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If you notice that your pet spends an increased amount of time sleeping or just lying around compared to his previous daily activities, this is something to take note of. If your pet has a tendency to follow you around the house and now suddenly doesn’t even lift his head to look at you as you walk out of the room or house, this may also be a notable sign.
Decreased overall activity is much easier to spot in a younger pet who tends be more active compared to an older pet. Some pets will slow down as they get older due to normal aging but should not need too much encouragement from the owner to interact with them in some manner. An example could be picking up the leash and having to call your dog three or four times to come, so you can take him for a walk. Instead of racing right over to you, your dog may take his time approaching you. A cat who is usually very excited about chasing a ball or feather toy may seem to lose interest in the toy. You may have to toss the ball or wave the feather around for several minutes before your cat appears interested. And the interest level may vary from a slow approach to not even approaching at all but merely watching you play with the toy from afar. No matter what the age, these changes can vary from gradual to sudden in onset.
When a pet who normally spends the majority of his time following you around or staying in the same room with you starts spending more time by himself, this may be another sign that your pet’s mental health is suspect. Pets with depression may not even greet their owners when they come home such as they used to do in the past. Your pet may want to sleep on his bed all day or curl up in a corner of another room away from you or the rest of the family. Or a previously very sociable animal won’t even greet family members or visitors when they enter the house.
If your pet has been diagnosed with depression, there are a few things that you can get started on at home. Provide more structure for your pet. Maintain him on a daily schedule of predictable and enjoyable activities and interactions. Some pets appear to be less anxious when there is a daily routine an owner follows.
Try to encourage your pet to engage in activities he previously appeared to enjoy. Don’t give up just because your pet needs more enticement to participate in these activities. Consider taking your dog on a walk in a new neighborhood or park or on a car ride to a new location to pique your pet’s interest. Novel toys and toys that offer different sounds or smells, such as catnip, mint or rosemary, can all be very stimulating to certain cats. Interacting with your pet by physically touching him or talking to him can also be helpful.
Work on some of the basic training exercises that your pet already knows. You can use new food rewards or interesting smells to mentally stimulate your pet. This will help keep him mentally engaged. Avoid any situations in which your pet appears fearful or stressed.
In certain cases, just as in people, our pets may also need some pharmaceutical intervention to help manage their depression. Your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist may also recommend this option for your pet.
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