It is well known that depression is a hallmark of arthritis. Pain leads to a chemical stress response in the brain, and over time, that response — an ongoing imbalance in neurotransmitters — is what leads to the mood disorder. Add to that the sleep deprivation and loss of mobility that comes with arthritis, and the depression can become even more entrenched.
Rheumatologists who treat arthritis in people know that even if they get the pain under control, overall mood can lag, and their patients may need therapy or antidepressant medication. It’s not like the minute the pain goes away, mood resiliently rebounds.
Now, veterinary researchers at the UK’s University of Bristol are recruiting arthritic dogs for a study to see if the same holds true for our canine friends. The motivation for participating in life will be judged by their interest in responding to cues for performing various tricks they have been taught.
The good news: If arthritic dogs are indeed found to be depressed, strategies such as increased attention, a little more moderate exercise (once their disease has been successfully treated), and, in some cases, antidepressants, can help bring their mood back to where it should be.