow movements during their depression stage. They may seem unmotivated and drag themselves around the place. 

Drastic weight loss/Loss of appetite/Low water intake: pets need to eat in order to survive. They are usually hungry by the end of the day and eat lots. If your pet is not eating well and drinking water, it could mean that something is seriously wrong. If it loses a lot of weight, it could mean that it is depressed. 

Abnormal shedding: This is mostly just for the dogs. If you notice that your dog is shedding more than normal, they may be depressed. Try running your fingers through the dog’s fur, does fur come out in clumps? Depression could be the reason. 

Negative Behavioral changes: Depression can manifest in many forms. Aggression and rage could be one of the forms. Anxious or restless behavior should also be noted. All these could be signs of depression. 

Never leaving the owner’s side: Some pets may want to constantly be with the owner. This might also be a sign of depression.

Solutions for pet depression

Lighten their mood with music: Not all pets are sensitive to music, but some of them are deeply engaged when they hear their favorite melodies. This works especially when the music is associated with something they love and trust. Most vets believe that this can help. 

Shine away the blues: Try to bring lots of light around the house. During cold, dark months, giving cats and dogs some extra light can help ease the depression. Light stimulates the body to release hormones that can have an uplifting effect on mood. Create a little corner where your pet can bask and relax. It could be a sunny porch or a window perch. Giving him or her extra 20-30 minutes of sunlight a day can really help lift their spirits. If you live in a cloudy region than a Sol -Box may be the answer. 

Stimulate the mind: A fun way to counter depression is by distracting pets with something interesting. For dogs, an easy and always-entertaining game is to hide treats throughout the house, then sit back and watch as their noses go to work. Cats do not get as excited by hide-and-seek, but they will show spark when you tempt them with pounce-able feathers or fishing-pole-style toys. Games can be very helpful if the pets are feeling jealous because of a new person in the house. This way, they will be able to bond and ultimately eliminate depression. 

A new beginning:  Sometimes, pets may be depressed because of the loss of another playmate or family member. You can help reduce your pet’s grief by temporarily taking away some of the familiar items she associates with her lost friend. It would also be good to take the pet for a weekend trip and get it away from the old surroundings for a while. New sights and smells will help the pet get over the loss and the sense of grief. 

Flower essences: If the pet is still in grief, give her some flower essence. If your pet suffers from extreme depression, give her gorse. In addition, for pets mourning the loss of a loved one, star-of-Bethlehem helps. Honeysuckle helps with the nostalgia that your pet may feel after a loss, and walnut eases her pain during transition. Either use any one of these essences or combine up to six of them in equal amounts, diluting six to eight drops of each essence. Mix the remedy with food or water or rub it onto the hairless area inside your pet’s ear. 

Communication is key: Communicate honestly with your pet. They might be animals but even they have feelings and can understand. Dogs and cats have impressive powers of intuition and they can feel what you are going through. If you are discouraged, they may also feel the same. It is important to have positive thoughts around your pets, but you have to be honest and tell them what is going on. Just saying out loud, “I’m upset, but it’s not your fault”, can help. 

T-Touch: There is a massage technique called T-touch, which has been used extensively to reduce stress, anxiety and other negative emotions. It is performed by gently using your fingertips and moving the skin in a clockwise direction, taking one to seconds to complete 1 ¼ circles in each place. Pay more attention to important areas like the ears, face and neck. 

For chronic depression: Treatment is usually a prescription from your vet. Most of time, Prozac or other antidepressants seem to work. Herbal remedies are also available.

Does spaying cause depression in pets?

For decades, pet owners have been taking their companion animals for genital snips and other forms of un-gendering, with the laudable goal of reducing the number of unwanted offspring and staving off unpleasant behavior around the house. Neutered pets are less likely to run away, roam around the neighborhood, be hit by a truck or scent the furniture. Spayed females do not go into yowling heat or bleeding estrous, and have a reduced risk of breast cancer. Even though it is good as far as the owner is concerned, how do your dogs and cats feel about it? Could losing its genitals make your cat a little blue?

Sex hormones have direct interaction with the brain in complex ways, and estrogen and androgen receptors in the hippocampus and amygdala seem to regulate mood. Since spaying and neutering can change a pet’s behavior, would not it affect its mental or emotional state as well? Neutered people are prone to depression. Why would not a spayed cat or dog feel the same?

There is absolutely no way to decipher the subjective emotional experience of a cat or a dog. It may offer a dog some relief to see a bitch stroll by and not feel impelled to jump the fence to chase after her, or put less strain on a cat whose spine is not forced into arched-back lordosis postureat the whim of estrogen. Even though the pet might be drowsy from the anesthesia, spayed or neutered pets will not realize that they have lost the ability to reproduce. They will eventually lose the desire and will no longer have the capacity to do it. There is no reason to think they experience any angst over not passing on their genes, pine for puppies, or long to hear the clitter-clatter of little claws.

Already millions of strays are euthanized every year, and sex-specific behaviors of pets are too much for most owners to live with. Spaying could be a key cause for depression in cats and dogs. Why wouldn’t they be upset, having lost their ability to reproduce and have kids? Fortunately, the psychiatric medications that were tested in mice but designed for humans are now readily available for both cats and dogs. One pharmaceutical company even markets the antidepressant drug fluoxetine (aka Prozac) in beef-flavor chewables. Its brand name is suggestive: “Reconcile”.

The bottom line is that pets are just like human beings. They feel like us and have emotions like us. If your pet is going through a stage of depression, identify the cause and find the right solution to the problem. Remember, even pets need love and care, just like us. Never ignore them or let them feel left out. Treat your pet with love and they will return it.