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Stressed, Depressed Or Sad In Dog: 13 Signs

Dogs, like humans, have complex inner lives and are capable of experiencing a wide variety of pleasant and negative emotions.

Dogs cannot speak, therefore they express their emotions through other means. When a dog experiences stress, depression, or sadness, their behavior alters.

As dog owners, we must be able to detect these indications so that we can intervene and assist alleviate these bad emotions in our canine friends before they progress to more serious problems.

Stress that is prolonged or chronic can impair a dog's health and well-being by compromising their immune system and generating behavioral disorders.

"Stressed, Depressed or Sad In Dog: 13 Signs" by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) discusses how to recognize your dog's stressed. Continue reading for more information.

What Causes Dogs To Become Stressed, Depressed, Or Sad?

Stress, despair, and melancholy are frequently produced by times of change or instability in a dog’s environment. A dog’s anxiety and despair can be triggered by a transfer to a new home, the arrival of a new family member such as a newborn or a new pet, or the loss of an owner or partner. Significant changes to a dog’s daily routine, such as the owner working longer hours or the dog spending extended amounts of time in a kennel or rehoming facility, can also induce anxiety or sadness.

Dogs might feel anxious or unhappy if they are denied the opportunity to engage in regular canine behaviors such as running, retrieving, smelling, and digging.

In addition to isolation from the owner, loud noises, huge or odd items, and large groups of people are typical stressors.

Different canines will respond differently to the same stressful stimulus. Clinician’s Brief states that the manner in which a dog behaves is governed by ambient variables, conditioning, heredity, and brain adaption.

In certain circumstances, such as when a dog is confronted by a wild animal, tension or anxiety may be beneficial, but in others, such as a dread of humans wearing hats, they may be detrimental.

Signs of Stress in Dogs

Certain indicators of stress and anxiety in dogs are more visible than others. As dog owners, it is essential that we notice these symptoms early, before they become more severe.

These are the most prevalent signs of stress that you may observe in your dog.


1. Decreased Or Absence Of Appetite

Stress and worry can result in a dog losing interest in eating. If your formerly food-motivated dog is no longer interested in eating, you must pay close attention. Stress and worry may be to fault, but other medical conditions can also cause a diminished or nonexistent appetite.

Before presuming that stress is the cause, it is essential to get your dog examined by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical concerns.


2. Ears Pinned Or Retracted

While experiencing tension or anxiety, your dog may pull or pin back their ears. This is not usually apparent in breeds with floppy ears.


3. Licking the Nose and Lips, Yawning, and Drooling

Nose and lip licking, yawning, and drooling are some of the more subtle indications of stress and worry that are frequently ignored. These indications must be understood contextually.

In a peaceful setting, a dog that drools and licks its lips when provided a nice food is unlikely to be worried. But, if lip licking is accompanied with changes in body posture, ears pinned back, or panting, it is certainly a sign of tension and anxiety.

If your dog’s lip licking and drooling persist, it is necessary to get him examined by a veterinarian to rule out medical conditions such as dental disease or those causing nausea.


4. Changes In Posture Or Position Of The Body

A worried or fearful dog may cower or assume a crouching stance with its tail tucked under. A dog in stress may also grow stiff or turn away from the perceived threat.


5. Panting

Excited, overheated, out of breath after activity, or anxious dogs will pant. Panting due to stress is frequently accompanied by other symptoms of stress and worry.


6. Trembling And Shaking

A dog may shiver and shake due to intense emotions such as fear and worry. Pain and disease can also cause trembling and shaking, therefore it is crucial to get your dog examined by a veterinarian if these symptoms persist after your dog has calmed down or been removed from the stressful setting.


7. Enhanced Vocal Activity

It is common for dogs to vocalize, but during times of stress and worry, whining, howling, and barking may intensify. Before presuming that your dog’s sudden increase in vocalization is due to stress, it is essential to test out any medical factors.


8. Diarrhea

Adoption, boarding at a kennel, relocation, or separation from a pet’s owner can promote diarrhea.

Stress-induced diarrhea is often temporary and should resolve within a few days on a bland diet. Your dog should be seen by a veterinarian if its diarrhea becomes more intense or severe, contains blood, is accompanied by other indicators of sickness such as vomiting or a decreased appetite, or does not recover within two days.


9. Inappropriate Elimination

If your once-potty-trained dog begins peeing and defecating inside, it may be a symptom of stress. Due to anxiety-induced lack of control, some dogs may defecate in the home.

A urinary tract infection, fecal or urine incontinence, or a urinary tract obstruction might also cause house soiling, therefore it’s crucial to get your dog examined by a veterinarian to determine the cause.

Note that dogs do not defecate in the home out of “malice,” therefore punishing your dog may exacerbate the problem or lead to other behavioral difficulties.


10. Repetitive Or Obsessive Behavioral Patterns

Extended periods of stress and anxiety can result in compulsive behaviors that serve no other function than to assist a dog cope with stresses like inactivity and isolation.

In an attempt to self-soothe, a persistently anxious dog may repeatedly lick at one or more of its limbs. Additional compulsions include tail-chasing or spinning, air-licking, and flank-sucking.

Some of these habits may have underlying medical causes, such as discomfort from osteoarthritis causing frequent licking of a leg, thus it is vital to get your dog examined by a veterinarian if it begins exhibiting repetitive behaviors.

Signs of Depression Or Sadness In Dogs

At times of transition, like as the loss of an owner or partner, it is typical for dogs to suffer despair or sadness. Yet, a number of significant medical issues can also cause your dog to look unhappy or sad.

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, you should consult a veterinarian immediately in order to rule out an underlying condition.


11. Reduction in Appetite

When a dog experiences feelings of grief or despair, its hunger may become diminished or even disappear. As previously indicated, as a result of stress, your dog may also suffer a change in appetite.

In general, sorrow and depression manifest differently than stress and anxiety; therefore, it is crucial to understand these symptoms in context. As an indication of an underlying medical issue, a change in appetite should always be regarded carefully.


12. Decreased Activity Levels

If a normally active dog becomes sluggish or spends more time napping, this might be an indication of depression. Diseases that cause discomfort, such as osteoarthritis in elderly dogs, might also be to blame.


13. Withdrawal

If your dog loses interest in activities he or she formerly enjoyed, such as walks or playfulness, this might be an indication of depression.

Dogs who are unhappy or sad may also become reclusive and cease interacting with humans and other animals in the same manner as before. As previously indicated, withdrawal may indicate an underlying condition.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Showing Signs Of Stress, Depression, Or Sadness

In certain circumstances, worry and anxiety are quite acceptable. In these instances, removing your dog from the unpleasant environment should be sufficient to reduce their anxiety.

It is crucial to take action if your dog exhibits indications of stress or anxiety more frequently or in unsuitable circumstances. The keys to avoiding distress from growing and producing behavioral problems are early detection and action.

The next step is to get your dog examined by a veterinarian to rule out any potential medical explanations for their behavior. If your dog obtains a clean bill of health, see a veterinarian or reputable behaviorist for assistance in identifying triggers and implementing appropriate solutions. Some canines may require both medicine and behavioral adjustment.

All dogs, particularly those facing stress, despair, or sadness, will benefit by adhering to a regimen of sleeping, eating, and physical activity. Giving everyday opportunities for physical activity and mental stimulation is also advantageous.

Final Thoughts

If your dog exhibits any of the signs outlined in “Stressed, Depressed or Sad In Dog: 13 Signs” by BestForPets (bestforpets.org), he may be stressed. But if you take care of his mental health in the right way, your furry friend will soon be happier than ever.

Author Image

Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher

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