Often, it can be after a celebratory period – such as Christmas or Easter – when there’s been lots of people, activity and excitement. Then everything returns to normal and the house falls quiet.
According to the PDSA, over 2.3 million dogs are left alone for five or more hours in a day. If you’re going back to work after a social festive season, your absence is likely to have a palpable effect on your dog’s mood and perhaps cause separation anxiety too. Dogs are naturally very social animals, so loneliness is a common problem.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Research shows that dogs may also be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), caused by the shorter days and a lack of sunlight in the winter months. It is also thought that pets can suffer from SAD because they mirror their owner’s mood. If you’re feeling SAD, try to do things that make both you and your pet feel more positive, including getting out together in the daylight hours.
On the look-out
The key thing to remember is that canine depression can arise at any point in the year and is usually bought on by a distressing event. If you’re considering moving house, introducing a new pet or significantly changing their routine, monitor them closely. The symptoms of doggy depression can be similar to those seen in humans. Look out for signs of them becoming withdrawn or lazy, with a loss of interest in food or exercise.
You may also notice them sleeping more or in severe cases, exhibiting behavioural problems such as aggression or having accidents around the house. If you see any of these symptoms, take your pet for a check-up to rule out any underlying medical problems.
New Year Resolutions
Start the New Year positively with some simple resolutions that are sure to beat the blues.
Set up play dates - Interaction with other animals is great for your pet’s mental health. Meeting with other dogs will help to keep your dog entertained and improve their social skills no matter what age they are.
Try a new activity – Increasing exercise may already be top of your own list of resolutions, so find ways to incorporate your pet. How about hiking, running or even stand up paddle boarding?
Incorporate play time – This should be an important part of your daily routine. Playtime helps to cement your bond, gives them some exercise and challenges their brain.
Get a check-up – Yearly examinations with your vet are a vital part of keeping your pet in the best of health. Most medical conditions are much easier to manage when caught in the early stages. This is especially important for ageing pets who may become more prone to things like diabetes or arthritis.
Reduce their alone time – Set a four-hour limit on their alone time. This may mean re-jigging a hectic lifestyle or looking for someone who could step in to give them a little extra company every now and then.