Have you ever thought about how your pets process emotions? While dogs and cats do not express themselves exactly as we do, they do experience a lot of the same feelings that humans go through—in their own ways. This is true with sadness. Yes, even dogs and cats can experience periods of depression, and it’s important to find out the causes and know the symptoms to let our furry friends know we are here to help.
A recent study from the United Kingdom even suggests that dogs can become depressed from their owners using their smartphones too often. Founder of VetUK and veterinary surgeon, Iain Booth, told Metro that “this gadget dependence is jeopardizing the important relationships we have with our pets, particularly dogs and to a lesser extent house cats.”
Have you ever noticed your dog or cat pining for your affection or being more vocal when you are scrolling through social media? Pets want to please us and need our attention or else they may feel neglected, similar to children, and disconnecting with a smartphone can potentially harm that bond causing depression-like behavioral issues.
If your dog or cat is sleeping more than usual, has a lack of appetite, not interested in playing or going for walks, whining or whimpering and more—these could all be signs of pet depression. As a pet owner, it’s important to recognize these signs and feel comfortable reaching out to your vet if you are ever unsure of the cause, as these signs can also be indications of physical concerns not related to emotional distress.
One of the biggest differences between pet sadness and human sadness is that animals, particularly dogs, are affected more by instant changes in their surroundings while we experience depression more deeply and emotionally over time.
There are a number of reasons why your pet may be sad, including but not limited to, a loss of a companion—human or animal, a change in routine (moving homes, weather, a new family member, etc.), a negative experience at home, an illness or injury, and many other reasons. Figuring out the source of the sadness can help you determine what course of action to take, whether it be adjusting a behavior at home or reaching out to veterinary professionals.
Similar to people, there are many things you can do to help ease your pet’s blues. For dogs, encouraging exercise, rewarding with special or new foods or treats, or even offering them a trip outside to see their dog friends could get them out of that rut. Our animals take on a lot of our emotions as well, so being positive around them, especially when they are feeling sad, can bring up their spirits.
Cats can be a bit different, as they are not pack animals like dogs and don’t rely on us as intensely, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t feel depression as well. Oftentimes owners don’t recognize cats as being sad, as many cats keep to themselves.
Many depression signs can mimic medical issues common in cats such as pancreatitis and renal failure. If your cat is experiencing prolonged depression signs, it is suggested to visit your local vet. This will give you peace of mind and rule out any serious health concerns, or help diagnose medical problems, if any. Even if you don’t have an affectionate cat, be sure to give them your attention every day to let them know they are loved, whether it be by spoken acknowledgment, pets or playing with toys.
Pet parenting can sometimes be a full-time job with unexpected hurdles, but we’re sure many of you would agree it’s one of the best jobs out there!
It’s also important to note that every pet is an individual, just like us, so what they need will depend on their unique situations. Always consult with your veterinarian for diagnoses and advice when it comes to your pet since, besides you, they know them best!
Blog Post Written By: Jasmine Kemper
JustFoodForDogs Nutrition Consultant
Photography by: Dogma Pet Portraits