Do Pets Get Depressed?

Stress Can Be a Real Problem

That doesn’t mean I think everything I see is purely a result of physical issues. For example, we know that some cats don’t do well with stress caused by changes in their environment, such as moving, or the addition of a new pet or new people to the household. It’s not uncommon for a stressed-out cat to start avoiding the litterbox, which is why we ask if there have been changes in the pet’s life when we start to work up a cat with this issue. We also hear anecdotal evidence of pets who grieve, and we don’t discount that as being “anthropomorphic.”

Ever since veterinary school, when I was first exposed to the late Dr. Leo Bustad, founder of the Delta Society, I have had a different view of animals, one that was born on our family’s farm but didn’t really “click in” until I was training for my DVM at Washington State University. Since then, learning about, sharing and celebrating what I call “The Bond” has been the foundation of my work for people, pets and the profession.

I even wrote a best-seller about what we know and what we suspect we know about animals, The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy. We have really just scratched the surface of what we know in this area.

Be There for Your Pet

We do know that pets help us with our mental challenges. Perhaps if our pets are having problems of their own, we can help them, too? I like to think that’s so. Until we know, I’ll be making sure I check for all the other things that could make a pet sick enough to be “depressed” in the eyes of the person who loves him.


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