My Dog Knows Depression and Helps Me Through It

August 25, 2013 Liana M. Scott

Your dog knows depression and can help you get through even the toughest times. My dog helps me through my depressive episodes every time.

It is said that animals communicate through their energy. I’m no scientist, so I can’t really speak to the validity of that (Pet Therapy for Depression). What I do know for sure is that my dog is keenly aware of my depression and she knows just what to do when I’m suffering.

We were never allowed to have animals growing up; no cats, no dogs – just fish. From the time I was 18 and moved out of the house (and got married), I insisted on having a cat. We were apartment dwellers in the early days and cats just made sense.

When my first daughter came along, we had to give up my cat. My daughter was a preemie and needed a more-or-less clean-air environment. When she was six, we got her a cat. Then we got her younger sister a cat. Finally, we ended up getting our son his own cat too. We ended up with three cats – one for each of the kids.

With no offense to cat-lovers, as I truly do love cats, I was never able to really bond with any of our cats. Not in the way I’ve been able to bond with my sweet Cocker Spaniel, Cannelle.

My Dog Knows Depression Can Get the Best of Me

In 2001 and 2003, when I suffered my first and second major depressive episodes (MDE), I didn’t have a dog. I had heard about the existence of therapy dogs for all sorts of ailments, including mental illness. Having said that, I never really made the connection between what I had heard/read/seen and my own situation.

In 2008, after the death of my brother’s beloved yellow-lab, Spencer (who was like a big teddy bear and held a special place in all our hearts), I decided to rescue and adopt Cannelle. She had been through her own trauma having survived a forced breeding experience and delivery of a litter before she, herself, was barely a year old. The owners took her puppies from her (early!) then dumped her at the pound.

She seemed so sad in the pictures and in the words of the shelter owner, “I think she’s more than a little depressed. The poor thing just wanders around looking for her puppies.”

That clinched it. I felt we were kindred spirits.

In 2012, during my last MDE, Cannelle and I were side-by-side. She was with me through it all, providing a comfort beyond mere words. When I lay motionless in bed, she would nudge up against me and be motionless too. When I cried, she would let me bury my face in her belly fur and weep. When I felt up to going downstairs to watch TV, she would trot down the stairs and sit on the couch with me. When I had the pills in my hand and was debating ending my life, she sat on the floor next to me, compelling me with her big, brown eyes, not to do it.

I thank God and the universe every day for bringing this sweet creature into my life. I don’t know how she knows when I am depressed – she just knows. Equally delightful is when she knows I am happy – which she shows me with her vigorously wagging tail, her boundless energy, and love.

APA Reference
Scott, L. (2013, August 25). My Dog Knows Depression and Helps Me Through It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Liana M. Scott

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October, 29 2015 at 7:20 pm

I'm so glad to have found your page on how much your dog has helped you in your life! This is just more confirmation to those that are suffering from depression, on how much having a pet can help you!
unfortunately, i too suffer from depression. I believe my dog, peaches, was brought into my life at the right time and the right moment. we randomly went to the shelter one day and there she was. i had always wanted a dog, but couldnt ever afford one. i was finally in a place where i could have one. as soon as she was brought out of her cage, it was like we had chosen each other. i wouldnt let myself leave without taking her. (i say this cause i had absolutely no dog supplies prior to getting her)...
maybe a couple of months later, i had a huge depressive melt down, and like you, i was considering ending it. "what is the point of this life?" then as i sat there and she was chewing on her bone, God spoke to me saying, who will take care of peaches? it wasnt like a guilt thing, it was more of a reminder that she needed me. as much as i needed her. God used my dog to save my life and im a big believer in that. when i tell people about my dog, i always tell them that she saved my life.
what is more amazing. our bond being even stronger, when i do have depressive episodes, she will let me lay on her and cuddle with her.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kimberly Morgan
April, 24 2018 at 1:23 am

I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY NEEDED to hear that!!! Thank GOD 4 ppl like u!!

June, 28 2015 at 6:23 am

Wow when you described your story you described mine as well.
My Scarlett is still with me on my depression journey..she is heaven sent..i cant imagine what i would do without her.
I hope you are feeling better.

April, 5 2015 at 8:27 am

When my dad was dying of cancer his little dog was able to comfort him in a way that no one else could... After he died his spouse put the dog down even though there was nothing really wrong with it, just a few minor things. His spouse was an extremely selfish person who didn't want the responsibility of caring for an animal or anyone else for that matter...

March, 25 2015 at 6:36 pm

I rescued my dog 3 years ago. She was a broken spirit she was just a puppy found on the streets walking like she had some sort of physical pain. We took her to our vet and it turns out the bone spurs on down her back are from someone abusing her. She was just a baby when I picked her up that day she was scared of everyone I sat in the backseat with her on the way to home while my boyfriend drove. I think that's when she decided I was her human I told her I'd protect her and find her a good home (I had an animal rescue at this time I was just supposed to foster her until we found a perfect home) a couple months went by spending everyday with her sleeping with her teaching her tricks building her confidence and she was ready for a home! I was happy for her and so sad. The family that had adopted a dog from us before who was a wonderful family with kids dogs a pool a huge house what more could I ask for. We took her on the home visit and I knew they could give her a better life than I could because I have been battling depression since 17. We took her to her new home and I cried and cried infront of the new owners and when I left they had to hold her back because she tried to leave with me and while I was walking to the car heartbroken I could hear her crying. My mom told me that they would be a better home and whatnot so we left with me crying for hours. Then hours turned to days into weeks. But I just wanted her to be happy! One day I got a call from the adopters that their other dog was becoming too protective of her and was snapping at the older dog in the house and they were so upset but the trainer said this problem couldn't be fixed and they needed to give her up. I was so happy to go get her I canceled my plans and got in the car and drove to their house with everyone crying because they too loved her I assured them I wasn't going to adopt her out and I would keep her (so still to this day they can check on her and see pictures)
Everything was great I had my best friend back I was sure I'd never let her go again because we were meant to be. What ended up happening is I fell into deep depression and this dog, my dog, has this weird ability to feel my emotions. The days where I would lay in bed all day when it's nice outside and the other dogs were outside playing she would lay right next to me not moving until I would get up to make her eat drink and go potty. She is the best dog I could ever ask for I can't believe I thought I rescued her. When I overdosed I went downstairs to go say goodbye to her and between looking at her face and her laying her head on me while I cried and my mom asking me what was wrong I told her and we were able to get to the ER in time. The months after that where I couldn't see her were torture I felt like a bad dog mom because I couldn't call her and tell her that I would be home soon and that I didn't leave her. I'm back at home now she gives me something to look forward to every morning every day every night. She saved me and sticks by me everyday she doesn't care if I'm sad and no fun sometimes. She's my girl

December, 4 2014 at 9:58 am

I have a Cane Corso name Norma. She is Gods gift to me. I have 5 children and she loves us all but she and I have a Unbreakable bond. While she is the sweetest gentle giant that I have ever seen, she is aware of all of my emotions. I notice it when I'm afraid of something she immidiately goes into alert mode and when I'm upset and sad, She will bump me and try to lift my arms with her big head and I am forced to pet her and not focus on all the other stuff. I truly love Norma and it's really true that the best dogs are the adopted ones. I to rescued my dog from a shelter and she picked us we were not looking for her.

Cameo Franz
November, 1 2014 at 2:40 pm

My poodle and Chihuahua "lick" me whenever I sit or lay down. It can be annoying after a while as they do it so "insistently". I suffer from Chronic Depression and Chronic Insomnia and Panic Attacks. I wonder if they pick up on this from my stress hormones/scent? I know animals can smell stress scents: sadly I have that at least once daily. I am now further stressed because I need to "hide" my distress/crying/panic: I go outside when I can. Any input or advice appreciated. Cameo

September, 4 2013 at 4:37 am

Barbarians seize this dog who so prodigiously surpasses man in friendship. - Voltaire
Much can be learned from animals. They simply know how to be present. So many people feel compelled to try and "fix" things - even if they have no idea what it is they're trying to fix. Of course when they do this, it only makes matters worse, and then they become angry with you. My dog is such a blessing. She is not only comforting to me, but to other people, too. And she does all this without uttering a wasteful word.
I also wanted to add that cats can be great during a depressive episode. I remember a particularly bad episode where I just cried my eyes out for hours. My cat sat by my right shoulder and rubbed his head against my forehead until I stopped. Then he snuggled into my lap and just purred. What a great comfort! He enabled me to make it to the next day. Unfortunately, I was too ill too keep him. I miss very much.

August, 27 2013 at 3:47 pm

I agree that dogs are very perceptive to our moods. They can sense when we are out of balance. I worked with a client who was death but could read lips. She would bring her dog who was a registered therapeutic dog. When she was stressed out the dog would lie on top of her so that the weight of the dog would help to calm her down. She also suffered from pulling out her eyebrows due to stress and the dog would know exactly when to come to her and nudge her hand away from her hair. It was amazing to watch.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Liana Scott
August, 28 2013 at 6:08 am

WOW! Yes, trained therapy dogs are amazing! My Cannelle isn't trained... she's just a precious gift.

August, 27 2013 at 1:14 pm

My dog is a tending nurse/angel when I am severely ill. Last year I was in a hospital 3 wks. I came home to a caring dog. She, too, lays still next to me, she licks me as if she says I will be ok. She walks close by and stares into my eyes. I had major surgery on Aug 13. She is nurse on duty. I'm blessed to have her in my life!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Liana Scott
August, 28 2013 at 6:05 am

Oh Sheryl. How very blessed you are, indeed.
August, 27 2013 at 5:12 am

A dog can smell the different hormones. We smell different when we're depressed. We have 3 dogs and they all know when I'm down. At my worst ever time of depression my kids brought me a puppy. She has been the best companion ever. She's a staffie cross yet sits or lies on my shoulder.

August, 27 2013 at 4:12 am

I understand how very true this is. We had 4 dogs, and Finnegan, our chocolate lab, was a life saver more than once. It was like he could read my every emotion. He passed away from a stroke this past June and I miss him so very much. More so because I feel like I've lost one of the ones who so understood without ever saying a word.
We have 3 dogs now, but none of them seem to have the awareness he had.
I'm going through a battle right now, to the point where I'm thinking I need to be hospitalized again. Oh how I wish I had my little brown boy here to just hold and cry. I love my husband with all my heart and soul, but Finnegan was so very special to me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Liana Scott
August, 27 2013 at 4:33 am

Hi Pennie. Oh my. It is hard enough to lose a family dog, harder still to lose the one with whom you have formed the closest bond. RIP Finn. I suppose the other 3 dogs know their place in the pack (and in your heart) from when Finn was with you. You could make an effort to bond with one of the other 3 - or introduce another... a new dog that you choose. So many dogs need adopting as I'm sure you know. Venturing into the world of internet shelter searches may be just what you need to help divert yourself - rescue a new dog in Finn's name. Originally when I adopted Cannelle, I did it in Spencer's honour because he was just such a wonderfully sweet animal. Little did I know that Cannelle would become my sidekick. Is a great place to start.
I wish you all the best, Pennie.

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