Does My Dog Need Antidepressants?

Those who rescue dogs have huge hearts, and anyone who’s active in the rescue world realizes that pups with a past may also be dealing with their fair share of trauma. This can lead to anxiety or depression.

With all that said, pups who live in loving families may also have been traumatized by something seemingly minor, like a loud noise that scared them once, or an altercation at the dog park. According to Paws Abilities:

“Too often, we get caught up in the stories we tell ourselves about our dogs’ pasts, and forget to pay attention to the animal in front of us. While trauma can have lasting consequences due to its huge impact on the way the brain develops and processes information, patient behavioral modification and an environment of safety can have equally powerful effects.”

The point is, any dog can get traumatized for any number of reasons. Sometimes, that trauma can lead to a dog becoming fearful or acting withdrawn or depressed.

Of course, there are other scenarios that may have caused your pup to become depressed. Maybe it’s a death in the family, or the arrival of a new baby or pet leaves leaves them feeling left out. Even habitual boredom can give your dog a serious case of the blues.

Here are some common signs of depression in dogs:

  • Lower energy
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Less interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleep habits

Often, some extra exercise, training, playtime, or cuddly one-on-one time with your pooch is enough to get them out of their rut. But what if it’s not?

Despite doing everything in their power to try to help their dog get over whatever’s getting them down, some pet parents are disheartened when they can’t seem to ease their pooch’s sadness or anxiety — no matter how much love and security they offer. Is this a sign that it’s time to ask your vet about antidepressants?

According to Vet Street, antidepressant medication has its place in treatment, but it may not be used for what you think. It’s more of a way to “take the edge off” of fearful or nervous behaviors, rather than a “happy pill” for a dog who’s down in the dumps.

The article explains a few scenarios that may warrant a prescription:

  • Separation Anxiety: When dogs have separation anxiety that’s so severe they can hurt themselves, (like by clawing at the door until their paws become injured), a vet may suggest medication to calm their stress.
  • Generalized and Acute Anxiety: Many behaviors can fall under these categories, and include extreme stress when meeting new friends or encountering new situations. Another example is phobias with thunderstorms or other noises, which can include household sounds like the clanking of silverware.
  • Compulsive Disorders: Sometimes pets engage in impulsive behaviors, even to the point of self-harm. Obsessive licking, nibbling (often of paws), tail-chasing, and more may be calmed with the use of antidepressants.
  • Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome: As dogs get older, they may develop anxiety as they become disoriented or confused while their brain ages.

When dealing with a dog who’s depressed or anxious, the first step is to determine what’s causing the stress, then to find a solution with the help of a veterinary professional. Sometimes that includes medication, but it’s not a quick fix; it’s to be used as a tool in addition to training and / or changes in environment and routine.

For more information on how to help a dog who’s dealing with trauma or depression, check out the articles below. As always, consult with your vet if you have any concerns or notice physical or behavioral changes in your dog.