Animals are not property or "things" but rather living organisms, subjects of a life, who are worthy of our compassion, respect, friendship, and support.
~ MARC BEKOFF, Minding Animals
Divorce is emotional all the way around. But have you ever considered how it might be affecting your dog? According to the latest National Pet Owners Survey, approximately 71.1 million U.S. households own pets, with about 44 million of those being dogs. Not only does the dog feel your tension, but he also senses the arguing over him. With more couples having fewer children today, many are beginning to view their pets as their kids or companions rather than see them as just their family dog. It makes sense then that we see an uptick in custody battles over the family pet. But how is Fido dealing with all this contention?
But how is Fido dealing with all this contention?
Dogs tend to be very empathic and are sensitive to your families' needs. During your divorce, the emotional turmoil can adversely affect your dog. One of you may have moved out, and the other one may be angry or crying much of the time. It's possible your dog is being shuffled back and forth from home to home, and their routine has completely changed.
Veterinary experts agree, that while it can be difficult to diagnose depression in dogs, they do appear to experience short-term depression, especially during periods of change. Their symptoms can mimic those of an adult suffering depression.
Here are six signs that your doggy may be suffering depression as you divorce.
While these symptoms can also mimic illness in your dog, please have your pet examined by a veterinarian to be sure.
1. They Sleep a Lot
Dogs can become withdrawn and sleep a lot when they're feeling down. They may appear to lose motivation and have less energy for their normal daily activities. They might spend a lot of time in their favorite resting spot. When encouraged to do something, he might lift his head, give you that sad, soulful look, and put his head back down.
2. Their Appetite Decreases
Dogs are known to stop eating, leave some food in their bowl, and lose a significant amount of weight when they are stressed. If your dog's eating habits have changed, it may be a sign of depression.
3. They're Not Interested in Their Daily walks or Activities
When a dog is happy and content, he appears eager to go for a walk or chase the frisbee. If he is suffering from depression, he may seem more subdued and less motivated to participate in the activities he usually loves.
4. They Start to Cry or Whimper
Occasionally, Fido may look off into the distance and cry or whimper. When he senses conflict, or that the routine of things has changed, he feels uncomfortable and uneasy. He perhaps misses his other (the absent spouse) very much.
5. They Groom, Lick or Bite Themselves Excessively
Dogs express their anxiety by excessively grooming and licking. If your dog is doing this behavior, be on the lookout for some hot spots on his body. He may need attention from the vet, and a dog collar to prevent him from developing sores and infection.
6. They Have Accidents in the Home, are Destructive and Digging
Unexplained incontinence or accidents in the home may be a sign that your dog is emotionally upset. So might destructive behaviors inside and outside the home such as chewing on the furniture, or digging in the yard outside.
If your dog could tell you how he's feeling, it would make things so much easier. Be on the lookout for signs he may be suffering from depression. Have him checked out by your vet to be sure he's okay, and try to give him some extra love and attention each day.
Brave Hearts. Honor Your Courage. Honor Your Knowing.
Jamie Daniel, MS, LMFT went into the field of clinical counseling with a heart to help others going through the journey of divorce recovery.