Does your Australian shepherd look particularly gloomy or depressed? Is that even possible? These are great questions and in this article, I explain everything about canine depression and its causes, the signs to look out for, and the best solutions.
Yes, It’s possible that Australian shepherds can get depressed. There are many causes of canine depression, ranging from an inadequate lifestyle to grieving a lost loved one.
It’s important to know the typical signs and behavioral changes, and take everything into context, before coming to conclusions. Everything will be explained below.
Depression In Australian Shepherds
Canine depression is very real, and while it can affect any breed, sensitive breeds like the Australian shepherd seem to be more prone to it.
Researchers have confirmed that dogs can experience a wide range of emotions including happiness, sadness, jealousy, fear, depression, and more.
It was also found that canine depression and human depression are so similar that the typical signs and behavioral changes are actually the same.
Because of these similarities and the extensive research done on depression already, identifying and understanding depression in canines has been made easier. Info PetMD
5 Signs Your Australian Shepherd Is Depressed
Let’s run through the typical signs of canine depression. Please remember, that everything must be taken into context, as some of these are also symptoms of different issues.
1. Displaying a lack of interest
Aussies are usually the life of the party and want to be the center of attention whenever something is happening. One of the obvious and most notable changes an Aussie can have is suddenly appearing completely disinterested what’s going on around them.
This means not wanting to play, not caring when people enter or exit the home, and no longer bothering to interact with people in the house the same way they once did.
2. Sleeping more & staying in bed
Sleeping more and staying in bed is another sign that something’s not right with how your Aussie is feeling. This coincides with having a lack of interest in things.
Whether your Aussie is actually sleeping more, or just laying in their bed more, this is a notable change to think about. It’s always important to take things into context… Is the extra sleep warranted? or does it seem unusual?
3. Hiding & avoiding
A very common sign of canine depression is hiding and avoiding. This means your Aussie is constantly wandering off to a quiet room where no one is.
You might realize you can’t find your Aussie until you check all the rooms and see her laying down by the bed or in a room where no one typically goes.
4. Pacifying behavior
When dogs are stressed, anxious, or feeling down, they tend to engage in pacifying behaviors to make them feel better.
Classic pacifying behaviors are repetitively licking or nibbling their paws, ankles, or body. Sometimes scratching can also become a pacifying behavior.
5. Appetite change
Much like how we might not feel like eating when depressed, the same goes for our furry friends too. If your Aussie is refusing their food it could indicate she isn’t feeling good.
Of course, this is a very common symptom of many other issues, so once again, it’s crucial to take everything into context. Ideally, you don’t want to rely on just one sign to diagnose canine depression.
9 Causes of Depression In Australian Shepherds
The best way to identify if your Aussie is actually depressed is to see at least two different signs AND have a valid cause. We’ve covered the signs above, now let’s look at the 9 typical causes.
1. Stress & anxiety
If an Aussie is stressed or anxious for long enough, it can eventually turn into depression. And unfortunately, due to their sensitivity, many things can cause anxiety issues in Australian shepherds.
Something you realize as we run through the rest of the causes is that many of them are also triggers for general stress & anxiety, as well as depression.
And what we know from extensive research on the matter, is that stress, anxiety, and depression have a lot in common.
2. The loss of a companion pet or family member
If you’ve recently lost a pet or family member, it can affect your Aussie in a similar way it affects us. It’s known that dogs grieve just as we do, and this can certainly be a trigger for depression.
Dog behavioral experts have even concluded that grieving periods in dogs can last a lot longer than it generally does with us.
In some cases, bereavement can affect dogs for several months or sometimes even longer.
3. Big environmental changes
A common, yet unusual trigger for depression seen in canines can be big environmental changes. This typically means new things happening in your neighborhood or home.
Anything from new building works nearby, to getting new neighbors, moving homes, or pretty much anything out of the ordinary.
We have to remember that dogs are very sensitive to their environment, and changes can trigger a range of emotions and feelings, not always positive.
4. Big lifestyle or routine changes
Similar to the above, any big changes that directly affect your Aussie can also cause depression. This could mean a change of your work schedule, someone in the home has moved out and no longer partakes in routine activities with your Aussie.
Another common trigger can be the addition of new people into the home, either a baby or a new partner can really unsettle our dogs.
Dogs can feel jealous, protective, and generally negative about the new addition, eventually causing them a spell of depression.
5. Someone at home is depressed
Aussies are super sensitive towards their owners (and most people in the household). Dogs instantly pick up on our energy and mood, and if someone in the house is feeling down, it can definitely rub off on your Aussie.
Dogs know when we are happy and relaxed, on edge, nervous, or depressed. And they’re very adept at differentiating our emotions. This might not be yourself, but consider everyone in the household.
6. Insufficient exercise or stimulation
It’s no secret that Australian shepherds need a huge amount of physical and mental exercise to be happy and content. Stimulation (in all of its forms) is a crucial part of any Aussie’s life, and when this area lacks, there will be problems.
Not all Aussies will react to insufficient stimulation with depression, but it’s certainly a possibility. Typically, a lack of exercise creates hyperactivity, destructive behavior, anxiety, and/or disobedience.
Related: Mental stimulation for Australian Shepherds
7. Lack of attention or being left alone too long
Something Australian shepherds are not happy without, is attention. They are a highly social breed and love to be the center of attention.
Usually, it’s the owner’s attention specifically that an Aussie wants the most. Even if other members of the household are highly interactive with your Aussie, if you aren’t showing them adequate attention, this could by they are feeling down.
In addition to their attention requirements, Aussies also hate being left alone. This breed is very social, and isolation can trigger many negative responses including stress, anxiety, disobedience, bad behavior, and yes, depression.
8. Dietary changes
Many Aussies have sensitive stomachs, and if they’ve recently started eating new food, it could be causing them issues. A disagreeable diet could be causing your Aussie digestive issues which in turn could cause pain and negative emotions.
In addition to this, it’s crucial to avoid feeding your Aussie table scraps or human food. A recent survey showed that 40% of owners in the USA give their dogs table scraps daily. Human food is often too rich and contains many allergens. While our dogs might appear to love them, it could be causing them a world of hurt on the inside.
9. Underlying health issues & chronic pain
Finally, underlying health issues and chronic pain can cause depression in canines fairly quickly. If your Aussie is dealing with a health issue you aren’t yet aware of and is causing her prolonged pain, depression can quickly set in.
It’s crucial to rule out health conditions, so unless the cause of your Aussies depressive behavior is absolutely obvious to you, it’s recommended to schedule a vet check-up. Especially if your Aussie has any of the symptoms above.
Helping Your Australian Shepherd With Depression
After ruling out health issues, it’s important to consider your Aussie’s overall life and daily routine. Are there areas that are lacking?
Is your Aussie receiving enough exercise, mental stimulation, training, time, and attention?
By considering these questions, it could help identify a weak spot in your Aussie’s current routine.
When the cause of depression is to do with inadequacies in her routine, the solution could be simple. If your Aussie is currently lacking exercise, then it’s crucial to adjust that, likewise, if you haven’t been showing your Aussie much attention, try allocating some time to give solely to her.
Sometimes, the solution can be a little more complex. If your Aussie is grieving a loss or trying to adjust to a new house, it could just take time and a lot of reassurance.
Keep up a good daily routine with your Aussie, show her attention, and provide training and challenges to focus her mind.
For other things like adjusting to a baby or a new partner, it can also take time and patience. In cases like this, it’s crucial to divide attention between everyone where possible and work towards building a good relationship between your Aussie and the newcomer.
Ultimately, to help your Aussie with depression successfully, you must have a good idea of what the cause is. This is why I mentioned earlier that everything must be taken into context in order to figure this situation out.
And once again, if in any doubt, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to at least rule out health conditions. And don’t forget that many veterinarians also have extensive knowledge of behavioral issues, which could result in your getting some tailor-made advice.
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