Most dog with mild signs of depression will get better within a few days to a couple of months, with nothing more than extra attention and love. However, depending on the causes, it may be necessary to treat depression in a dog with medications. Here some of the most effective treatments for dog depression.
1. Exercise Your Dog
Set up a regular playtime and training routines for your dog. Exercise is recommended for humans to fight depression as well and dogs are not much different in that regard.
Increased physical activity will encourage your dog’s endorphin production and prevent obesity, which can reduce his energy levels even further and prolong his depression. Try to find new ways to play and train with your dog – pick out new doggy workout routines, try indoors and outdoors games, set up agility jumps in your backyard and run around with your pet. There’s a huge number of new activities you can always try.
2. Stick to Daily Routines
Breaking up your dog’s daily routine is one of the possible causes of depression. Dogs are creatures of habit and changes to their regular schedule can make them feel confused, insecure and uncomfortable. Try to walk your dog regularly, feed him at the same time every day and stick to the schedule regarding his bedtime, playtime, grooming, etc.
That said, this only applies when your dog’s regular routines provide him with enough physical and mental exercise – plenty of training, playtime, toys, communication, petting and so forth. If that’s not the case, changes to their routine when the dog is already depressed might be necessary.
Similarly, adding new routines and new things for your dog to do can be of great benefit. Studies have shown that environmental enrichment has many positive effects in animals, and is likely to prevent boredom, apathy, stress and depression
3. Keep Him Entertained
As the above studies indicate, your dog’s boredom can quickly turn to melancholy and apathy. Try to keep your dog stimulated and entertained; communicate with your dog, spend time with him and don’t leave your pup alone at home for too long too often. Get him a new interactive toy that stimulates his brain, play a new game with him that he hasn’t tried before, teach him a few more cool tricks, etc.
Socialization – both with humans and other animals – can also help your Fido get out of his bad mood, especially if the possible reason for his depression is the loss of a playmate or not having one in the first place. Take your dog to your local dog park as often as you can and schedule regular play dates with other dogs.
You may even consider getting another pet to keep your pooch company, if the conditions for it are right.
4. Reward Positive Behavior
Dogs live to please their owners, and thus require encouragement and signs that they do good work. Set up brief training sessions as an excuse to reward him whenever he engages in some activity like taking a walk and doing it correctly, playing a game, or learning a new trick.
However, you need to be careful and ensure that you don’t reward your dog to benefit the cure of depression itself. Don’t break out affection or snacks until he does something worth the praise, otherwise he may associate depressed behavior with getting a reward and you may inadvertently reinforce the dog’s melancholic mood.
5. Use Natural Remedies
As an alternative to regular veterinary procedures, you can also consult with your holistic veterinarian and try some homemade or natural remedies if your dog’s depression lasts for more than a couple of weeks. Some of the natural remedies that can help with depression in dogs include various herbs like herb St. John’s wort or sandalwood, which can relax your pooch.
Flower essences like Gentian, Gorse, Honeysuckle, Star of Bethlehem have been used to help with depression as well. You can also try homeopathic remedies like Ignatia, which can help your shake his grief.
6. Use Medications
As the last resort, if nothing else helps and your veterinarian recommends it, you can use medications to help your dog get out of his depressed state. Many of the medications for depression in dogs are the same as those humans use, such as Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil. There are a few other drugs you can use as well, but it’s crucial that you’ve first attempted to fix the cause of depression in your dog (physical and mental stimulation, for example) and that you have your vet assess the pet to pick the right type of medicine.
Just like it takes time for the depression in a dog to set in, it may also take a few months for your pooch to get back to his old self, so try to do all that you can to help him and give him time to get over his depression.
The combination of all the above treatments is likely to result the best and quickest path out of depression.