Blue Monday: Do dogs really suffer from the winter blues?
A pet expert reveals how our own low mood can impact our pets and how to treat the most common mental health issues.
Blue Monday is fast approaching, and on a day that's supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, it once again highlights the importance of looking after our own mental health and of those around us - including that of our pets.
Do our pets get depressed?
January can often be a month filled with anxiety, gloom, and uncertainty as we begin the New Year. Whilst most of us struggle with the festive comedown, we often forget the impact our low moods can have on our beloved pets. Our furry friends help to boost our mood and studies have shown that dogs help to reduce our stress hormone levels simply by petting them, but is it possible for our furry friends to pick up on our negative feelings when we’re feeling anxious and in turn, mimic our behaviour?
New research released from our personalised online pet store Yappy.com has revealed that ONE IN FIVE dogs/cats suffer from anxiety or depression, with 27% of pet owners claiming their own mood affects their pet’s mood, and they’re worrying about the impact it is having on their mental health.
Mental health in pets
Given that pets help our mental health in so many ways, whether that’s adding structure to our day, helping us to meet new people, reducing anxiety and boosting our self-confidence, increasing physical activity, or simply just providing companionship, they deserve to receive the same care in return. In response to these findings, John Smith, Pet Expert and Founder of Yappy.com, discusses mental health in pets, and what we can do to help them.
“It might come as quite a shock to many people that pets can suffer from mental health issues and surprisingly they do suffer from similar behavioural issues to us, picking up on our moods, behaviours and body language. Dogs often show us that they’re unhappy by sleeping more, being less playful, becoming grumpy and eating more.”
So, how can we look after our own mental health and in turn help keep our pets happy?
If you’re feeling happy and positive, the chances are that your dog will too! Try these tips for enhancing winter wellness and banishing the winter blues…
Add structure to your day: pets thrive off routine. Feeding, walking, and caring for your pet at the same time each day can help you both to remain focused and grounded, so even if you don’t feel like dragging yourself out of bed in the morning, you’ve got a four-legged friend that’s relying on you to make their day with a much-loved walk, giving you that sense of purpose to kickstart your day and get moving.
A late morning walk with your best furry friend is the best way to get your day off to a positive start. Spending time in nature has been proven to improve our overall health and being exposed to sunlight – albeit hard to find in the winter months - helps to increase the happy hormone serotonin, which in turn improves your mood, helps you feel more awake and regulates sleep patterns for a more restful night’s sleep.
Spending 15-20 minutes playing with your pet and a range of their favourite dog toys can really boost your mood and prevent boredom in your dog or cat. Hide and seek, ball games, chasing each other and practising tricks are all great ways to bond with your pet (and provide extra indoor exercise on wet days).
Arrange a doggy date with another owner and chat away whilst supervising the dogs loving life, running around and doing what they do best!
What are the most common mental health issues in pets?
“Unfortunately, depression is more common in our pets than we might think. The most common signs that a pet is depressed are: they seem sad, lethargic/their energy levels have decreased, their appetite has changed, or they don’t crave attention as much as they used to.
“The good news is that depression in pets is normally temporary and caused by a major life change, such as moving home and not feeling settled. Always seek professional advice from a vet if you have any concerns.”
“Separation anxiety is the most common mental health issue in pets, in fact at least one in 10 suffer (11%) with the condition. Separation anxiety often occurs when pets become too reliant on spending time with their owner and suddenly get less attention than usual (especially apparent in our poor lockdown pets!)
“If your pet is whining excessively, scratching (themselves or the furniture), destroying items, or pacing in circles any time they are left alone, they could be suffering from separation anxiety.”
“This is one we all know quite well, many pets are anxious of loud noises, whether that be fireworks, thunderstorms or loud music. As many as one in three (33%) of pets are scared of fireworks, and common signs include hiding, trembling, whimpering/whining, and pacing back and forth or in circles.”
“Pets don’t get diagnosed with OCD like humans, but feelings of anxiety, fear, boredom, and frustration can all lead to compulsive behaviours, such as excessive grooming, pacing, and whining.
“OCD is common in pets who aren’t getting as much attention as they’d like - it’s important to remember that if they’re a solo pet, you’re solely responsible for all their attention! That’s not to say blame yourself, just give them those extra cuddles when you can.”
How can I treat them?
“Although the treatment varies depending on how much your pet is suffering, there are numerous things you can do to help them:
Lifestyle adjustments: A new year brings new possibilities. If you have a big move coming up, you’re starting a new job, or you’re welcoming a new family member, just remember that it will take a bit of time for your pet to adjust. Getting used to these things takes time. Gradually get them comfortable with situations without overwhelming them - show them around the new home before moving in day, practice spending less time with them for that new job, or slowly introduce baby items/noises to get them used to it.
Train them to modify behaviour: if you’re wanting to help change your pet’s reaction to people, sounds or scenarios, invest in time and some tools to train them! Consider investing in a professional trainer if you have the means and need expert advice.
Supplements: various supplements are available to offer additional nutritional support for anxiety and other ailments. Yappy’s soft and tasty veterinary-approved calming supplements for dogs can be eaten like a treat and contain calming ingredients to help soothe your pooch.
Seek help from a medical professional: if you’re really worried about your pet, it’s always best to seek advice from a medical professional, as they will be able to get to the root of the problem and will advise on the best course of action to treat it.”
Walkies with Yappy
We know that during the winter months it’s hard to drag yourself out of the house, especially when it’s chilly outside, but just remember how good both you and your dog will feel after getting some fresh air and stretching your legs!
To make sure you’re fully kitted out for your next walkies session with your furry friend, Yappy.com has a wide selection of dog walk essentials, including leads and collars, poop bags and walking bags. Or, why not keep yourself hydrated while out exercising with your own water bottle or travel mug?
Yappy to Help
If you have any questions relating to this article or need any support with a Yappy gift order, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for all customer service-related queries and we’ll be more than happy to help.
Notes to editor
Yappy.com is a personalised shop for pet lovers, offering a huge range of exclusive products for you and your dog or cat that you won’t find anywhere else. Simply choose a product, upload a photo or choose an icon from over 450 different breeds, add their name and you’re done - pawsome presents in minutes!