How To Help A Depressed Dog After Other Dog Died

Introduction

Dogs are capable of experiencing depression just like humans. The loss of a companion, whether another dog or a human family member, can trigger depression in dogs (Source 1). A dog’s depression may manifest in similar ways to human depression, such as lack of interest in normal activities, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and withdrawal from social interaction.

The death of a companion dog is one of the most common causes of depression in dogs. Dogs form strong social bonds and the abrupt severing of this relationship through death leaves them grieving and stressed. The greater the bond between the dogs, the more severe the survivor’s reaction (Source 2).

Signs of Depression

When dogs lose a companion they are close with, such as another household dog, they may exhibit signs of grief and depression 1. Common symptoms include:

  • Lethargy – Depressed dogs often seem listless and withdrawn. They may sleep more than usual and show little interest in walks, play, or other activities they used to enjoy.
  • Appetite changes – Grieving dogs frequently lose their appetite. Make sure your dog is getting adequate nutrition during this time.
  • Avoiding people and places – Dogs in mourning may avoid their owners, other pets, and places they associate with their departed companion.
  • Anxiety – The loss of a close companion can cause dogs significant distress. Your dog may seem anxious, unable to settle, pace, whine, or pant.

Keep an eye out for any of these behavioral changes after your dog suffers a loss. With attentive care and support from you, most dogs can bounce back after a period of mourning.

Provide Comfort

Providing extra comfort and affection is important for helping a depressed dog after losing another pet. Speak softly and gently to the dog, offering soothing praise and reassurance. Try giving more petting, brushing, massaging, or just sitting together quietly. Let the dog seek comfort from you and reciprocate in a calm, loving way. Maintaining normal routines like feedings, walks, play times, and bedtime can also give stability when a dog is grieving. According to the Blue Cross, “Dogs take great comfort from their normal daily routines and ensuring these are maintained can provide security at a traumatic time.” https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/how-to-help-a-grieving-dog Small gestures to pamper a grieving dog like preparing special meals, allowing them on furniture, or giving new toys may also lift their spirits.

a person hugging a sad dog

Allow Time to Grieve

Like humans, dogs need time to process the loss of a loved one. According to the AKC, a dog’s behavior may return to normal within 2-6 months after the passing of another dog (source). Don’t rush to find a replacement companion right away, as this doesn’t allow your dog adequate time to grieve. Be patient and understanding during this difficult transition. Create a consistent daily routine and provide your dog with ample love and affection. Sticking to a regular schedule with familiar activities can help create a sense of normalcy and security. Your dog may act depressed, sleep more, lose interest in toys and food, or seem anxious and clingy. These are all normal parts of the grieving process. With time and support, your dog can eventually adjust to the loss.

Add Structure

Having a consistent daily schedule can provide stability and predictability for a depressed dog. Make sure to adhere to regular times for feeding, walking, playtime and training (“Top Activities For Dogs With Depression”). Maintaining exercise is also important – aim for at least 30-60 minutes of activity per day, such as going on walks, playing fetch, or engaging with interactive toys. Additionally, continue regular training sessions and teach your dog new commands – this provides mental stimulation. You can also enroll in an obedience class, which enables social interaction. Working on commands like “watch me” or “sit and stay” can help refocus your dog’s attention and energy in a positive direction.

Combat Isolation

It is important to combat isolation for your depressed dog by getting them out of the house and socializing regularly. Dogs are pack animals who need mental stimulation and interaction with other dogs and people.

Take your dog on regular short trips to parks, hiking trails, or other dog-friendly areas where they can be around people and other pets. Make an effort to schedule play dates with friends who have dogs for regular social interaction. A study found that social isolation and loneliness can negatively impact a dog’s mental health, so combating this is crucial to helping them through depression.

You can also enroll your dog in a group training class, doggy daycare a few days a week, or have friends/family or dog walkers visit during the day so your dog gets regular socialization and enrichment. Getting your dog back into their normal social routines can help lift their mood and prevent isolation.

Try Supplements

a dog taking medication

There are several natural supplements that may help lift a dog’s mood and reduce signs of depression after the loss of another dog. Studies show that certain vitamins, pheromones, and CBD oils can impact serotonin, dopamine, and hormone levels to combat symptoms of grief.

A good multi-vitamin rich in B vitamins, Vitamin E, and omega fatty acids can provide nutritional support. Pet Essences Depression and Grieving liquid supplement contains a blend of flower essences specifically formulated to help dogs who are grieving.

Synthetic dog appeasing pheromones, such as Adaptil, may provide comfort and security to distressed dogs. CBD oils with naturally occurring anti-anxiety properties are also an option, but consult a vet first. Start with a low dose and monitor the dog closely when introducing any new supplement.

Change Environment

Changing your dog’s environment through introducing new toys, rearranging furniture, and taking walks in new places can help lift their mood.

Bring home some new interactive toys like puzzle feeders or chew toys to stimulate their mind and provide mental enrichment. Rotate toys to keep their environment novel and interesting. Consider getting toys that can be stuffed with treats or smelled out with kibble to engage their natural foraging behaviors.

Try rearranging the furniture at home to create new spaces to explore and pathways to walk through. Move their bed, bowls, and toys to new areas to make the environment feel new again. Introduce shelves or cat towers for them to climb on and survey their domain from new heights.

a dog playing with new toys

Get them out of the house and go on walks or hikes in new neighborhoods, parks, or trails. Introducing new sights, sounds, and smells can provide a positive mood boost. Go farther and explore new towns or outdoor areas they have never been before. The mental stimulation will help distract them from their sadness.

See the Vet

If your dog’s depression persists even after trying various at-home remedies, it’s important to take them to see the veterinarian. The vet will perform a full physical exam to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing the depression, like hypothyroidism or pain from arthritis. Bloodwork may also be recommended to check hormone levels. According to PetMD, medical issues are the cause of depression in dogs 20-30% of the time.

If no physical cause is found, the vet may prescribe antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication like fluoxetine or clomipramine. These are the same types of medications sometimes prescribed for humans. Medication can be useful in combination with behavioral techniques to help lift a dog’s mood. Monitor your dog closely and discuss any side effects with your vet. With professional guidance, medication may greatly improve your dog’s outlook and quality of life.

Monitor Progress

It’s important to monitor your dog’s progress as they recover from depression. Keep notes on any improvements you notice in their mood, energy levels, appetite, and interactions with you or other pets. Note behaviors that are concerning like continued lack of interest in walks or play.

a vet examining a depressed dog
If your dog seems to plateau in their recovery, discuss additional treatment options with your vet such as adjusting medication dosages or considering prescription mood-altering drugs. You may need to try different supplements or pheromone products. Don’t give up if the first attempts don’t seem effective – depression takes patience and persistence to treat. Stay focused on supporting your dog emotionally during this difficult time.

With attentive care and love, most dogs do gradually recover from depression. The goal is to restore your dog’s happiness and quality of life after such a painful loss. If progress seems halted, consult a canine behaviorist for tailored advice. But remember healing takes time – continue providing comfort, structure and compassion.

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