Dogs… Can They REALLY Get Depressed?
This topic in particular is one that needs generous doses of acknowledgement and understanding. The topic of depression in dogs sparks our attention while often concluding with a few eye rolls. Even some of the best dog owners and trainers recognize the controversy of this topic. That is why it is time to turn up the volume about dog depression.
People get depressed from time to time. Some folks suffer from clinical depression which is a heftier form of the blues. There are many forms of depression and the reality is, humans are susceptible to every form.
Dogs, on the other hand, are not human. But they do have all the same brain structures as humans in their emotional performances. Different parts of their brains work similarly to their human owner’s brain.
For example, dogs do experience emotions as their owners do. When you are happy, they are happy. Your dog’s tail begins to wag. When you are sad, your dog quiets himself or lays by your side looking at you with her big eyes, waiting. Your dog is watching you and picking up on every vibe you exhibit. That means, if you are sad or depressed, your dog will pick up on that.
Your adorable dog reacts to you in her own special ways. Some days she may be happy and outgoing. Other days she may not seem herself. This awareness is good. But, while it is good, it also means getting a head’s up on what doggie depression is and how it comes about. Keep in mind that your dog’s emotional capacities are not always the same as yours. That means your dog may experience her emotions as your toddler may experience them. While they experience emotions, always keep the emotional range in mind.
It isn’t fair to say human depression is always the reason for a dog’s depression. Your precious dog may be exhibiting emotional changes for a variety of reasons. Boredom and illness are two reasons to consider. The point is, your dog experiences many emotions. Depression, joy, sadness and anger are all a part of your dog’s make-up.
For centuries, dogs were only thought to be robotic creatures with little-to-no purpose. Few considered dogs to own emotional gifts worth worrying about.
Recall the period of school day studies – of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. While dogs are not human, Darwin had ideas about dogs. Darwin suggested that emotional experiences of dogs were not far from the human experience. This was a real breakthrough for animal behavioral studies.
Dogs have hormones like people. Hormones play significant roles in both animals and humans. In dogs, hormones actually experience fluctuations according to the experiences they have. Hormone changes happen anytime an emotional shift occurs.
It is a fair assessment to conclude that dogs are not human and do not compare to humans as a whole. But by comparison, science has done well. As a result, dog owners have a better viewpoint by which to care for their darling dogs.
Animals and humans have similar systemic, mechanical and chemical processes that create specific reactions. This has helped to taint the doubts about dogs’ mental processes and depressive episodes.
DOGS’ NATURAL EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT LEVELS
Check out these dog emotions according to approximate age in human years. Remember, a dog’s natural emotional level is not as high as a human’s emotional level. Emotional development in dogs also ends approximately by age 2-1/2 years old.
– Love and affection: Begins around 1-year-old.
– Shyness and suspicion: Begins around 6 months old.
– Joy: Begins around 5 months old.
– Anger: Begins around 4 months old.
– Fear: Begins around 3 months old.
– Distress, disgust and contentment: Begins around 2 months old.
– Arousal and excitement: Begins around birth
DOGS’ LEARNED EMOTIONAL LEVELS
The emotions mentioned above exhibit a dog’s natural emotional order. These emotions do not need to be taught or exhibited. That said, there are emotions your dog can learn. These emotions usually come out later in the dog’s life as maturity takes place. These emotions may expose themselves more as social emotions within his environment.
– Shame and pride: At least three years old or after.
– Guilt: At least 6 months after shame and pride.
Dogs’ emotional ranges vary somewhat due to a breed’s maturation process. But your dog’s emotional range peaks by age 4-6 months. It is believed the highest emotional age a dog can reach is that of a human toddler 2-1/2 years old. Thereafter, further emotional training is an option.
It is important to note that the emotions of shame and guilt are not always as they seem. What happens when your precious pooch sees you coming into a room filled with overturned garbage? Does she crouch? Does she look guilty? What she is experiencing is fear, not guilt. She is fearful of your reaction. Keep in mind, your fur babies can also read your body language.
Depression in dogs can grow without warning if you don’t know what to look for. Using tools can teach you to recognize behavior patterns and breed patterns. Educational tidbits about human depression can even help you help your pet.
– Low energy
– Eating more or less
– Excess sleeping
– Disinterested in activities
– Chewing more
– Barking more
– Higher anxiety
POSSIBLE REASONS FOR DEPRESSION
– Loss of a family member/grief
– Lack of purpose (dogs need a job!)
Remain mindful that any of these symptoms could have attachments to other issues or illness. Always refer to your veterinarian when symptoms occur.
DEPRESSION TREATMENTS FOR DOGS
– Exercise: Daily exercise is key to keeping your dog happy, youthful and vibrant. It is at the top of the depression treatment list.
– Raw bones: Nothing snaps a depressed soul out of misery better than a delicious treat. Fido will love chewing on a raw, meaty bone for its flavor, its exercising of the jaw and its overall sense of reward.
– Interact with your dog: Dogs are social creatures. Please, play with them. Pet them. Feed them. Train them. They live for you and nobody else. Dogs need you. Dogs want you to love them.
Protecting our canine cuties from feeling anything less than love and happiness is our job. It is our desire to learn how to read our fur babies well simply based on love. Dogs are not just robots or mindless creatures with no purpose. Understanding your dog’s emotions is the best beginning your dog could ever want.