As a Canine Behaviorist who has worked with cancer on a regular basis, the topic of canine depression comes up often, both for the dog with cancer and the dog(s) left behind. Dogs who aren’t feeling like themselves, or who have lost a companion, can experience depression. In other cases I have seen aside from cancer, the cause of the depression can be difficult to determine especially when it has taken a while to notice. Pet parents often miss the beginning signs of depression and it’s understandable as to why. Like us, dogs have their ‘off’ days, and those days can often be overlooked. An ‘off’ day occasionally is normal, but if it becomes habitual, this is when you should be concerned.
Ultimately, you need to determine why your dog is experiencing signs of depression. But, CBD may be able to help along the journey back to happiness and normality.
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Causes of Depression in Dogs
Similar to humans, the list of potential causes for depression can be quite lengthy. But, you know your dog better than anyone, and will need to jog your memory to determine the reason. Some of the most common causes of canine depression include:
Underlying Medical Condition: Before you move into potential behavioral reasons your dog is experiencing symptoms of depression, you must first ensure it’s not due to an underlying medical issue. Physical pain can cause depression. In older dogs, depression may be associated with the discomfort caused by arthritis and joint pain.
Grief: Has anyone passed away in your family or perhaps moved away? Dogs are prone to separation anxiety and depression when they lose a member of their family. This could be a family pet or someone from the household. If you, or another family member, were spending more time at home, but are now changing your routine, this can also lead to feelings of despair.
Environmental Changes: If there have been changes to the environment your dog is in, like a big move or even rearranging furniture, this can cause some feelings of depression. Some dogs are more susceptible to depression with change than others, but this must be ruled out as a possibility.
Your Emotions: If you’re feeling depressed, there’s a big chance that could be the reason your dog is exhibiting signs of depression. Dogs pick up on how we feel. If we are sad, they are sad. Of course, dogs who have a stronger bond with their pet parents will pick up on these feelings more seriously, but all dogs can experience a relation of feelings regardless of bond.
According to Dr. Karen Becker, “your dog is very observant of your emotional state, which she can detect by observing the tone of your voice, your body language and other subtle clues, including your pheromones (how you smell). The way you move, speak and behave all send subtle signals to your dog that indicate your mood.”
The Unknown: Our dogs may not always have a reason for their depression. Sometimes, they are like us, and get into a sort of ‘funk’ they can’t seem to get out of. It’s our responsibility to ensure they get back to normal.
Canine Depression Symptoms
The most common symptoms associated with canine depression include:
Lack of appetite/significant increase in appetite: When some dogs experience depression, they have zero interest in eating at all and finding something they will eat can become a daunting task. On the other hand, there are dogs who will begin eating excessively when they are anxious and/or depressed leading to obesity.
Accidents in the home: Dogs who don’t feel like getting up to do anything may have accidents in the home. It’s important to be patient during this time to ensure your dog doesn’t track deeper into her state of depression.
Excessive sleeping: This can be a hard one to keep track of because our dogs do tend to sleep a lot as it is. But, if you notice your dog sleeping at unusual times without interest in getting up for their normal routine, this should be a red flag.
Lack of interest in their favorite activities: If your dog has suddenly lost interest in taking her daily walk and playing fetch, for example, this is a cause for concern. One day or even two isn’t immediately concerning in most cases, but if this is continuous, there is a definite cause for concern.
Excessive licking: Excessive licking can result in hot spots or sores, and is often associated with feelings of depression, anxiety, or restlessness. The paws and paw pads are generally most affected.
What To Do
The earlier you catch the depression, the better and easier it will be to get back to normal. As dog lovers, it’s our responsibility to observe our furry family on a daily basis and ensure their happiness. Keeping your dog on a routine, engaged in what you’re doing, is the best way to prevent depression from occurring. Of course, it can’t always be prevented, so don’t feel discouraged if your dog goes into a bit of a ‘slump.’ With some help, you can get back to normal again.
To reiterate, be sure to rule out anything medical prior to diving into the behavioral side of the spectrum. Depression can be associated with an underlying health condition that must be treated prior to getting back on track behaviorally.
CBD and Depression
Full-Spectrum CBD Oil, like our CALM tincture, can help relieve symptoms of depression in our dogs. CBD oil has been found to have anti-anxiety effects that can relieve our dogs’ overly emotional, fragile state. By providing CBD oil, we can help our dogs feel more relaxed while we are determining the reason for her depression.
Unlike pharmaceutical antidepressants, CBD is an effective alternative without the side effects or potential for addiction. According to research published in Neuropharmacology, “ findings indicate that CBD could represent a novel fast antidepressant drug, via enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signaling through a 5-HT1A receptor-dependent mechanism.”
CBD can work quickly to reduce feelings of depression. But, it’s important to note it will not work as quickly as pharmaceuticals because it’s bringing balance back to the body instead of ‘putting on a band-aid’ like many pharmaceuticals do.
A 2013 article published in Neuropharmacology also found “in addition to modulating basal anxiety states, recent studies suggest an important role for the endocannabinoid (eCB) and glucocorticoid systems in the modulation of emotional states and extinction of aversive memories in animals.”
This means that CBD can help in facilitating extinction of aversive memories to reduce the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and/or panic disorders.
Our responsibility, as pet parents, is to ensure the safety, happiness, and health of our dogs. They depend on us to make sure they’re happy and cared for. Part of this is making life right when they feel everything is going wrong; and determining why they feel that way. CBD can help reduce their feelings of depression and anxiety, but determining the root cause is critical to ensure that once they’re back on that road to happiness, they don’t slip back into their depressed state of mind.
Amber Drake is a highly accomplished, world-renowned, and published book author, freelance writer and editor, inspirational speaker, an inspiring teacher, a well-reputed canine behaviorist, a canine cancer researcher, CEO of Canine Companions, and of course, animal lover. Starting with an Associate of Science degree in Biology in 2007 from Jamestown Community College, she has since expanded her knowledge horizon by acquiring a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree with courses from both SUNY Fredonia and Cornell University, followed by a Master of Arts Degree in Education (2011) from Ashford University, a Post-Master’s Educational Certification, and a Doctorate from the North Central University, Prescott Valley Arizona. Drake is a woman of extreme passion with great love for her work as a canine behaviourist, writer, and college professor.
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years and operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle, Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab, plus 4-10 more at any time that she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association, and has trained hundreds of medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.