They don’t call dogs “man’s best friend” for no reason. You get depressed. He gets blue – not necessarily for the same reasons or at the same time, of course. Behavioral studies undertaken to identify signs and symptoms exhibited by once-happy, tail-wagging companions can help you diagnose the reason your canine or feline has become morose and lethargic. Some are obvious. Others, not so much. Eliminate physical reasons for your dog’s behavioral changes first and then consider the major (and minor) reasons that may explain Snickers’ or Cheddar’s mood swings.
Is He Losing Weight? Appetite loss in dogs can be disconcerting for pet parents – if only, like the kids, they could turn up noses when new foods are served up and say, “Yuck, I’m not eating that.” Have you switched your pet’s food (even if the vet recommended it), gotten him a new food bowl or moved her feeding station to a new area of the home? Cats and dogs crave routine. There’s nothing like a home renovation to make them as crazy as you. If you haven’t moved or changed anything, give your pet a thorough “frisking” to detect lumps, bumps or masses that may explain that weight or appetite loss. Found nothing? Give it a little more time. You may find the reconfigured food station or new brand of chow to be to your pets’ liking in short order.
Have You Fallen in or Out of Love? You may have fallen in love with your new baby, the hot woman you met online or the kitten appearing out of nowhere that took up residence on your doorstep. Cats and dogs are attention hogs: they’ve made you the center of their universe and expect nothing less in return. Falling in or out of love can trigger behavioral changes that can be especially disconcerting if your pet has never shared space with another creature. Conversely, a child going off the college, a romantic breakup that sends the love of your life packing and out the door or other traumatic leave-takings are reason enough for a cat or dog to sulk, act grumpy or even shun you for a time.
Are You Experiencing a Loss or Grieving? The stories are enough to send you racing for a few boxes of tissues. Pet parents leave town and, for legitimate reasons, give their pet away because they can’t take him to a new home. A death leaves a faithful cat or dog inconsolable. Even the aforementioned situation in which a pet can’t figure out why their best pal has left for college can be the reason your pet (yes, even cats) suffers a personality change. Loneliness and abandonment are powerful emotions for humans capable of intellectualizing these catastrophic events; imagine having no clue why the human you adore is no longer around.
Could it be a Chemical or Environmental Imbalance? Symptoms of pet depression can be triggered by chemical or environmental imbalances, but it’s not like they have the power of speech and can confide their lack of a sex drive or hot flashes. This is one situation in which you won’t know whether or not either is turning your dog or cat into an alien from outer space until a vet checks him out. That said, look inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets before you book your vet’s appointment. Perhaps the floor cleaner you purchased with that discount coupon arrived at the same time your dog or cat started acting weird. Lots of pet moms and dads avoid Swiffer-like products ’cause they’re not sure about the environmental impact it may have on a pet’s mental and physical health.
Is She Exhibiting Body Issues? You suffer from body image issues – you hate your weight, mourn the loss of hair or dread the toll age has taken. Your dog or cat can show she’s not doing well emotionally, either, by shedding hair or developing obsessive-compulsive grooming habits. Before you assume Nicky has become neurotic, peruse products you’ve recently purchased to groom or wash her coat or the liquid or spray you’ve acquired to get rid of your cat’s dragon breath. If eliminating the product returns your pet to his former cheery self, you and your checkbook just saved yourself a visit to the vet.