Dogs can have depression the same way humans do, and for similar reasons. Acupressure is one way to revitalize him.
Jazz is a four-year-old Labrador/standard poodle mix with energy galore. Up until a month ago, she lived to play with any dog or human who came her way. To keep her from bouncing off the walls, her guardians had to take her out for a vigorous run or a dash around the dog park at least twice a day.
But now she just isn’t herself, and her guardians are baffled. Where did their happy, athletic girl go? The jingle of the leash is met with little enthusiasm; she looks at them as if to say, “Okay, if we must, I guess I’ll get up and go for a walk.” A full food bowl used to fi ll her with excitement, but now she just takes a bite or two and goes back to her bed to sleep.
The first step to figuring out why Jazz’s behavior changed so radically was to make sure she has no physical health issues, so her guardians took her to the veterinarian. Many underlying physical issues, including pain, can cause a dog to lose her zest for life.
Once medical conditions are ruled out, Jazz’s guardians need to think back to anything that may have happened a month or so ago, when her behavior began to change. As it turns out, that’s when their son left for college. The first week after he left, Jazz looked for him all over the house, and sat next to the door waiting for him to come home. As time went on, she slept more and lost interest in playing, eating and socializing. Jazz had slipped into a deep depression.
What causes depression in dogs?
Dogs experience depression much the way people do, and for similar reasons. The most common causes are the loss of a companion animal or person, moving to a new house, a change in schedule, loneliness, or an unprecedented lack of attention (for example, when a newcomer arrives or a crisis occurs in the household). Dogs can also react to depression in their guardians. Other triggers include abuse, neglect, pain, aging, and even seasonal changes.
Indicators of depression in dogs include excessive sleeping, minimal or no interest in play or exercise, loss of appetite or overeating, low energy levels, withdrawn behavior, a tucked tail and dull eyes, and peeing or pooping in the house. Some dogs become agitated and restless when depressed, and cannot be comforted or calmed. The main thing to watch for is a change in behavior, whether it happens suddenly or gradually. Before assuming any uncharacteristic behavior is depression, be sure to take your dog to the vet for a check-up.
Acupressure and behavioral techniques
Most dogs will recover from depression on their own within a short time. However, some have trouble bouncing back to their normal selves – these dogs are suffering and need help.
Acupressure is one way to bring renewed vitality to your dog. Whether he is grieving a loss or bewildered by changes in his life, depression indicates he has lost that vitality. In Chinese medicine, chi (life-promoting energy) can become blocked and stagnant when an animal is sad. By stimulating specific acupressure points (see chart below), you can revitalize the flow of chi throughout your dog’s body, which in turn can re-energize his emotional well-being.
It can take a few sessions to see the effects of working with acupoints known to enhance and restore a harmonious flow of chi, especially when your dog has been experiencing depression for a long time. Another benefit of giving your dog acupressure is that you are providing him with the attention he really needs at this time. If some change in your “pack” has triggered his depression (a death, someone leaving home, a new animal, etc.), it’s important that you become the agent of his revitalization.
Canine behaviorists offer a lot of additional suggestions for helping your dog overcome depression.
Providing your dog with extra attention by playing with him, going for walks, or heading to the dog park for more canine socializing are all good ways to get her going again. The more exercise you can give him, the better his chi energy will be
Dogs like routine, so be sure to maintain a consistent meal and exercise schedule. When he shows more interest in an activity, be sure to reward him with a special treat.
Be careful not to reward his depressed inactivity. You can snuggle and love your dog, because that’s good for both of you, but try not to link his sad behavior to your loving attention in such a way that he thinks you’re rewarding him for it.
By nature, dogs are fun-loving creatures. If your dog is depressed, you can help bring him back to his happy energetic self with acupressure, exercise, and some extra love and attention.
Amy Snow is one of the authors of ACU-DOG: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, ACU-CAT: A Guide to Feline Acupressure, and ACU-HORSE: A Guide to Equine Acupressure. They founded Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Resources, which offers books, manuals, online training courses, DVDs, apps, meridian charts, consulting, and many more acupressure learning tools and opportunities. Email: tallgrass@animalacupressure