Can dogs become depressed?

If some of you read previous posts by me you are aware that recently I got a Great Dane puppy for my birthday! The Dane is doing fine, I am still awaiting the zany Great Dane adventures that happen in all the movies, but other than that things are going well. He is doing the typical puppy things, playing with the other dogs, etc.

The question I have isn’t about the puppy however, it is about our year and a half old Australian Sheppard/Chow mix Carson. We got Carson at 8 weeks old and he has turned out to be a wonderful doggie and great friend. Always cheerful and by your side. Lately however, he seems to be withdrawn and depressed. Staying by himself in another room, hesitating when called and such. I am not sure if it is just a “stage” he is going through or something more.

I do realize that his life has changed quite a bit since the arrival of the new puppy. When the puppy first got here, Carson became a “father” figure. Constantly licking and checking on the pup. Now the pup follows him almost everywhere, it is like he wants to be like his “big brother”. I (and my wife) have gone out of our way to show extra love and attention to Carson as we didn’t want him to feel left out. I make sure that when I go to the store only Carson gets to come, so he feels special as he loves car rides.

I am not sure what to make of this or what to do? Anyone have a similar problem and any advice? Thanks in advance!

Mods, perhaps this belongs in MHO, but I am really wanting to know if dogs can get depressed and what to do about it.

I don’t know if you’ll get a clear answer on whether dogs can feel emotions as humans understand them, since experts are unclear on it.

Honestly, my first concern in your situation wouldn’t be that my dog is depressed, it would be that my dog is sick. I’d suggest bringing Carson in for a full check-up. If nothing is physically wrong, then you can discuss his behavior with the vet.

We have talked about the possibility of him being sick, but I don’t think that’s it. No symptoms other than “mood” change. Although I shoudn’t dismiss your thought, dogs can’t verbalize pain, so it’s possible I guess.

It may also be possible that he’s just tired and wants to get away from the puppy that follows him everywhere and has lots of puppy energy. But I would also see the vet, mood change can be a symptom of a physiological problem, i.e. thyroid issues.

Dogs certainly can feel emotion as any dog owner could tell you.

Heck, take a person who has never had a dog to a dog park and I bet they could easily identify a dog that is happy from one who is angry to one who is scared to one who is content and so on.

Humans easily identify those emotions in dogs because we share them in common.

Whether dog “happiness” is the same as experienced by humans well…who knows. Humans experience happiness differently from each other too but in the broad sense the dog is “happy” the way humans are “happy”.

This should not be surprising. We both have mammalian brains which are similar in design.

To the OP:

Yes, it is believed dogs can experience depression although you need to be certain there is not some underlying health issue that manifests as depression (a sick dog may seem depressed when in fact they have a doggie cold…which being no fun is sort of depressing).

At a guess it sounds like the new puppy may be the trigger. Puppies being puppies are going to get lots of attention.

I’d try to make a point of alone time with the older dog and be sure it gets lots of attention. I know you said you are working on providing attention to the older dog but again, some alone time might be good. Long walks with just the older one, play time and so on. See if that helps.

That said a call/visit to your vet is probably worthwhile to be sure.

After the OKC bombing, I read articles that said the search dogs got depressed when they couldn’t find survivors in the wreckage. And according to the International K9 Search and Rescue site account,

I don’t know how they determined the dogs were depressed, though, as opposed to fatigued, for instance. I’m always wary of anthropomorphizing animals, but it’s pretty hard to misinterpret when a dog is happy. One of the things I like most about dogs is that they seem to get overjoyed over minute things: a bug crawling on the sidewalk, a leftover morsel in a food bowl, a pat on the head. If it’s not depression they’re experiencing, it still must be something unpleasant.

IIRC (no cite) because of this they started hiding live people in the rubble (obviously willing volunteers and only for a little while) for the dogs to find to help the dogs feel better.

I remember that as well.

My thought would also be to get a checkup at the vet to be sure there are no physical problems making the dog seem withdrawn.

Dogs certainly have emotions, and depression is one of them. We used to have a pair of dogs that were brother and sister from the same litter, and after the sister died, the remaining dog went into a depression that lasted for months.

The OP’s symptoms though seem to me to be an indication of sickness.

How can you prove humans (other than yourself) have emotions? Using the same criteria for determining whether humans have emotions will show us that dogs also have emotions. There’s no way to define emotions in a way that the definition will be accepted by most people, while including humans and excluding dogs.

Definitely get your dog checked out by a vet. My dog was acting depressed and withdrawn, and it turned out he had an ear infection. A few days of treatment later, and he was back to his usual exuberant self.

Yep, go to the vet. Our dog had the exact same symptoms, and it turned out he’d hurt his back. We were sure he was despondent about something.

Absolutely possible. My beagle died and the girl beagle, Nordberg, suffered terribly. I tried to continue the routines like taking her to the park for a walk every day, but it did not help. her tail hung straight down . People in the park who knew the dogs said "you gotta get another dog’. I did and it worked. But she was on the verge of a beagle breakdown. Nothing was fun. Nothing interested her.

I thought this was General Questions, where the plural of data isn’t “anecdoctal.” That’s why I specifically stated “emotions as humans understand them.”

As for the rest of your response, let me put it this way: my dog has her own Facebook page. It’s safe to say I think dogs (and cats for that matter) have emotions. :wink:

Anecdotal is the best we’ve got.

We cannot get “in” a dog’s mind to assess what they are really thinking.

Hell, humans cannot get into other humans’ minds either. Humans have language which helps but it is imperfect. Particularly imperfect when describing emotions. For example define “love”. How do you know how I experience love is how you experience love? We can talk about it and get an idea and guess at it but it is all anecdotal evidence. Is there a scientific test for “love”?

Of course not. So why would you poo poo using the same measure with a dog? Sure they cannot communicate as explicitly as a human but their emotions are apparent. As I mentioned you do not need a dog owner. I think any human would recognize a dog’s emotions (happy, sad, angry, scared and so on).

What other test would you suggest?

I think a few thousand years of anecdotes of mankind’s experience with dogs is compelling evidence. It has not varied in all that time.

Occam’s razor suggest the simplest explanation is probably the right one absent other data to make you think otherwise. The simplest explanation here? Dogs have emotions same as you and I. How they experience it in their heads may be different in some finer points but then how you and I experience the same emotion differently as well.

If you doubt that dogs have emotions, come to my house on a day my husband is working. We recently retired K9 Mojo, at age 9, due to declining health/mobility. When his Daddy puts on that uniform and gets in the car without him, Mojo is the saddest thing you’ve ever seen. Heartbroken. And when Daddy comes home? Happiness personified. (Dogified?) His emotions may be less complicated and less subtle than a human’s, but he has emotions.

That said, I agree that a vet visit may be in order. Personally, I’d be worried about a less-than-obvious injury from a rambunctious puppy, but there could be some other health issue.