Have you ever had days when you are confined to the couch with the blues and feel depressed? Chances are your pet has, too. Even when your pets are healthy, depression can be a factor in their behavior. Many species can experience this depression – from cats and dogs to rabbits and iguanas. While not typical in pets, it is a good idea to know the signs that might point to depression.
The most obvious clue is when your pet changes behavior. A dog normally very mellow becomes agitated and nervous, or a cat with high levels of energy becomes apathetic and loses his appetite. Along with these signs are litter box issues or accidents in the house. This is usually our pet’s way of signaling an issue exists and he’s not feeling like himself.
I have seen pet depression myself in a most shocking way. I was separating from my husband, but my cat Maurice didn’t understand being left behind. A normally affectionate and fun loving cat, Maurice became lethargic and lost his appetite. Most remarkably, he refused to groom himself even though he had been an absolutely clean and fastidious cat with a gleaming coat. Going through a traumatic experience is difficult, but seeing your pet suffer as much as you do is doubly painful. That experience brought home the fact that pets do experience all that is going on in our home, both positive and negative.
Before going straight to a depression diagnosis, check with your veterinarian to ensure that the symptoms you see are not caused by an illness. Common causes of pet depression can include the loss of a loved one, stressful situations such as a move or extended periods of loneliness.
If relocation is causing depression or anxiety, try to place the pet in a small area and let him adjust to the space slowly. Be sure to spend lots of time with your pet and be positive about your interactions in the new space. Remember, your pet senses how you’re feeling better than anyone else.
The best way to overcome depression is similar to recommended treatments for people – get moving. By getting exercise, fresh air and the opportunity to interact with other animals at a dog park, our pets will soon find a healthier state of mind. And the best part is that it’s good for us humans, too.