Depression: How to tell if your dog is depressed and how you can help

About two thirds of dogs in the UK show signs of depression and anxiety, with some showing symptoms weekly.

A significant part of the UK’s canine population is not a happy one. A new study shows two-thirds of dogs -approximately 8.8 million - exhibit signs of anxiety and depression, with 18% presenting with these symptoms as often as weekly.

Depression in dogs

The charity, Guide for Dogs, conducted a poll of 1,000 dog owners across the country and found that most people were not aware that dogs can suffer from poor mental health too. Among dogs, the most common signs of depression and anxiety include:

  • Low activity level
  • Decreased appetite
  • Destructiveness

However, hyperactivity, incessant barking and loss of interest in things they otherwise enjoyed could be out of boredom and frustration, which could also be key indicators of overall mental health, according to experts.

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Taking them on sniffari walks could help them out of their depressive state. Getty/moaan

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How to be a supportive human

Most dog owners who took part in the poll said some of the ways they try to cheer up their glum pooches is to take them on a long walk, petting them and offering them their favourite treat. But, experts say these things are not enough to return them to their cheerful disposition.

Dr Helen Whiteside, chief scientific officer at Guide Dogs, said:

It’s an outdated viewpoint to think that dogs just need a walk or two a day to be content. Without different forms of mental stimulation, dogs can begin to show signs of behavioural issues, such as anxiety and frustration, which can have a huge impact on their mental wellbeing.

According to her, mental stimulation, such as puzzle games and interactive toys, help to keep things interesting. She suggests other approaches like giving the pooch a lick mat, taking them on a sniffari - a walk that allows them to walk and sniff wherever they like.

If done effectively, your dog will be needing quality sleep and downtime after a mentally stimulating day.

Bonfire Night: Study shows over 2 million dogs set to suffer, so how can we help them? Bonfire Night: Study shows over 2 million dogs set to suffer, so how can we help them?