Written by Vet Tech

5 Ways To Know If Your Dog Is Sad And How To Help

Amber LaRock
Written by: Amber LaRock, Vet Tech
Learn about five signs of depression in dogs and how to help. As a responsible pet owner, you should know how to help your canine with more than just physical pain.

Our dogs are a beloved part of our family, so it’s important for us to be aware of changes in their behavior that can point to sadness.

In this article, we’ll discuss what can lead to sadness in dogs, and ways you can help them if you notice any troubling signs from your furry companion.

Can Dogs Become Sad Or Depressed?

Though our dogs are extremely different from us in a number of ways, they can still experience similar feelings of sadness and depression as we can. Dogs may have different triggers than we do, but depression can impact their lives just as severely as it can impact ours.

Our pups may not have the reasoning and mental understanding of life as we do, but they can still catch on to changes and stressful situations that are going on in their environment.

Dogs crave a comfortable and stable routine, so any abrupt change can result in sadness or depression in your furry friend. We can’t ask our dogs how they feel, so it’s up to us to be aware of the signs and changes in their behavior that should cause concern.

So, how can you know if your dog is experiencing sadness or depression?

What Can Cause Sadness In Dogs?

While each dog will have different triggers, there are some common changes that can cause a dog to become sad or depressed. Some of the common causes include:

  • Moving into a new home
  • Bringing someone new into your home
  • Giving your attention to someone new when your attention used to be focused on your dog
  • Welcoming a child into your home
  • Getting a new pet
  • Changes in your dog’s schedule
  • Loss of an owner
  • Loss of another pet they were close with
  • An owner spending large amounts of time away from home
  • Hostility or sadness in the home they live in
  • Change in their diet
  • Starting new medication
  • Painful medical conditions

Virtually anything can cause a dog to become depressed if it deeply affects them or their set routine.

5 Signs That Your Dog May Be Sad

When a dog is sad or depressed, they will often display signs that are visible to their owners. Some of these signs include:

1. Disinterest In Things They Once Enjoyed

When we become depressed, we tend to shy away from things we once loved. This is no different for dogs. Whether they are no longer interested in going on walks, playing with their favorite toy, or coming up to you for daily cuddle time; their disinterest can be a sign of sadness.

2. Change In Appetite

Dogs will often experience a change in appetite when they are experiencing sadness. This could mean they refuse to eat, they eat less, they eat more, or they may not be interested in their favorite treats and snacks.

A dog’s change in appetite will vary depending on each dog and the circumstances as to why they are depressed.

3. Sleeping All The Time

When a dog is sad or depressed, they will often sleep the day away. Their sadness can result in a lack of energy or desire to get up and move around, leading them to take frequent naps.

Dogs sleep a lot in general, but if you notice your dog being unwilling to get up and greet you, or spending the majority of their day asleep, they may be experiencing stress or sadness.

4. Hiding

If a once social dog begins to hide away and avoid social contact, this is always a cause for concern. Dogs often hide away and avoid interaction during sadness or illness, so it’s important to address this sign if you ever notice this behavior in your dog.

5. Paw Licking, Chewing, Or Other Physical Signs Of Stress

Just as humans deal with stress in physical ways, dogs can do this as well. Our nail-biting habits are virtually the same as their paw licking and feet chewing habits, as they can resort to these methods of self-mutilation when they are experiencing sadness and stress.

Licking and chewing are thought to be a soothing behavior for dogs, so if you notice your pup constantly licking their paws or chewing at their paws, they can be attempting to manage their stress.

How Can You Resolve Your Dog’s Sadness?

If you ever notice signs of sadness in your dog, there are a few ways that you can attempt to resolve their current stress. Some ideas include:

1. Consider when the behaviors started and what could have caused this

The most important part of resolving your dog’s sadness is to be aware of what caused it.

Consider when the symptoms first began, and see if there is a way to resolve the current stress that they are facing.

2. Exercise

Just like in humans, exercise can help in resolving sadness and depression. By getting them up and moving to enjoy a fun activity, you can help to bring them out of their shell and get their blood flowing.

3. Shower them with love and attention

If you think your dog is experiencing sadness, sometimes some TLC can make a huge difference. Show them some support and set aside some additional time each day for cuddles or playtime.

4. Help them get to know the new person in your home

If you think your dog is experiencing sadness due to a new person in your home, try your best to help them get to know each other. Make sure to take this process slowly, as you don’t want to further stress them.

5. Offer them mentally stimulating toys

If your dog previously enjoyed play time, try offering them new and stimulating toys.

You can try kong toys with embedded treats, licking mats that occupy their time by licking a tasty treat off the matt, or games that you and your dog can play together.

6. Focus on activities that make them happy

If you notice that certain activities seem to be the only thing that gets them excited, then make sure to implement them daily.

For example, if your dog is experiencing sadness but still loves car rides, try to take them on daily short rides around the block. If they still enjoy the dog park during their period of sadness, make sure to visit a few times a week.

7. Bring in a new companion if they lost their furry friend

While this will vary with each dog, a new companion has been shown to reduce sadness in dogs that have lost their furry friends.

A new pet can take their mind off their missing friend, and help get them up and moving again by playing with their new companion.

8. Medical intervention

If none of the above work to help resolve your dog’s sadness, it’s time to take your pup to the vet. There are medications that can help to reduce chronic stress in dogs and have been shown to have a significant impact on their recovery process.

It’s also important to be aware of the fact that some illnesses can mask themselves as depression. There are an array of medical conditions that can present with loss of appetite, lethargy, change in behavior, and other symptoms that have been tied to sadness.

Why Is It Important To Treat Your Dog’s Sadness?

When you notice any signs of sadness in your dog, it’s important to act quickly in your attempt to resolve their sadness. When left unaddressed too long, these symptoms can result in actual illness.

For example, if your dog is refusing to eat in response to the stress in their life, this can lead to medical complications that can result in serious illness. Lack of eating can result in low blood sugar, weight loss, weakness, organ complications, and complications of any previously diagnosed conditions.

If you let any of these behaviors go on too long, this can become their new “normal.” You never want your dog to become too comfortable with hiding or shying away from interaction or things they once enjoyed, as it will become more and more difficult to resolve the problem as time goes on.

This is also an important time in your relationship, and you don’t want your dog to begin to shy away from you as a result of their sadness. This is a time for you to work together with your favorite furry friend to get to the root of their unhappiness.

One of the most important reasons to address your dog’s potential sadness is the simple fact of not wanting them to be unhappy. Our pets are a huge part of our lives, and you never want their pain to go unnoticed. They deserve our best, so it’s important to make sure that we are trying our best to keep them happy.


Dogs are emotional creatures that can experience sadness, like the rest of us.

If you ever fear that your furry friend is overwhelmed or depressed, make sure to act swiftly to help bring them back to happiness!