Blue Monday

combat the blues with your four-legged friend

20th January 2020 is supposedly the most depressing day of the year for us Brits - dubbed 'Blue Monday', the day of the year where we are, as a nation, feeling the most miserable. With Chrismas behind us, failed new year resolutions and a lack of sunshine, safe to say many of us may be feeling a little down in the dumps. Did you know, however, that your four-legged friend may be feeling a little under the weather too?

Research has shown that our four-legged friends can exhibit symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months. Dogs by nature want to be outside in natural sunlight, exploring and getting their paws grubby, but for a number of reasons, these moments are missed. Many pet owners put off walking in the dark for safety reasons, while others don't like to get out with their dogs in the rain. This trend means that our dogs often take on a more sedentary lifestyle, with reduced exposure to daylight.

Recent statistics from our friends at PitPat show that of the 20,000 dogs across the country wearing their fitness monitors, their dogs are walked 20% less during the winter months. So even the most dedicated of owners don't escape the natural effect of winter weather on our dog-walking habits.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is the result of two opposing hormones – Melatonin and Serotonin - and how the balance of these hormones are affected as a result of reduced light exposure during the winter. This lack of sunlight causes an increase in Melatonin, which makes mammals sleepier. It also leads to low levels of Serotonin (commonly known as the ‘Happy Hormone’), which can lead to depression and a craving for comfort food.

Symptoms to look out for

  • Sleeping more
  • Reluctant to go outside
  • Less active than usual
  • Less energy/are lethargic
  • Eating more
  • Generally hungrier
  • Desire to be alone and in a quiet place
  • Eating more comfort food/begging for human food more often
  • Sadder than usual
  • Less playful

Top tips for reducing SAD in dogs

  • Taking walks in daylight hours is a must and when on walks get dogs really moving; jumping logs and chasing balls
  • During the week when time may be limited, try placing your pet's bed under a skylight or close to a window to help take advantage of what little light there is
  • Nutrition plays a big part in mood, and poor diet can be directly linked to lethargy and depression within canines
  • Play games inside the home to stimulate the dog, such as ‘find it’ games, indoor agility or ‘take it and leave it’ games
  • No matter the size or shape of your pet, the garden offers a great outdoor space for your dog to get some natural sunlight
  • Feed your dog a healthy, natural diet and avoid nasties and fillers. Eating poor quality dog food, or even human leftover food, can increase behavioural problems and isn’t good for the overall health of dogs

To find out more about Seasonal Affective Disorder, and to watch our video featuring canine behaviourist Nick Jones click here .