Do pets get the January blues and what to do about it?
As resident office hound, Molly, our beautiful Jack Russell sometimes seems to have ‘sad days’. This may be something to do with her being a rescue dog and the time she spent alone before she came into our lives, but could it also be the time of year? With ‘Blue Monday’ (typically the third Monday of January, claimed to be the most depressing day of the year) rapidly approaching, could she be suffering from the winter blues?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a big contributor to seasonal depression in humans. This time of year we spend more time hidden away indoors and, in general, we have less sunny days and a smaller amount of natural daylight. It’s not just humans who suffer from SAD. Evidence from a recent study by the PDSA suggests that our pets, too, are affected by the lack of sunlight etc. this time of year.
Another trigger could be missing loved ones. If our dogs have had the kids home over Christmas it’s a big change when they go back to school.
As many as one in three dog owners claim to have seen a distinct downturn in their pooches' moods during the winter months. A surprising half of dog owners feel our canine friends slept for longer, with two fifths claiming their dogs are generally less active. A third of cat owners say they see a change in their pets, saying they seem ‘sadder’ and less playful during the shorter days. Other signs of SAD in our dogs might include sleeping more, ‘snappy’ behaviour, demanding more attention, reduced appetite, increased barking, weeing in the house (or other messes), inappropriate chewing or scratching at furniture, weight loss, self isolation (“I’ll be over here, looking sad”) and being withdrawn.
So how can we help? We can do this in exactly the same way we help ourselves at this time of year, with artificial sunlight. Special bulbs and light boxes work really well for both our pets and us. By getting 30-45 minutes each day of artificial sunlight, it helps to balance the body’s production of melatonin and, therefore, helps to keep sleep cycles more stable and to keep our pets moods more in balance. Extra attention never goes a miss. If we play with our cats and dogs, keeping them active, it all helps to promote better sleep patterns. Exercise leads to sleep, which we can encourage at the right time and we can use walking to make sure they get more natural light. With dogs, distractions work well, the odd doggy play-date or visitor can do wonders to perk them up for short periods.
Have you noticed your dog or cat’s behaviour change? Do you think your pets might be suffering from the January blues? Do you know anything that helps your canines or kitties this time of year? Let us know on Facebook on facebook.com/hilifedog or facebook.com/hilifecat, Twitter on @hilifecat @hilifedog or Instagram at hilifepets.