Is my dog depressed?
August 17, 2017 9:07 AM   Subscribe

My dog is a four year old Rhodesian Ridgeback. He has so little energy that I worry he is depressed. Should I pursue this with the vet or is it just the way he is?

Here he is in his glory.

He is not a big eater. He is 100 lbs and very muscular. Not overweight.

Even though he is intact he is not aggressive, very much "beta" and he's never humped anything to my knowledge.

I'm worried because he naps so much. He goes for a fifteen minute walk two or three times a day and when he gets home its back to the couch or our bed. Sometimes he will wander around the house but its always in pursuit of another place to lay down. He NEVER stands up in the house when he doesn't have to, not even when people come over.

He won't go for a walk when it's raining and will hold his pee in for the whole day until we actually push him out the door.

When he goes to doggy daycare he is absolutely EXHAUSTED and will refuse to go outside for the entire next day.

When he was younger he was much more rambunctious and playful. These days he enjoys being chased for MAYBE 5 minutes, and then he rolls onto his back because he is tired. He's only four!

We stopped going to the dog park because he is a target (testicles) and instead of playing he just pees on everything and then wants to go home.

Does this sound normal? My husband says he is fine but my mother in law thinks that there is something wrong with him because he sleeps so much.
posted by pintapicasso to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is not normal. I don't know enough about dogs to give you a list of what it might be, but this is absolutely not normal and you need to take him to the vet.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:09 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Lethargy in a previously energetic dog is always worth investigating. It is one way that many illnesses manifest themselves. Take him to the vet.

(Also, an intact Rhodesian Ridgeback male is a real social risk in the dog world and requires careful management to avoid conflict. Please discuss the possibility of neutering him when you go to the vet.)
posted by praemunire at 9:14 AM on August 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

Oof, I should have mentioned that this is not a drastic change. He's always been on the slow end of the spectrum but in the last year or so he has settled at this level.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2017

He could very easily have a non-psychological ailment that could be fixed (vitamin deficiency, parasite, infection). That seems like abnormally low energy for a young dog. I would definitely get it checked out.
posted by *s at 9:25 AM on August 17, 2017

Oh man thank you all. Made an appointment for tomorrow. Thank you SO much.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Definitely see the vet because if it's something that's raised your attention, that matters. But I must say, having owned two Ridgebacks, your description is basically exactly how I would have described their normal behavior from about this age onwards. Short burst of energy followed by long stretches of concern mostly over couch space.

Is this your first Ridgeback, or have you had other types of dogs before? I've found Ridgebacks (especially adults) to be very introverted, sensitive dogs. No interest in fawning over people. Highly athletic but super lazy. I ask only because if a person is used to outgoing, unreserved dogs (maybe like labradors or goldens), a ridgeback will be a very foreign creature in my experience.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Please let us know what you find out. Your dog reminds me of my Regis, except Regis is not, to my knowledge, a Ridgeback, and he is 11.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2017

This sounds totally normal for certain breeds to me. I've a greyhound cross and this is absolutely typical for sighthounds.
posted by bimbam at 9:52 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have known three different dogs that were uncharacteristically mellow to turn up with medical conditions (one was discovered when the dog dropped dead of heart failure at about five years old, another turned out to have drastically compromised lung function, the third was just being especially stoic about a blown-out knee) so it's definitely worth checking out.

My in-laws have a ridgeback and I went with them to visit the breeder a couple of times, and the idea of an intact male ridgeback that won't bother to get up to investigate new people seems very unusual to me. They're not border collies, sure, but you're making the right call getting him looked at.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:52 AM on August 17, 2017

When my dog started "slowing down due to age", it turned out she had a thyroid deficiency and arthritis pain. Treating both is easy and greatly improves her quality of life.

From a quick Google, sounds like hypothyroidism from an inherited autoimmune condition is not unusual in Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Glad you are getting him checked out.
posted by superna at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2017

I would definitely have it checked out by the vet, just in case. My Great Dane, which is known to be a super lazy dog, has more energy than this. Especially considering he's intact (seconding praemunire's suggestion above about neutering) I would expect him to have more of a reaction to things like people coming in.

I am glad to hear it's not a sudden change, since we had a dog suddenly become lethargic and found it was due to cancer.

It might just be the way he is, but why worry when you can have the vet check things out and know for sure.
posted by thejanna at 10:19 AM on August 17, 2017

I don't want to say don't worry, and I'm glad you are getting him checked out, but RRs *can* be very mellow. My senior RR (>12 years old) started to mellow out when he was about 4 which meant sleeping around the house all day with random zoomies. Granted, he would never let someone come into the house without a once over, but they are notoriously aloof and don't need a lot of human interaction and they are quite mellow and lazy in the home. That being said, mine still had bursts of energy - and still does, though those episodes are much fewer these days.

I'm assuming you got him from a breeder - if so, have you checked to see with them if other litters have similar behaviors? Also, just as a side note, mine has never wanted to walk outside in the rain and I would have to drag him outside - still do - and he was also typically exhausted for at least 2 days after daycare, so I don't think those two characteristics are that unusual, even for a young RR.

I'm glad you are getting him checked out, though! Let us know how it goes.
posted by canda at 10:46 PM on August 17, 2017

Update: I took him to the vet and she took some blood that will take a few days to come back. She felt pretty certain that there is not anything wrong with him. Despite being a couch potato he has put on 6 lbs of muscle since the last visit. He is strong and weighs plenty for his size. She suggested that his laziness might be due to the heat and I think she might be right! When I make him go swimming he zooms around for a few minutes afterwards, maybe because he has cooled off?

She did echo what a poster said above, which is that rhodesian ridgebacks are basically polar opposite from labs and that I shouldn't expect him to have that much energy. He is probably on the lazier end of the spectrum. Still I am glad she took some blood tests just in case.
posted by pintapicasso at 12:07 PM on August 18, 2017

In case anyone was losing sleep over this, the bloodwork came back totally normal. I contacted his breeder for a separate reason and mentioned my concern to him and he said that this is totally normal for rhodesian ridgebacks and sight hounds in general. PHEW!!
posted by pintapicasso at 11:29 AM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

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