It's a picture that tugged at Triad dog-lovers' heartstrings -- an image of a shelter dog, cowering in the back of his kennel, staring down at the floor. The Stokes County Animal Shelter posted it last week with the caption: "A lot of dogs are scared in the shelter, but Duke is suffering. If it (were) possible to die of sadness, Duke would."
Fortunately, the post got 500+ shares, and Duke (now Hippo) was adopted into a loving home within hours. But this situation had the Verify team wondering: can pets really get depressed?
Dr. Oliver said just like humans, dogs and cats do develop depression. Any pet can get it, but shelter animals are most prone.
"They got lost and turned in, and no one ever claimed them, or they were relinquished by people they loved and trusted. Most dogs have the ability to understand things on the level of a four-year-old child. Emotionally, they can go through the same emotions we do."
Pet depression symptoms usually start out with a sudden behavioral change. The pet becomes less engaged and perhaps starts to stare at the wall. Or, the pet suddenly stops eating or start going to the bathroom in the house. The pet also could start incessantly licking or chewing on himself or an object.
To treat pet depression, a veterinarian usually recommends a training program to reinforce a pet's confidence and feelings. Sometimes, the vet will prescribe medicine - like a lower dose of a human anti-depressant. But, you need to act quickly.
"It's important to treat it early. If you leave depression and anxiety untreated in an animal, it will worsen. And, if you have multi-pet households, it can stress everyone -- including the owner."
We verified pet depression is real, and it's very similar to human depression. It's also treatable, if caught early.
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