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Treating Depression in Dogs?


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Hey, guys! I feel like I'm always on here asking for advice :lol: I do trust y'all's opinions, though, so here goes:

The day after Christmas, my mom had to put down her dog for multiple health reasons, the most prevelant of which being his worsening congestive heart failure and refusal to take his medication no matter how we tried. His favorite place was our camp in Mississippi, so my parents and older brother drove up there to bury him.

Our neighbors up at the camp had talked for a few days about this abandoned dog on the corner of the main street leading to our camp. They're rather old and didn't want to keep him, but raved about how friendly he was and how he knew all of his commands. Within 48 hours of burying my mom's dog, my older brother had managed to get her to come see the dog. She was grieving, but agreed. Soon after that, we had him bathed, fed, hydrated, collared, de-flea'ed, and de-ticked. As soon as they came home with him, he was seen by our vet, treated for his intestinal parasites and proactively treated for heartworms, and was deemed malnourished and a bit sick, but healthy.

We named him Sam, and for those of you who have heard about my baby Frodo, I hope y'all get the reference :lol: Frodo, however, went from losing the only brother he'd ever had (my mom's dog) to sharing his domain with a much larger foreign dog. Sam is, albeit very malnourished, 42 pounds. Frodo is 10 pounds on a good day; I'm sure you can see where the issue is. Also, Sam was fucking abandoned on the side of the road by some heartless idiot (he's a bluetick coonhound, but is so friendly he makes a pretty crap hunter), so everyone's been giving him lots of attention. Also, Sam is really just a fantastic dog; he really is

I've been trying to hold and coddle Frodo as much as I can, and he's trying, but he doesn't seem to be taking the adjustment very well. It doesn't help that Sam unknowingly invades his space, knowingly eats his food when given the chance, and has tried numerous times to sexually assault poor Frodo. Tonight is the first night I've really noticed the changes in frodo's dimeanor, as it's gotten much worse since I went back to school.

He is no longer interested in playing, wants to be held even more than before, and just seems sad. His food and water have to be kept in my room so Sam doesn't take it, meaning that for TEN HOURS A DAY while I'm at school, he goes with NO FOOD OR WATER. I offer it to him before I leave, but he's not much of a morning eater. He's lost weight, and I'm starting to get concerned about how sad he seems.

I know this is a rough transition, but what more can I be doing for him? I don't pet Sam in front of him, I got him a kong toy after Sam got one, I've been giving him bones whenever Sam gets one, etc., including getting him a new one of his favorite toy. He'll cheer up for all of maybe ten minutes.

Is this something I should be concerned about? We haven't had Sam long, and it really is a big change; should I just give it more time? Is there anything I shouldn't do? Also, how long is it okay for him to be this depressed? I wouldn't be as worried if he weren't losing weight, but I'm also not surprised seeing as nobody feeds him but me and I'm gone most of the time. I've decided to fill his kong in the mornings and ask my mom to give it to him while I'm gone; I don't think Sam will harass him and his tiny little kong. For those of you who have dogs of contrasting sizes, what should I do to help Frodo along?

Any type of dog advice would be helpful, and thanks for your time!

- Koda and (a very sad, but very loved) Frodo

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Unless they are actively attacking each other, I don't recommend separating them or trying to avoid giving attention to one when the other is around. If they're going to live together, they need to learn to... well, live together. I'm a little confused on the food and water situation. I assume you're free-feeding Frodo, can you switch him to a scheduled feed? What is Sam's feeding schedule? Is either food aggressive or is there a reason there can't be a communal water bowl out during the day?

Also, are they both neutered? That can shift the balance of attitudes between two dogs, especially ones that don't know each other.

How much weight has he lost and is it just since you got Sam? You said also that you just noticed the changes in his demeanor tonight so I'm not sure what you mean there either. That could be anything from stress to a deeper underlying physical problem so if it's a drastic loss, you might want to see a vet.

Overall I wouldn't worry about it too much, it sounds like he just needs an adjustment period. Giving them both bones and toys is a good start, try doing some activities with them both at the same time or in the same room like ball, tug of war, training commands, etc.

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Thank you for replying! Upon second read, I don't think my points were very clear, either, so here's some more info:

1. They are both neutered, but Sam just got neutered and it said on the post-op tip sheet that he might try to breed for about 6 weeks. In hoping he'll stop humping my poor dog soon :lol: we have been disciplining him whenever he tries, and thankfully Frodo doesn't allow it

2. As for the food situation, here's the deal: no matter what, if Sam is in the same vicinity as Frodo ans his food, he will steal frodo's food. Even if his own dish is full; he'll simply scarf his down and move on to frodo's. Granted, Sam was rescued out of the freaking woods and is malnourished, so I'm hoping that maybe once he puts some weight on and realizes he's not in immediate danger of starving, this will stop. Until then, however, they have to be fed in completely separate rooms. This doesn't sound bad, until you factor in that I go to school, my dad goes to work, and my mom works nights and sleeps during the day. I feed Frodo before I go to school, but then he goes without food for a good 8-10 hours before I get home again to feed him. We used to just leave his food out all day, but we can't anymore. I'm really trying to come up with a way for him to eat on demand without Sam stealing his food (same goes for water)

3. Frodo recently lost a brother, then got another giant, extremely playful brother: a huge transition for him. I definitely think he's having some trouble going from an old dog to a giant puppy. Sam is sweet, and tries hard to play with Frodo, but I think Frodo feels threatened? Either way, he's not into it.

This may not sound like much, and maybe it isn't, but Frodo isn't the type of dog to mope around like this. At any rate, however, if anyone has advice on bringing a dog out of a funk, that'd be great! I've been doing all that I can, from holding him 24/7 to trying more than before to engage him in play; it's not working. After reading up on dog depression, it seems that time works for a lot of dogs, but for some it doesn't, and the owners don't typically take depressed dogs to the vet until it's gotten bad and requires meds. I highly doubt I'm the only dog parent who's had their baby go through a little rough patch like this. If any of you have, what did you do to help them? About how long does it take for them to adjust? Also, when should I legitimately worry? I noticed his bones (ribs & spine) sticking out way more than before last night, but as he wears sweaters, I couldn't tell until I went to go let him beneath his sweater, which makes me feel awful: how long has he been losing weight like this?

Anyways, any knowledge or advice on dogs and dog moods would be much appreciated. If not, I'm going to keep trying and hope time heals this!



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Hey Koda,

First, I wanted to say I'm really, very sorry for your loss. Losing an animal can be so very hard, for everyone, both human and animal. I'm nowhere near an expert on such things, but I do have a similar experience of animals getting used to each other.

My dog is old, but has always had a cat outside, so the idea of a cat was not foreign to him, but an inside cat was (already this is shaping up to be convoluted). Anyways, I found this stray kitten and brought her inside. And then, half a year later, brought the outside cat indoors because his companion outside had passed.

At first, there was a lot of 'jealousy' between my dog and the kitten, and there was some territorial disputes, as she found places were she felt comfortable, but that passed quickly enough (a couple of weeks for the general 'jealousy'). I did pretty much the same thing you are doing, gave them attention both together and separately, kept my cat away from my dog's bed (now he doesn't mind) and kept my dog away from my cat's food (he still eats it every now and again, but she really doesn't mind - though this is different from your experience because both your dogs need to be at a healthy weight).

When I brought the other outdoor cat in (a boy that is older than girl kitty), a lot of the same behaviors started all over again. In fact, male cat stayed upstairs for probably close to a month, only coming down to eat and use the litter box, before he turned into this complete cuddle-bug. He and my dog got along in a sort of mutual respect kind of thing, but it took awhile for he and female kitty to get along.

When my male cat wants to go outside (I refuse to let him, but every so often he will sneak out) it changes his personality, and he turns a bit 'wild'. And my female cat HATES it. She is so scared of him and he will actually start and finish fights whereas usually he is mellow and lets her win (she is half his size). It takes sometimes a week for them to get back to their normal selves. But, as you go on and live with them, you notice how best to deal with their behaviors and I know to hold both of them and coax them to relax. Also, my dog gets pretty upset too, at times with their crazy fighting and tries to be the dog-police, but he is easily calmed as he gets tired.

Where am I going with all of this?? Good question. But, I think your answer will lie in getting to know Sam. He is unfamiliar, obviously, with his new family and his new surroundings and Frodo is unfamiliar too. You're doing a good job providing love and support for both of them, and I think you should continue with it. They do need to learn to play with each other, or at least tolerate each other, and they need time away from each other too. But, as I said, you're doing what you can on this front. Keep it up.

Is it possible to put Frodo's food and water in a place that Sam does not have access to? I think he will honestly be fine, weight wise, because dogs are good at knowing how much to eat and when they need to, but if you are worried about that, a vet would probably be a better person to ask.

Hopefully, Sam's 'amorous' behavior will stop soon. That I don't know much about, but I can imagine Frodo would not like it very much.

Also, does Sam have things that are just his? Does Frodo? A favorite blanket for Frodo, a new blanket for Sam. A corner of the living room. A bedroom. I know that once my animals knew where their 'spots' were, they were much happier and eventually started sharing.

As for Frodo and what might be depression, I think that I agree with what you read - that time will help. It hasn't been too long, yet, and so I wouldn't worry. What I've read on the subject said it can take a few days to a few months. Also, as with anyone suffering from depression, it is a good idea to keep doing what they loved to do. And, getting more exercise is always a plus for dogs. Further info on the subject says to 'reward dogs when they show happiness' but do not lavish them with extra treats and coddling when they are depressed/showing signs of depression so as not to reinforce those negative behaviors.

I think Sam will be good fro Frodo too. Not now, but eventually, as he gets used to him. It'll be a new companion for him, and Sam will eventually, despite their size difference, show a type of respect for the older Sam (this behavior I have seen between older dogs and growing puppies).

I hope my ramblings helped. And I hope Frodo and Sam become as close as the hobbits were, and soon. Good luck. :)

ETA: Further clarification.

Edited by Nola
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