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Depression

Maltipoo Depression

Overview

Depression is a real condition that can affect canines of any age. It may be event related, in which case it is often acute. For other Maltipoos, it can become a chronic, ongoing issue in which case the puppy or dog simply cannot seem to get out of a funk of feeling down. 

We've received many emails lately from concerned owners. Here is a sampling:

'My family just lost our 10 year old Lab and while we are all extremely sad, we're trying to move on. But my 1 year old Maltipoo has been acting overly depressed since our dog died. He was her older brother in our little pack here and honestly, I don't know if she can ever get over this. She roams the house looking for him, won't eat much at all, and won't play. Any suggestions?'
'I recently started working a second job and I think that it's either making my Maltipoo angry at me or depressed, I'm not sure which one. Her behavior has been really off lately. She doesn’t want to play, never wags her tail anymore. She used to be so happy when it was time for a walk, now she either ignores me or half-heartedly comes to me. Of course I want to explain to her that my leaving more often has nothing to do with her, but how in the world do you explain that to a dog?'

'Unless I'm really missing something, my 2 and a half year old Maltipoo has been depressed now for over a month for no reason at all. There's no signs of a health issue and no changes in the house. Just all of a sudden, she seems very withdrawn and sad. Do you have any ideas as to why and what I should do?'

So, as you can see there are many situations in which a Maltipoo may appear to be overly sad, both with apparent triggers and for seemingly no reason at all. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to help bring your Maltipoo out of his depression and back to feeling like himself.

In this section we are going to discuss:
  • The signs and symptoms a Maltipoo may display when depressed
  • Common causes of depression
  • Unusual reasons and if these events/situation can really cause a dog to be sad
  • How to help an unhappy Maltipoo feel better
  • Professional veterinary treatment options
Symptoms of Depression with Maltipoo Dogs

Whether a purebred, a hybrid like this wonderful Maltese/Poodle mix or a dog of unknown origin, all canines are subject to become depressed under certain circumstances. In very rare cases, the cause is unknown and we will touch on that in a moment. While each dog is an individual, there are some common threads in how a dog will behave if he is struggling with feelings of sadness and hopelessness. If a Maltipoo puppy or dog has 3 or more of these symptoms lasting more than 2 weeks, this points to possible depression:
  • Acting despondent - A dog may behave withdrawn with very little enthusiasm for things that used to bring happiness such as playing or being taken outside for a walk. For Maltipoo that are sad when another pet has died or one of their owners is gone, may mope around the house and appear to be searching for that pet or person. 
  • Moving slowly - The 'pep in the step' may disappear; a Maltipoo may saunter around as opposed to trotting and exercise or other activity may appear to be take much more effort than normal. 
  • Hiding - Dogs that are feeling down may find a small area to lie down. A Maltipoo may hide under a bed, behind a piece of furniture or under a table. In some cases, it may appear that the dog is scared of something; however in many cases the dog's mood will be sullen as if he just wants to hide and be left alone. 
  • Changes in food intake - A decreased appetite often goes hand in hand with depression and many dogs will not eat as much as normal. In some cases, there is an increased appetite. In either case, there will be changes in weight. 
  • Changes in sleeping patterns - This includes both sleeping much more than normal or having trouble falling or staying asleep. 
Causes of Canine Depression

There are some events that are known to moderately or severely affect the mood of a dog and can lead to acute or chronic depression:

1) Loss of a pet. There are very few dogs in multiple pet households that will not display any signs of sadness if the other pet passed away. This is a major life event that can severely affect a Maltipoo's state of mind. To a canine, all members of the household (both human and animal) are his 'pack'. And when a member of the pack is gone, this is very unsettling. 

Science has long since proven that canines experience a range of emotions including love, affection and distress. The emotional distress that a Maltipoo may feel can be overwhelming if another dog in the household dies.

2) Loss of a human family member. This is undoubtedly one of the most common reasons for moderate to severe depression with canines. The bond between owner and dog is strong and this situation can make a dog feel hopeless, sad, despondent and unable to rise from the sadness without some help. 

3) Moving to a new home. Moving to a new house can cause a dog to feel out of place and unsure of where he is, why he is there and his place in his new 'den'. In many cases, this is an acute depression that will ebb away as the Maltipoo acclimates to the new environment. It can help to try and keep some of his important things in the same spot as the old house. For example, his playpen in the left corner of the living room, his food and water bowls in the kitchen near the slider and his toys in a bin to the side of the sofa, etc. In addition, moving can be stressful and a dog may be picking up the hectic vibe from his owners. Taking time to stroll through the new neighborhood and playing some light-hearted fetch in the yard can help both you and your dog take a relaxed break from this often busy event. 
 
4) Longer time periods alone. Dogs already need to work through minor to severe separation anxiety issues when their owners are gone for the day, so if there are circumstances that lead to a Maltipoo being alone for even longer periods of time than normal, this can have an effect on the dog's mood. 

5) Illness or Injury. Anytime that a dog is experiencing pain or he is suffering from an injury or health condition, the dog may act depressed. During the beginning stages of many diseases, health issues and injuries there may not be any other symptoms aside from acting withdrawn, therefore it will be important to bring your Maltipoo to the vet for a complete physical. A dog may appear depressed when suffering from a vast array of issues… from heartworms to infection disease to a UTI. 

Other Reasons and If These Can Really Cause Depression

Getting a haircut - It's not uncommon for an owner to report that their Maltipoo is acting strange after having a haircut at the groomers. In these cases, most often this will be a major change from long hair to a short, trimmed cut. When a Maltipoo has a thick or long coat, the dog is used to feeling a certain way. When that is clipped off and the dog's coat is very short and to his body, this physically gives him a different feeling. It is very common for a dog to emotionally display what he is physical experiencing. So, in this regard, a Maltipoo may very well behave differently after being groomed in this way. 

Another element that comes into play is an owner's reaction to the change. Whether the coat was cut much shorter than expected and an owner is upset or people in the house are shocked to see how different the Maltipoo looks, this super clever and emotional breed most certainly picks up on those vibes.  

If your Maltipoo is depressed after being groomed or getting a haircut, it is best to treat your dog the same, interact with him as normal and instruct other people to refrain from making a big deal of the change. If the coat was clipped exceptionally short, it can help to place a cozy hoodie or soft sweater on the dog. Usually the change in behavior will ebb away after a week or two. And if there was marked depression, it is advised to go with a slight trim next time or to have the coat trimmed on a more regular basis so that your dog does not need to experience major changes.  

After surgery - It is not uncommon for a dog to act depressed after surgery and spaying and neutering are the two most common surgical procedures that are done to pets. There are a few different reasons for this. 

1) The anesthesia used for the surgery may cause short term depression-like feelings due to chemical changes in the brain for some pets. This is much more common with more invasive surgeries in which the dog was under for longer periods of time. In these rare cases, depression often resolves after 1 to 2 months.

2) The anesthesia can take up to 24 hours to fully wear off and during this time a Maltipoo may be exceptionally tired and/or groggy. As the medication slowly leaves the body, this can also affect a dog's appetite; many will need to eat bland foods for a couple of days. These elements can appear to be depression, however are just the effects of the general anesthetic.

3) Both neutering and spaying do cause some short term discomfort and when a dog is feeling discomfort this will affect his mood.  

4) The pain medications given to dogs after these procedures can cause lethargy and sleepiness which may be mistaken for depression.

5) Owners may feel concerned and overly worried as their Maltipoo recovers and those emotions can easily be picked up and mimicked by puppies and dogs. 

It's best for an owner to have trust in the vet and try to display positive thinking while their dog is recovering while of course keep an eye out for any signs of post-operative issues. If pain medication is causing other issues such as lack of appetite, discussing this with the veterinarian may be warranted, as alternative medications may be used. Finally, do remember that recovery can take 1 to 2 weeks; puppies often recovery much faster than older dogs and females need a bit longer than males. Within this short amount of time, your Maltipoo should be back to feeling just fine. 

During the winter- Some dogs can develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter. This can happen due to fewer hours of sunlight for the long duration of the winter months. Like humans, some dogs are sensitive to changes in melatonin production that occurs during this time. Since very cold or stormy weather can impede your ability to bring your Maltipoo outside during the winter, a dog often gets less exercise and this can increase depression as well.
It is suggested to bundle your Maltipoo up in appropriate clothing (lined vest, parka, thick hoodie or sweater), use protection for the paws (quality paw wax or dog booties), protect the nose from chapping with a quality nose butter and importantly to dress warm yourself (if you are shivering and uncomfortable, you will be less inclined to stay outdoors) and bring your Maltipoo for two walks per day in the winter unless the weather is so severe that doing so would be dangerous. 

Even taking one walk per day and having a good 20 minutes of playing in the snow with you can stave off depression. Every moment spent outside will have an effect on your dog's mood. In severe cases, owners can speak to the veterinarian to discuss the use of light boxes; which can simulate sunlight. 'Lux' is the standard measurement of light flow. A typical living room light sends out 100 Lux and outdoor sunlight is 10,000 to 20,000 lux. Seasonal depression in canines may be relieved by setting up a light box near your Maltipoo's lay area that emits at least 10,000 lux. Clinical trials show that the most effective models are those that stand high and send light downward. 

After giving birth - Due to huge hormonal swings, a female dog may experience some post-partum depression after giving birth. This does not happen to all dams and the severity of the depression can range from mild or severe. In many cases, it is just a matter of giving the body some time to adjust to the hormones leveling out. Another element to keep in mind is that pain can mask as depression so post-birth checkups are vital in maintaining both physical and mental health with canines. 
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At-Home Treatment for a Depressed Maltipoo

Ruling out any possible health issues, if a Maltipoo is depressed due to an event (loss of a family member, moving, too much time alone, etc.) there are some things that you can do at home to help bring your dog out of his funk. 

1) Introduce a New Element - It is very common for a depressed dog to have no interest in normal activities. He may be completely unenthusiastic to go for a walk or play with his toys. However, introducing a new activity can be just the trick. One of the most effective methods is to choose an activity away from the house. Just the new sights and sounds of someplace new can help make a depressed dog more alert and allow him to focus on something other than the element that was causing the depression. Some ideas include exploring a new 'easy' hiking path (be sure to bring along water and a few treat so that you can have a picnic along the way) or an outing to a beach or other shoreline (pond, lake, etc.). If you notice some improvement in how your Maltipoo is feeling, try to bring him to this new location and enjoy spending time together there at 1 to 3 times per week.

Aside from this, having some new toys that really draw in a dog's focus can help. Look for interactive toys (those that bounce or make noise) or choose a game that both of you can play together. *** For recommendations, look to 'Toys - Owner and Maltipoo Together' and 'Toys- Boredom' in the Maltipoo Specialty Shoppe.

2) Keep up with Exercise- Unless there is a health issue that is causing a dog to feel down, regular exercise is an important part of an overall treatment plan. While most depressed dogs will not be rearing to go when it's time for a walk, it's important to try stick with your Maltipoo's normal exercise routine or even bring things up a notch by adding another short walk to the day. Exercise can release 'feel good' chemical called endorphins and couple with exposure to light can help ease depression.   

3) Limit Changes for Some Elements- If one of your dogs has died and your Maltipoo is sad and missing his best friend, do not rush into getting a new dog. The loss of one family member and the stress of getting used to a new one can often be too overwhelming. Dogs, just like humans, need time to mourn. It can take several months for a dog work though his grief. 

In addition, this would be a bad time to rearrange furniture or make any other noticeable changes in the home. As time slowly heals wounds and the sharp sadness of missing someone gradual fades, a dog will then be much more open to a possible new puppy or changes in the house. 

4) In cases of a Maltipoo feeling sad and distressed due to being home alone, be sure to follow all guidelines of helping a dog cope with separation anxiety, which includes a companion toy, soothing pleasant noises, interesting toys and lights to keep the house bright. For ideas to help, look to 'Separation Anxiety Aides' in the Maltipoo Specialty Shoppe.

Medications and Veterinary Treatments

In cases of chronic depression where the at-home treatment methods do not work, there are some medications that have shown to work with canines. The good news is that while with humans, these anti-depressants often need to be taken for long periods of time, it is quite different with dogs. With Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, most dogs respond very well in as little as 1 week and can usually be taken off after 6 months with the depression cured. Another option is Clomicalm (Clomipramine Hydrochloride), which is an FDA approved medication for separation anxiety. It is a non-tranquilizing calming medication that has also been found to work effectively for depression. 

Summary

If your Maltipoo is depressed, you will first want to have any and all possible health conditions ruled out. Even if your dog has recently had a checkup, an issue may have developed between that time and now. In most cases, some at-home treatments including offering new exploratory situations and increased exercise can gradually help a dog feel better. In instances of experiencing a loss, time is the best healer as well as having an owner that is compassionate and patient.  
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