Depression and Pets: What You Need to Know | PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

Depression and Pets: What You Need to Know

by MetLife Pet Insurance
5 years ago

Many veterinarians and experts agree that depression can occur in animals, although there’s little to no scientific evidence to indicate this. Butdespite the lack of scientific evidence, pet owners know firsthand that their animals have unique personalities and that they do get bored, depressed, lonely, and even grief-stricken. Let’s talk about depression and pets- how to recognize depression in pets and how to manage it.

Cats and Stress-Related Depression
People tend to think cats are aloof and independent, but they do experience stress when their owners don’t spend enough time with them or when they experience major changes in their environment. Felines have been known for changing their behavior after stressful situations, such as eliminating outside of the litter box or becoming destructive. In fact, when veterinarians examine cats whose behavior isn’t normal, they’ll ask whether or not major changes have occurred that would’ve stressed out the cat to the point of being adversely affected on the emotional level.

Cats can also show signs of depression by sleeping more than usual, being less active, hiding, exhibiting a lack of appetite, failing to groom, exhibiting signs of aggression, and roaming around the house being more vocal than usual. Knowing how your cat normally behaves on a daily basis will help you pinpoint instances of even the most minor changes that can alert you to depression so you can take steps to counteract it.

Signs of Depression in Dogs
Like cats, it’s important to be familiar with your dog’s personality and usual behavior so you can pick up on changes right away. A normally lively dog who mopes around and doesn’t greet you at the door anymore could be suffering from depression, and if that’s the case, it’s time to write down things that have changed recently in your pet’s environment or routine that could’ve triggered the emotional imbalance.

One of the first steps to identifying depression in your pets is to learn to recognize our own symptoms, as well. A dog can also pick up on her owner’s mood, so if you’ve been depressed lately, it may be reflected in your pooch’s behavior because canines are so empathetic. But it’s also important to note that, like cats, dogs may be depressed because of a physiological problem, so if you can’t figure out why your dog is down, you should definitely bring her to the vet for an examination to rule out any physical ailments.

Ways to Treat and Manage Depression in Pets

  1. Maintain a Stress-Free Environment and Spend Time with Your Pet: No matter what, try your best to give your pet a stress-free environment. If your children tend to be rambunctious, make sure your pet has a quiet place to retreat to. And always devote time to providing your pet with a routine that includes a regular feeding schedule and plenty of play time.
  2. Consider medication: Ask your vet if your pet’s symptoms may be treated with anti-anxiety drugs or SSRIs (anti-depressants).
  3. Get help: As we’ve mentioned, pets — especially dogs — are especially vulnerable to their human’s emotions and state of mind. If you’re concerned about your pets’ state of mind, take a moment to stop and evaluate your own thoughts and feelings in recent times. If you think you may need help to determine the severity and complexity of these feelings, consider making an appointment with a counselor or psychiatrist to discuss treatment options for yourself.

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