Dogs in heat exhibit some strange behavior. The hormonal changes are similar to those women experience during their menstrual cycle or pregnancy. This can cause behavioral changes and emotions they don’t normally experience. Can it cause depression?
Do dogs get depressed when in heat?
Many owners are not aware that dogs can experience depression, just like people. Depression has many causes, including the heat cycle.
Signs of Depression in Dogs
Dog depression is similar to depression in humans. They will become withdrawn. They may have a reduced appetite or eat more than usual. Sleeping habits will also change. Some dogs want to sleep excessively when depressed, while some sleep less.
Just like humans, they lose interest in things they once enjoyed. They may lose interest in walks, car rides, and play sessions. Some dogs will withdraw when depressed, but most become clingy. They may ask for constant attention and affection.
It’s also common for dogs with depression to cry or whine. This may be so quiet it’s barely audible. They will also have a sad appearance. Their tail and ears will be lowered. Their eyes may appear small or squinty.
The heat cycle is made up of four stages. The first is proestrus. This is when most owners notice behavioral changes in dogs and know they are in heat. Estrogen peaks during this time. Vaginal discharge begins during this time as well.
The estrus cycle is next. This is when the female is fertile, and behavioral changes may become more pronounced. Discharge slows during this period. Progesterone begins to rise and estrogen starts to fall.
The next stage is diestrus. Progesterone levels peak about 3-4 weeks after the beginning of the stage. Estrogen levels are at their lowest point during this time.
The next stage is anestrus. This is the dormant stage between the ending of one heat cycle and the beginning of the next.
Is it Depression?
The dogs’ behavior will change during the heat cycle due to hormonal changes. These changes can look very similar to depression, but is it?
For dog owners, a clinical diagnosis of depression isn’t needed. They are simply concerned about their dog. In simple terms, many dogs exhibit signs of depression during their heat cycle. This may last a few days to a few weeks. If it continues, depression treatment may be needed.
The behavioral changes of dogs in heat are often the same as the symptoms of depression.
Changes in appetite are common. Many dogs are lethargic, which can cause them to lose interest in activities they typically enjoy. They may be cranky with other animals, which can also be seen with depression.
Other Causes of Depression
Changes to your dog’s environment or routine can cause depression. Moving to a new home, a new pet or family member, or a change to your schedule can cause your dog to be depressed.
Dogs can also get depressed if they lose a loved one. This can be a beloved person or another animal. Some dogs will bounce back quickly, while others can struggle with depression after loss.
Medical Conditions Similar to Depression
Depression can be a problem for dogs. However, there are also medical conditions that can have symptoms similar to depression.
Conditions that cause pain, including arthritis, ear infections, and UTI can cause your dog to appear depressed. If you are sick or in pain, your emotional state will suffer. You won’t feel like your normal self. Your dog can experience the same feelings.
Hypothyroidism can also cause symptoms similar to depression. The condition causes a slowed metabolism. This results in lethargy, inability to exercise, and weight gain.
Do female dogs get depressed after heat?
It’s also possible for dogs to get depressed after their heat cycle. The culprit is likely hormonal fluctuations.
After the estrus cycle, progesterone is high. As it lowers, prolactin increases. These hormones are at nearly the same level regardless of whether your dog is pregnant. This can cause false pregnancy.
Symptoms of false pregnancy include lethargy, reduced appetite, and nausea. She may also have psychological symptoms of pregnancy. Some dogs will nest, in preparation for a birth that won’t occur.
As hormone levels drop and the symptoms of false pregnancy stop, your dog may become depressed. If she believed she was pregnant, it can be traumatic to realize there will be no puppies. This issue typically occurs in dogs with a strong maternal instinct.
Treatment for Dog Depression
You can treat dog depression at home by keeping them engaged. Do the things they enjoy, even if they aren’t particularly enthusiastic in the beginning. Make sure they exercise, but keep sessions short if they are fatigued.
Reward any signs of engagement or happiness. A tail wag, a lick, or a smile should always be rewarded with praise or even a treat.
Its natural to want to comfort your dog when they are experiencing depression. There’s a careful balance between rewarding negative behavior and supporting your pooch. Don’t overdo it with praise or treats when they are exhibiting depressive behaviors. Wait for a positive sign to praise.
If the symptoms don’t resolve, you’ll need to visit the vet. In fact, it’s wise to visit the vet anytime you notice significant behavioral changes. This allows you to be sure there’s not an underlying medical issue.
Severe depression may require medication. Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications can help your dog get back to normal. A dog trainer or behavioral specialist may also be able to help your dog return to their former self.
Do dogs change their behavior in heat?
Yes, it’s normal for your dog’s behavior to change during heat. It’s impossible to predict the changes a dog will experience, because it varies greatly from dog to dog. However, there are some changes that are commonly seen.
Many dogs will change some of their behaviors. If they are normally very affectionate, they may be more withdrawn. If they normally have a great appetite, they may not eat very much. If they are normally very easy going, they may become cranky.
Changes by Stage of Cycle
During proestrus, your dog may become more hygienic. She will likely lick herself frequently. It’s normal for your dog’s appetite to lessen during this time. She will be standoffish towards other dogs, particularly males.
It’s common for dogs to become restless during this time as well. They may pace or show signs of anxiety. Fatigue is normal as well, and may increase as your dog nears the estrus cycle.
During estrus, your dog will be fertile. She will likely be flirty and focused on finding a male. When she encounters a male, she will allow them to breed her.
She may also seek to escape to find a male during this stage. The drive to breed is very strong, and your dog may think of little else.
During diestrus, your dog may begin to settle. However, hormonal changes are still occurring. False pregnancy and hormonal fluctuations can cause behavioral changes to continue.