I Got the Lonesome Pet Blues
Our furry four-legged friends – while very different from us – are strikingly similar to people in many ways. A case of the blues, and even depression, is one malady we share. But we can help to break the cycle. Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Change is usually at the root of pet depression. The change could be a death, or other disappearance, of another family pet or human companion. It might be an unwanted change of scenery, such as when the owner moves. Or it could be a new baby or housemate that has altered the pet’s routine. Maybe your pet experienced a trauma, such as injury or attack by another animal. Pets can also experience depression when a human is ill, or even changes schedules. A change in the weather can trigger a bout of the blues, and the onset of winter can lead to seasonal affective disorder in some pets. Just like us, right?
Clinical Depression Pets can also suffer from chemical imbalances that lead to chronic depression. If your dog is diagnosed as being clinically depressed, your veterinarian can prescribe antidepressant medication to regulate the symptoms. Prozac and Valium, for example, are available for dogs by prescription. But NEVER give any pet human medication without the consent of your veterinarian. Symptoms The challenge in diagnosing depression is that symptoms mimic those of many other health problems. A veterinary medical examination is critical to rule out health problems that may include anything from a chemical imbalance to a thyroid-related condition.
Possible signs of depression:
- Excessive sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Change in personality
- Weight loss
OK. You can lie down on the couch. Have you ever noticed? If you’re feeling sad, your pet will try to comfort you. Here’s where you can step in as your pet’s mental health therapist. Give extra love and attention to the pet that’s depressed from the loss of a companion or guardian. Visits to the off-leash dog park, playdates, rides in the car, and just being around humans and other animals can help.
When the time is right, you may want to consider adding a new pet to your household. If she’s lonely, sit on the floor while watching TV, rather than in a chair. Getting down on her level could be just the interaction she’s looking for. Join a neighbor who has a dog for walks, providing yourself and your pet with companionship and exercise. You might want to occasionally send your pet to a day care, or hire a dog walker to take her out while other family members are at work or school.
Be patient. It may only take a few days, or it may take longer for your pet to return to her normal self. One thing is certain: you are the best companion she has, and the most important one during this time.