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The answer to this is a very, definite, yes. I didn’t know. I had no idea until my big kid left for college. Then we all know what happened I got very, very sad (if you want to read my post about becoming an empty nester click here). But that’s not the only thing that happened.
Riley is pretty much my son’s dog. The dog he always wanted. We have had him since he was a smallish 8 week old fur ball. So tiny, so precious. When my son left for college I really did not expect to have to console my dog while I am trying to figure out how to get myself together.
Can I just be perfectly honest for one second? Dogs are not really my thing, I mean I don’t really understand them. I grew up as a cat person. I know all about cats. Period. Dogs are like aliens on four legs. They are so weird. But I’ve grown to love them and accept them as family. And now they are my life.
So, as I was saying, when my son left his dog became different. He would hang his head and just kinda lay around not really feeling up to doing anything. He would constantly want to lay next to me or across my lap incapacitating me from doing anything.
I found this behavior strange for him because he is usually very active and his best game ever is FRISBEE. Guys, he did not even want to play FRISBEE. He would literally walk by it and ignore it. Hmm. Weird. So I did some doggy depression research and this is what I found.
Dogs as far as we know or can tell, do get depression. And as much as we know about depression and humans, dogs cannot explain their symptoms to us or even tell us what is getting them down. So it is our job as their humans, to pay attention to their needs and notice any changes from their day to day. Surprisingly some of these signs are similar to what we as humans experience.
Overeating or Undereating
This is a common symptom among humans and doggies. When you notice a change in eating habits this is always a cause for concern. Dogs tend to stop eating and you may notice them slowly losing weight. Or like myself, I tend to overeat when depressed and gain weight.
Providing dogs with familiar foods that they like or even creating special treats that are nutritious to help them enjoy eating again. Plus, there is always that special weight management food you can get that might help lower their caloric intake and decrease the amount of weight they are gaining.
Dogs tend to lick when they get nervous or anxious and they might be feeling this way escpecially if their favorite human has left. Now, I don’t know about you but my dog has some crazy allergies so there is always some kind of licking or scratching happening. However, when you notice new licking, especially, in one spot over and over, this could be from depression. The licking can be very soothing to them and way to help themselves ease their anxiety.
Providing your doggo with some new treats might help them stop the licking. Giving them something new to do with their mouth and giving their poor overlicked paws a break. Even making some homemade treats might be healthy and something different for them to try.
Loss of Interest
As I mentioned earlier, my dog lost interest in his favorite game. FRISBEE. He just didn’t care about playing when he normally would perk up at the very mention of the word. Not anymore. A dogs loss of interest could be in anything really. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a toy, it could be going for walks, favorite chews or treats, or even going for a car ride. Anything that they really loved to do once but now is just ho-hum.
So for Riley, it was important that we stuck to our routine. He is a very regimented dog. He is much more relaxed when he knows his life is happening the way it is supposed to. Also, I made sure to walk him extra especially in the beginning. Parks are his favorite so I included them as much I could. Plus, just being with him and showing him that I am not going anywhere was good for him.
Dogs, just like humans, tend to be more sleepy when they are feeling sad, depressed, and lonely. They seem to want to sleep all of the time instead of doing the things that they love. I also noticed that, Riley tended to sleep in places that he would not normally sleep. Like between the loveseat and the ottoman. Or instead of under his favorite coffee table, he slept between two armchairs.
Especially in the first month or so after my son left, Riley would sleep for what seemed like forever. He was always tired and just seemed so mopey. It was honestly depressing me more!
As time went on…
He did perk up. He did play frisbee again. And he did chew his favorite chews. He became like his usual self. I think it helped that my son came home for a visit every once and awhile and we were able to go see him. This made him feel better, like he wasn’t completely abandoned by his favorite human. And sticking to his routine was key in keeping him feeling safe and not so anxious.
If your reading this it probably means you have your own fur babies that I know you love just like your own real babies. I would love to hear how you dealt with your dog’s depression or how your fur babies handled their favorite humans leaving for college. Please comment below with anything you would like to share. Also, any tips or tricks that worked for you in getting them back to their normal doggy selves.
As always, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you very much. Always. Dawn.
P.S. I am not a veterinarian. I am just a dog mom who loves her dog. The “suggestions” I have given in this article are merely that “suggestions.” So please, consult a real veterinarian before implementing anything new with your fur baby. Thank you!