Animal Depression

Only pet lovers know how much they feel like a part of your family. Families go on vacation together, relax together and comfort each other in the tough times. For the pet lover, being mindful of your pet’s mental state is not only important, but also essential for loving care. It is quite easy to tell when your pet is feeling on top of the world through the amount of physical activity they have and how much they are interacting with you. How will you know that your animal is depressed? The answer to this question is a strikingly similar answer to how you can tell whether your friends or family are depressed.

General signs of depression include: loss or increase of appetite, irregular sleeping habits, increased amounts of time sleeping, and fatigue.). Other signs of depression include paw licking, disobedience, loss of interest in recreation and hiding in secluded places. When you know your animal’s personality, you will be able to tell when there is something wrong because they will start acting differently. According to the American Kennel Club common triggers include the following: 

  • Grief while mourning the loss of a human or animal companion.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Trauma, including injury, abuse, or long-term stress.
  • Environmental changes such as a house move, rehoming, or the addition of a new baby or pet to the household. Even things like children going back to school after extended holidays or a change in your work pattern could be factors.
  • Social isolation.
  • Insufficient physical and/or mental stimulation. This is especially true for high-energy, driven, working breeds

Once you discover your animal is depressed, what should you do about it? How can you make them happy again? While depressive behaviors are mostly the same in cats and dogs, the treatment for each is quite different


 Dog owners might think that the best way to help is by using positive reinforcement, but that could send the wrong message. Giving treats and extra attention to your dog might come across as a reward to them for their seclusion and perpetuate their depression. For dogs it is important to get them back to a normal routine of exercise and feeding. Because dogs are social creatures, one opportunity for pulling your dog out of the slumps is to schedule a playdate with another dog. Trips to the dog park or to another pet’s home is an effective way to increase their socialization. While veterinarians do not typically prescribe antidepressants for depression in animals, they do prescribe antidepressants to treat anxiety in animals. 

Treating cats for depression is more complicated because of their independence. Some cats will meet their owners at the door when they come home, and others will stay relaxed while waiting for their owners to pay them a visit. Regardless, the owner will be able to tell when something does not seem right about the cat’s personality. Encouraging your cat to play can be a confidence booster. Amid depression, it is common for a cat to have no interest in playing, but it is always worth the effort. If your cat is not seeking out your attention and that is not normal for their behavior, go find them and give them the love they deserve. Often, a good way to treat cat depression is by providing the cat with mental stimulation. Mental stimulators can include puzzle feeders, cat scratch posts and obedience training.

If it seems like you are unable to help your animal’s mood, you should consider seeking help from a professional. Depression can be the result of an underlying medical condition. To be sure that there isn’t a serious health concern, schedule a checkup with your veterinarian. It is always better to be overly cautious when it comes to protecting your animal because in the end, they are part of the family.


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  2. AvoDerm ‘Signs of Depression in Cats and Dogs & How to Help’ (16 December 2020)
  3. Elliott P, ‘Depression in Cats: Understand the Signs, Causes, and Treatment’ (25 May 2018) 
  4. Fuller M, ‘Pets and Antidepressants: 5 Reasons Why Your Vet Would Prescribe Them’ (21 September 2022) 
  5. Hauser W, ‘What to Know about Mental Health Care and Cats’ (10 October 2016) 
  6. Johnstone G, ‘How to Know If Your Dog Is Depressed’ (15 April 2021)