6 SIGNS YOUR ANIMAL IS DEPRESSED- ANIMALS & DEPRESSION PT 2
As we learned in part 1 of this article, many animals experience depression in various ways. In part 1 of this article, https://soulsticespirit.com/2018/10/14/is-my-animal-depressed-animals-depression-pt-1/, we discussed the why’s and how’s of companion animal depression. We illuminated how we, as caretakers and caregivers of animal companions, will help or hinder our animals’ mental health. Though there are extenuating circumstances that we, as caregivers may not be able to identify that may be causing depression in our animal friends, there are numerous signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for; six of which are listed below.
1) LETHARGIC BEHAVIOUR- Animals will become lethargic if they are physically or mentally unwell. You must always rule out physical health before proceeding to mental health. This means that if your animal is lethargic, seeking medical attention is important. Once the veterinarian has given the animal a clean bill of health, we can then examine if the animal is lethargic due to depression. Just as a human would, if an animal is depressed he/she will not feel up to “doing much”. S/he will want to lie around and question her purpose.
2) OVER/UNDER-EATING- Again, as humans might, when feeling sad, some animals will either binge eat or starve for lack of appetite. Food is most often the highlight of any companion animal’s day. Therefore when there are issues with over/under-eating, depression may be the culprit. Of course, in order for these eating habits to be identified as depressive, we must examine what the animal’s eating habits were before s/he became depressed. Identifying the changes in eating habits is a clear indicator if depression is the reason for the over/under-eating.
3) LOST INTEREST IN PLAYTIME- Particularly in cats and dogs whose primary drive is play, losing interest in playtime is a very common symptom of depression. This is the common human thought of “why bother?”
4) EXCESSIVE LICKING, CHEWING OR GROOMING- Once again there are many medical reasons why an animal might excessively lick, chew or groom. Before attempting to ascertain depression, if your animal friend is exhibiting these symptoms, it is crucial to rule out any medical concerns. Once the vet has cleared the animal of any potential medical issues, we can begin to examine whether or not these symptoms are behavioural. On occasion, depressed animals will excessively lick, chew or groom in order to distract themselves from the sadness. In some cases, they will exhibit these behaviours to attract the attention of their people. This is done either to let their people know that they are not well or to attract attention from those humans who are neglectful towards their animals.
5) UNUSUAL AMOUNTS OF TIME SPENT SLEEPING- Alike to humans, animals will lose interest in “getting out of bed” every morning if they are depressed. When an animal is depressed, going back to the lethargic symptoms, s/he will have very little energy throughout the day and night. Depression is very draining and exhausting. The animal will feel inclined to sleep off the depression. Also, the animal will feel that the more s/he is asleep, the faster her/his life will go by. When animals are depressed, being asleep is a lot lesser painful than being awake.
6) HIDING/WANTING TO BE LEFT ALONE- Often when an animal hides, there are many possible angles to consider. An animal will hide when he is in physical pain. This is because he may feel defenceless. Genetically linked to their ancestral wild, when an animal is unable to defend himself, he will often hide so as not to be vulnerable to predators. Alternatively, if an animal is hiding and not in pain, this could be because s/he is depressed. When this is the case, the animal is not interested in coming out to play or to be social. In fact this is entirely anti-social behaviour. It is important not to confuse this hiding behaviour with fearful behaviour. There are many fearful companion animals, most of whom become fearful due to poor human interaction. This differs from depression-based hiding. Fear based hiding often appears in the form of “running” away behaviour, hiding from house guests and loud noises. Depression-based hiding often appears as a more anti-social behaviour. As opposed to fear based hiding where the animal will only come out when she feels safe, depression-based hiding animals will be reluctant to come out of hiding at all, unless to sleep elsewhere. Depression based hiding also comes along with a feeling of worthlessness. It is often also caused by living alongside miserable humans for a prolonged time period.
These are just six of many symptoms of depression in companion animals. Though we are unable to diagnose depression solely from any of these symptoms, we can watch for them and take them into account when determining the mental wellness of our companion animal friends. If we feel that our animals are in danger of depression, consulting an animal communicator or holistic veterinarian is a healthy option. Alternatively, stay tuned for next week’s article; Animals & Depression Pt 3- How to treat animal depression at home.
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