Dog depression: Does my dog have the winter blues?

Posted by Betty. March 8th 2014.

It’s not just people who find themselves affected by long dark evenings, cold winter snaps and bad weather. Even our beloved pets are beginning to feel the strain, with man’s best friend in particular starting to show signs of depression and despondency.

Animal behavioural experts have pointed out that, similarly to their human counterparts, once the clocks go back our furry friends can also display some of the same symptoms as those suffering from Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). SAD strikes during the darker months and is linked to a lack of energy, oversleeping, feelings of depression, overeating and even problems socialising.

Whilst there is little doubt that man’s best friend tunes into their owners’ moods, is it really possible for them to suffer from the winter blues?

Read on to decide if your grumpy doggy is suffering from animal depression.

Sad dog

How can I tell if my dog has the winter blues?

Research by the PDSA has shown that 68% of pets are ‘grumpier’ in the winter. But what constitutes ‘grumpy’ behaviour? And how dramatic does the change in your animal’s behaviour have to be to indicate a case of animal SAD?

Although owners who know their animals well are best placed to make a diagnosis, generally speaking vets have noted that animals with the blues tend to become more lethargic, less playful and inactive at the onset of winter.

Compared to their summer behaviours, dogs can demonstrate a marked reluctance to go out for their routine exercise, bouts of irritability, oversleeping and an increased appetite. A combination of these behaviours can be clear indicators of an animal’s change in mood.

What changes can I make to improve my dog’s state?

Luckily, there are a variety of steps you can take to improve your depressed dog’s mood. In fact, they’re fairly similar to those used to help treat people affected by SAD.

The first step is to try to increase the amount of light the animal is exposed to. Open the curtains and turn on indoor lighting to create a brighter atmosphere.

Secondly, try to encourage your pet to play more. Whether fooling around indoors during daylight hours or exploring the winter wonderland that waits outside, introduce toys and games to keep your pooch energised and to prevent oversleeping. Hiding your dog’s favourite toys (and the occasional treat) to find is a great game to keep them occupied but you can also have fun in the snow with games of chase.

Thirdly, look at your pet’s diet. If their exercise routine has reduced due to bad weather (or a reluctance to go outside) then they probably won’t need to consume as many calories. Keeping an eye on their diet can prevent weight gain too.

Finally, help keep their spirits up with extra cuddles and attention. Although your pooch might already have fellow play-pals, some extra attention will never go amiss – and it might help banish your own winter blues too!

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