These are the signs and causes of depression in dogs - and ways you can help your pet

By Helen Johnson
Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 3:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 3:48 pm
Many pets throughout the UK have recently had more company than usual from their owners, with people swapping heading out to the office to working from home (Photo: Shutterstock)

Many pets throughout the UK have recently had more company than usual from their owners, with people swapping heading out to the office to working from home.

This has been a great way for dogs to bond with their owners and get lots of extra cuddles, but pooches could face depression or anxiety separation if their humans begin to head out more.

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Causes of depression in dogs

Chad Dodd, a vet and part of the YuMOVE team, gives his advice on how to spot signs of depression in dogs, alongside how you can help get to combat it.

Dr Dodd explains, “Anxiety often manifests as response to triggers or stimuli, like loud noises (fireworks, thunderstorms) or being left alone or kennelled. Depression is generally brought on by a significant life change, loss of a family member or another pet, moving to a new home, or even other medical problems.”

These are some of the factors which may be having an affect on your dog's physical and mental well-being.

Change in environment

A change in environment, such as moving house, a renovation project, an addition to the family, or even a drastic weather change can have an effect on a usually happy dog.


If your dog has a fear of something, they may show signs of upset and this could be causing them to feel depressed.


If a human or animal companion has recently moved, gone on holiday or passed away, and your dog’s behaviour has changed, then your dog may be going through a mourning period.


When your dog displays signs of depression, it is important to rule out any physical causes or illnesses as soon as possible by contacting your vet right away. If your vet does identify a health problem, follow the treatment recommendations.

Hopefully, once your dog recovers from any illnesses, their behaviour will then return to normal.

Their owner

Dogs can pick up on the energy around them. If their owner or close companion is sick, upset, stressed or angry, then a dog may begin to empathise and feel similar emotions.

If their owner is on holiday or is away from the home for a longer period than usual, then a canine may show signs of separation anxiety or depression.

What are the signs?

Some signs of depression in dogs may include some or all of the following:

Loss of appetite/increased appetite

Dogs can experience changes to their appetite depending on their mood. Keep an eye out for any sudden or extreme changes to their eating habits.

Being lethargic and sleeping often

If your dog starts sleeping a lot more than unusual, or seems to lack energy and becomes lethargic, then this could be a sign of depression.

Excessive paw licking

Licking or biting the paws could be the result of an infection, eczema and dry skin, or joint pain, so it’s worth checking with your local vet. However, if your dog is licking their paws and exhibiting other signs on this list, then it could be linked to depression.

Hiding or becoming withdrawn

If your dog seems to be withdrawn and prefers to be alone, more than it usually does, then this could be a sign that something is wrong.

How can I help my dog?

If your pooch is displaying one or more of these behaviours and you have ruled out any possible illness or injury, then it’s time to think about their emotional and mental well-being.

If you think that your dog may be showing signs of depression, there are certain things you can do to help.

Stick to a routine

One of the best ways to get your dog back on track is to stick to their normal routine, especially if you think that the change in behaviour is due to change in environment.

Regular walk

Regular exercise is a great way to keep them physically fit and healthy. Take your dog on regular walks, or extra walks, which will allow them to spend extra some alone time with you too.

Entertain them

Playing games, teaching them tricks and investing in fun toys, are all great ways to keep your dog occupied and feeling playful.

Keep them social

When you are at home, try to have some alone time with your dog or include them in activities. You could look at signing your dog up to a doggy daycare class or look for a dog sitter or walker to keep them entertained and interactive throughout the day when you go back to work - if safe to do so.