Can Pugs Get Depression?
Seems how pugs can’t talk to us, we can’t know for sure if pugs (or any dogs) get depression. However, many veterinarians who specialize in dog behavior believe they can and do.
Why Do Pugs Look Sad?
Some people feel that pugs always look sad. I’ve never really understood this, personally. I think pugs often look quite happy! My two pugs both seemed to “smile” quite a lot. My theory is that some people see pugs as looking sad because of their eyes. The way pug’s skulls are shaped, their eyes often bulge out of their head farther than most other dogs do. Their eyes also seem quite large in comparison to the rest of their head and body. Their big eyes allow them to give a “puppy dog eye” expression that will really pull on the heartstrings!
Frank and Beans both “smiling” while in the car.
Eyes are a big way that we show emotion, and big eyes are often seen as sad. I believe this is why some people see big pug eyes as “sad”.
Also, pugs often have excess skin. If they have excess skin around their mouth, this can cause a bit of a droopy look, which some may interpret as a frown.
This is Beans making her neutral/resting expression. She had excess skin around her muzzle and neck which can look like a “frown” to some.
Anyway…keep in mind that you may incorrectly think a pug “looks sad” without them actually feeling sad.
Signs That Your Pug Is Depressed
- Whining or whimpering.
- Not getting excited about things they normally enjoy.
- Less energetic than usual, or even lethargic.
- Less interest in food or treats.
- They aren’t opening their eyes as much as usual, almost like they are squinting slightly.
- Changes in their sleeping habits.
- Changes in their usual behaviors.
- Paw licking
- Acting restless or unable to settle
- Engaging with you or other family members less than usual.
While these are signs of depression in pugs, these can all also be signs of medical problems, pain or other conditions. It’s important to make sure that there is nothing physically or medically wrong with your pug if you see these behaviors. You don’t want to just assume that they are experiencing depression if you haven’t ruled out other causes.
Related blog post of mine: Common health problems in pugs.
Frank’s neutral expression.
Causes Of Pug Depression
Experts believe that while dogs have emotions like we do, they live more ‘in the moment’ than we do. When people experience depression, it’s also as a result of things that have happened to them in the past. That isn’t believed to be the case for dogs. Instead, they’re more likely to be responding to recent changes in their environment.
Some of the common causes of depression in pugs…
- Loss of a owner or human family member.
- Loss of another pet in the household, especially if they were bonded with the pug.
- A new baby or other new person joining the household.
- Someone in the household moving away.
- Unspayed females may get moody with their heat cycles.
- Seasonal affective disorder or lack of sunlight.
- A change in the pug’s schedule. For example, if they are being left home along longer than they used to.
- A change in frequency of socialization or attention.
- Seperation anxiety leading to depression.
- Having fears triggered often, such as being around someone who frequently scares them, or being in a new placement with loud animals that scare them.
- Pain or medical issues upsetting them.
How To Help A Depressed Pug
The upside to dogs being more likely to be sad about their current environment is, we can help their mood by changing their current situation. Some ways to help your depressed pug:
Give them special attention. Pugs are very social creatures, pugs pretty much always want attention. Giving them attention by holding them, petting them or playing with them is a great way to lift their spirits.
Go to their favorite places. Like people, dogs can see their mood lift just from a change of scenery. Take them along while you visit with a family member or friend. Or take them to the local dog park, or any park that is dog-friendly.
Let them see other animals. Assuming that they don’t have behavioral issues around other animals, letting them make a new friend can lift their mood! Sometimes older dogs will really perk up around puppies.
Spend time with them outside. Again, like people, sunshine can help improve a dog’s mood. If they’ve been spending most of their time inside, making sure they get more time outside may help. You could go on walks, go to the park, or just play in your yard. If it is really hot, be mindful that pugs are not very tolerant of intense heat. If it’s the summer time, it’s best to let them outside in the early morning or evenings, when it’s a bit cooler.
Feed them a healthy diet. I haven’t seen this one listed elsewhere, but it just seems logical to me that their diet could potentially impact their mental health.
Keep them feeling safe. Be mindful of their anxiety triggers and try to keep your home and their environment a place that feels safe to them. Pugs are emotionally intelligent little creatures. If there is a lot of stress, tension or anger in the home, they can be impacted by that.
Keep them busy. Sometimes the best thing for depressed people is to keep them active, so they don’t have too much time to dwell in their feelings. If the pug is depressed due to a recent experience such as the loss of a loved one, keeping them busy may help. In some cases pugs may get depressed if they’re really bored, too – so keeping them entertained can help in that case as well.
Don’t leave them home alone too much. I have a whole blog post on whether or not pugs should be left home alone all day. Pugs really crave being around people. If your work schedule requires you t be gone a lot, consider getting a dog walker to come in and give the dog some attention mid-day.
Medication. If you’re unable to improve your pug’s depression through other means, there are anti-depressant medications that have been approved for use in dogs. Consider talking to your vet about treatment.