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People aren’t the only ones who can get depressed. Pets can, too - especially if they’ve lost a human or animal companion or experienced a change in environment. So how do you know if your four-legged friend is feeling down? Put the following nine signs on your radar and talk to your vet if you notice any of them. Much like with humans, there are numerous options for treating depression in pets, and the sooner you recognize the signs, the sooner your pet can start getting treatment.
Eating and Drinking Less
Appetite changes are always a telltale sign something is wrong with your pet, and in some cases, depression could be to blame. “Often a depressed pet doesn’t want to eat as much, or may not eat at all,” says Nina Nardi, D.V.M., chief of staff at Banfield Pet Hospital in Canoga Park, Calif., adding that your pet may even stop drinking, all of which could affect its health. In some rare cases, though, depression may trigger a pet to overeaPhoto by: Gk Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images
Chewing and Destroying Things
If your pet starts chewing, ripping, and destroying things in your house out of the blue, consider depression as a possible culprit. “When pets are depressed, they take on behaviors like this as if they’re bored,” Nardi says. “The boredom factor often plays a large role, but it could also be a cry for help.”
Going to the Bathroom in the House or Outside of the Litterbox
People often think that when pets urinate or defecate outside designated areas, they’re mad or angry. While that can be the case, they may also be sad. “They may be so down that they don’t have the desire to get up to go outside or move to their litterbox,” Nardi says
Loss of Interest in Activities
Turns out, lethargy isn’t only a sign of depression in people, it can also signal low feelings in pets. Maybe your dog used to love going on walks but doesn’t show any sign of excitement when you pull out the leash. Perhaps your cat no longer wants to chase its toys. Lack of interest, as well as sleeping more than usual, are concerning behaviors.
Your Dog is Wagging Its Tail Less
You know your dog is happy if its tail is wagging. Yet the opposite is true, too. “When dogs are scared or depressed, their tail will go down between the legs,” Nardi says.
Every pet deserves its time alone, but if you notice that yours is spending more time in hiding - maybe your dog has taken up residency under your bed or your cat has burrowed into a corner in your closet - that could be an indication of depression. “Not interacting with other pets or people is their way of withdrawing from their environment,” Nardi says.
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Not Wanting to Be Left Alone
Quite the opposite of the pet who goes into hiding is the pet who suddenly doesn’t want to be left alone. When some pets are depressed, they might get anxious and start crying or whimpering when you leave, especially if they’ve lost a human or pet companion. Chewing and destroying property can also accompany this separation anxiety.
Photo by: Sharon Dominick/Getty Images
Too Little or Too Much Grooming
While some animals, especially cats, might stop grooming themselves when they’re depressed, others take it to the extreme, overgrooming themselves. Nardi once treated a cat grooming so much that he developed a secondary skin infection. Also, some depressed pets begin to shed excessively, which could indicate poor nutrition caused by a pet’s refusal to eat.
If your pet is crying or whining more than normal, consider depression as a possible diagnosis. “It’s possible they may be trying to communicate,” Nardi says.