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Barbara J. Andrews - Science Editor, SAAB


Canine anxiety may be related to food, medication, or family harmony but before doping your dog make these simple changes through the Canine Depression Study.


If your puppy acts sad after the normal separation period and symptoms persist, there is something seriously wrong. Puppies should be curious, inquisitive, and depending on how well reared, attention seeking. He’s used to cuddling with littermates to nap. Give him a snuggly toy. Engage him in vigorous, frequent play, something he did off and on all day. Then when he’s had enough, hold him for 5 minutes or until he sighs and dozes off.


Puppies, like children, sleep more than adults but he should always be ready to wake up and play. No puppy should ever act depressed.


Perhaps you have an adult dog that seems “sad” and disinterested. No one knows him or her better than you do and no one outside the family knows what human emotions may be affecting the family dog. If you are an inexperienced dog owner you may not realize how tuned in your dog is to his pack and how much family strife can affect a dog.


If you are stressed, your dog is too. Consider this. We may have an “off” day but dogs rarely do. That is why they are so uplifting for humans. Whether God or Mother Nature planned this whole human-dog relationship doesn’t matter, it works! Your dog will miss you when you’re at work or out shopping but be thrilled and happy when you come home. If that is not the case, there is a problem.


U.S. suicide rates were at their highest during World War II, a horrid time for the Armed Services family members. But the suicide rate increased 33 percent from 1999 through 2016 under a recovering economy and it gets worse - in 2019 CNN reported a 33% increase in “the nationwide rate of suicide in 2017” which blows away previous suicide rates.


Don’t dismiss the possibility of clinical depression due to diet, illness, or medication. Before you take your dog to the veterinarian, here are some things to consider and talk to him about.


Does Today’s Suicide Rate Indict Food Or Prescription Medications?

CNN also noted “Those who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native had the highest increase…” in suicides. What do those closest to the earth see or feel that we are missing? What about our dogs? They once lived in nature. Today dogs live in artificial dens, eat fake food, and are tuned in to you as his pack leader. Could that account for why house dogs are more depressed than strays or wild dogs?


Symptoms of Canine Depression

Does your dog sleep more than usual? Is he less rambunctious? Less frantic for his food bowl? Even when just fed, most dogs will get excited over “seconds” or table scraps. If your dog says “ho hum” you should pay attention. He is unwell, either physically upset (stomach, body pain) or emotionally distraught, yes, dogs can become depressed!


Vets Can’t Diagnose Canine Depression Nor Can They Treat It

There is no blood test for depression. The veterinarian can’t study the dog in his natural environment. He doesn’t know what his former personality and attitude was. Only you know that and you are the only one who can treat your dog without taking the easy way out and doping your dog…


First, diagnosis. Start by taking him out for a walk and note his level of interest in scents and surroundings. Is he/she fascinated by the telephone pole or the bush at the corner? Yes, even sexually neutered dogs should show interest in the messages left by other dogs. Dogs love to gossip and scent marking is like facebook for dogs. You should see positive signs, tail will wag or wave as the dog gets good vibes from the scent. If your dog is disinterested, take note, it is a symptom of depression.


Unrelenting pain, no matter how mild, is depressing! Watch your dog for signs of stiffness or discomfort. Does he pull on the leash in excitement? Or does he just indulge your desire to take a walk….? Does he still want to “go” with you? If he isn’t excited about something he previously enjoyed, that is a strong message. Reassess his appetite for a meat based diet which should be as close to organic as possible. Is he still excited about food?


Examine him carefully for lumps, bumps, sores, signs of infection. Note urine stream for easy flow, normal amount and clear pale yellow color as he or she urinates. Examine stool which should be well formed and the normal brownish color you routinely pick up. If stool or urine seems unusual, collect samples and take your dog to the veterinarian.


Take those samples and a list of behavioral symptoms to the vet. Do NOT suggest that you think your dog is depressed. Let your veterinarian think, process the information you’ve listed and then, if he doesn’t tumble to what you suspect, address your concerns. But don’t ramble, office time is limited, he’s read your list/notes. They don’t teach dog psychology in veterinary school but if he/she is a “dog person” your vet should be interested and helpful. This should be an interesting case, perhaps something he will confer with other vets about. It could be an interesting paper for a veterinary symposium…


But let’s start here. If, having read this, you are now concerned about your previously happy dog. Is he on Clomicalm, Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft or other FDA approved drug for the treatment of anxiety?  JOIN THE CANINE DEPRESSION STUDY. Your input and observations can help 1.2 million dog owners and we grant permission to add this study to your facebook page or share with dog-owning friends.


First-hand information can be a Godsend for other dog owners and our veterinary subscribers. will do a follow-up report based on your collective experiences and quotable comments from you or your veterinarian. If your dog has already experienced a good diagnosis and successful improvement or therapy share your experience in the ii NetPlaces Network.





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