How To Tell If Your Dog Is SAD?

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I am aware that I have already written a lot about the signs of depression in your dog, and to how loneliness or boredom can impact on our dogs’ change in behaviour. But I wanted to touch on the subject one more time, after reading more about this. Once more, let me touch on how to tell if your dog is sad, or just bored? or indeed whether the quieter behaviour is indicative of changes in his or her health.

Why Write More About Dog Sadness

First of all, let me tell you what prompted me to research more into the signs of sadness in dogs.

As you know, my Indy has now got to the veteran age of 14. In itself, this age in Borders is a good achievement, but not as sensational as with other breeds, as Borders are known to survive up to the age of 16, and sometimes even beyond that.

However, I find the age of 14 remarkable for my Indy, if you consider his two major surgeries he underwent in the last couple of years. Yes, Indy is a cancer patient, and still having metronomic chemotherapy to keep the ‘stupid’ cancer at bay. By the way, I could call Indy’s cancer worse words, believe me!

Indy has been doing really well in the last couple of years. But, like always in his life, he slows down dramatically in extreme summer temperatures and during the winter.

However, in the last few weeks, we have noticed Indy’s behaviour becoming much more sad.

Let me talk to you more about the signs.

Signs Of Sadness In Your Dog

There are certain signs that undoubtedly tell us our dog is sad. And these signs cannot be undermined, nor ignored, if you ask me. Because it is through these behavioural changes that our stoic dogs tell us there is something not quite right.

Behavioural changes can include:

  • sudden and increased lethargy
  • increased sleeping times
  • lack of appetite
  • not wanting to engage in playtime
  • confusion
  • not engaging in daily regular activities, including walks
  • mistaking day with night
  • starting using indoors for toilet.

You can appreciate that, just like in humans, these signs are definitely indication that your dog is not him or herself.

Unlike with humans, however, when we see our dogs changing their habits so suddenly, we have to do something about it more actively, rather than ignore the changes.

We humans can easily voice out our discomfort or discontent. Dogs, on the other hand, tend to adopt a stoic approach to the first symptoms of unwell being. If they are drawn to change their behaviour, it is deemed that they have now reached that point when they are truly not happy about whatever it is that bothers them.

Our job as responsible dog owners is to find out why our dog is sad.

The Many Causes Of Sadness In Our Dogs

Causes to your dog’s changes in behaviour and increased lethargy can vary depending on numerous factors. The first thing to take into consideration is your dog’s age.

If your dog is growing older, increased sleeping hours are to be expected – like not wanting to play as much and as often as your dog used to.

However, if for instance, the increased lethargy occurs when your dog is still young, or a pup even, then you really want to seek your vet’s advice.

Likewise, if you know that your dog, like my Indy, does not react very well to extreme weather conditions, the changes in behaviour should not ring alarm bells as loud, as if the quieter behaviour was entirely out of character for your dog.

This said, however, there are some causes to consider.


This can happen if we have to change our own job routines and patterns. Or if there are changes in the household. We now have to leave our dog alone for longer hours, and our dog ends up getting bored. And (s)he takes up sleeping more due to depression given by lack of activity and mental stimuli. Sometimes it’s good to invest in services provided by a dog walker or by a dog day centre, who will collect your dog and keep him or her busy when you are not around.

Aging Process

This is the one cause of sadness that is closer to my heart, as I can see it happen in Indy before my very eyes. And it’s heartbreaking.

It is reported that dogs can develop bouts of depression when they grow from bouncy pups to moody teenagers and into adulthood. In exactly the same way as us humans, when they reach teenage years, they try to find their own voice and personality. And in the process, they can get frustrated and depressed.

But lethargy and depression is mostly reported in dogs as they reach senior age. The threshold varies from breed to breed, particularly as it is deemed that larger breeds have a shorter life span – hence they become senior sooner than smaller breeds.

But you may want to start worrying and seeking medical advice, when the lethargy becomes increased within a short span of time. It could be sign that your dog is starting developing painful osteoarthritis.

But, especially if you start noticing signs of confusion in your dog, decreased hearing, him or her not responding as promptly when called, starting not recognising familiar faces, then you may want to ask your vet to test your dog for the first symptoms of dementia.

Now, I do not want to sound morbid here, but unfortunately it is a reality that dogs do not live as long as humans. And I say this more to acknowledge that, as mentioned, our Indy is now old.

But age related senility in dogs (well, the medical term is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD) does not necessarily mean the end of it. There are medications available, which, when given daily to your dog, can alleviate the symptoms of dementia and improve your dog’s quality of life.

Or, there are herbal and natural remedies. Personally, in virtue of the fact that our Indy is already taking the chemo medication, I have opted for CBD Hemp Oil for him, which has literally given Indy a new lease of life.

Winter And SAD

Shorter days, increased times of darkness affect our moods. And it affects our canine friends’ mood too. You can easily understand, therefore, how dogs may prefer to curl up in their favourite bed for longer periods of time. It’s colder, it’s darker, it’s depressing – for them as much as for us.

But there is a condition, which has been proven to affect dogs as much as humans: SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a condition that has been recognised to affect humans during the Winter months, when due to shorter days our body stars producing more melatonin, which is responsible for increased lethargy and reduced interaction. At the same time the lack of natural light prevents the body from producing serotonin (the ‘happy’ chemicals in our body), giving way to symptoms very similar to depression.

Now, it is suggested that SAD may affect dogs as much as humans.

If you suspect this to be the case, I would suggest that you don’t force your dog in to activities that (s)he is not interested in doing. You may indulge them with a few more treats – as food can be great comfort for dogs as much as for humans. But, by the same token, you want to gently encourage your dog to interact with you – and not to give up walks altogether. Particularly if your dog is older, lack of activity may impact his or her mobility skills, causing more permanent damage.

A good cuddle and reassurance are always a winner with dogs, especially at times when they feel ‘down’ in spirits.

Physical Pain

This is Indy after his first cancer op

This is Indy after his first cancer op

If you feel comfortable enough to exclude all the above triggers, then the only possible answer to your dog’s sadness may be in the fact that (s)he may be in discomfort or pain.

And there’s only one thing to do in this case: take your dog to the vet! Especially when dogs are as stoic as Borders, it becomes increasingly difficult for us owners to work out if and when our dog is in pain. Therefore, in my opinion it’s advisable that as soon as we have a hint that our dog may be under the weather, we consult the vet for further examinations.

My Conclusion

Sadness and depression are forms of mental health issue, which are as difficult to witness in dog scans as they are in humans. And they are equally difficult to treat in dogs as they are in humans.

I wish I could speak more knowledgeably in the case of younger dogs. Unfortunately we have never been blessed with juvenile dogs, so I can only speak for my experience with our Indy.

So, here’s the thing. Drum roll… our Indy is getting older. And truth be told, I don’t like it a single bit to see him slow down in his activity. When that’s the case, we try to respect his rhythm of life – but at the same time we still call him up and down the stairs, we invite him to take part in the evening meal preparations, or to help with the house chores.

The difference is that now he might just watch whilst sitting comfortably, instead of following us each and every step of the way.

Should a dog affected by any of the above sadness trigger conditions be dismissed as now obsolete and no longer fun? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!

Our old boy Mr Indy is source of daily joy and laughter even at his mature age of 14 ... and we love him to bits!!!

Our old boy Mr Indy is source of daily joy and laughter even at his mature age of 14, and we love him to bits!!!

The joy our Indy still brings us is immeasurable. If at all, we appreciate now, more than ever, Indy’s witticisms when he looks at us with disapproving eyes, or when he cleverly runs away inviting us to chase him, when it’s time to put drops in his eyes.

We are determined to make his last few years (am I being too optimistic here by calling it ‘months’???) as comfortable and as fun as possible. We are determined to respect his needs as an older dog. And this means the odd toilet accidents, or extra patients with his routines; if this means waking up at night when he starts getting confused between day and night routine; none of this is going to bother us, in the same way as it would not bother us if it happened to our own parents.

The important thing is to remember that we are giving back to Indy in care and support, as much he has given us, and continue to give us, in unconditional love all the years he has been part of our family.

Now, before I leave you, let me suggest a couple of products, which you may finding particularly helpful in assisting your older dog with his or her newly found needs:

Dog litter box
Dog litter box
Hempworx for pets
Hempworx for pets

I hope you enjoyed this article. Do leave your comment below to share your experience. I shall promptly respond to each and every of you.

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