Yesterday was Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year. Typically the third Monday of January, the concept was first publicised as part of a 2005 press release from holiday company Sky Travel which claimed to have calculated the date using an equation. Christmas is over, it’s cold and dark, and people start to feel a slump in motivation. But people are not those only ones affected by depression. Although dogs are generally renowned for being very happy, upbeat animals, and are often credited with lifting the spirits of the people around them, most dogs will go through a ‘down’ phase now and then too. If you have noticed a change in your dog’s behaviour and they don't seem to be interested in anything, it is possible that your dog may be depressed.
Because a dog cannot communicate like a person, it is often difficult to properly diagnose them. It is also worth bearing in mind that a dog’s depression is often a reflection of its owner- if you have been feeling down lately, your dog will empathise with you strongly. While your vet can guide you and support your in helping your dog, you know them better than anyone and it is important that you look out for the warning signs:
• Lack of interest in food, which can range from a mild disinterest right up to a refusal to eat
• Slightly slow reactions
• Not as keen to go for walks
• Disinterested in play
• Sleepy and listless
• Clinging to their favourite person or toys more than normal
• Not keen to leave the home
It is important to note that any of these symptoms may also relate to a physical illness. Depression itself can be a symptom of something bigger. Key triggers to look out for include:
• Loss of a family member (human or animal). Your dog may be grieving.
• Moving home
• Introduction of a new pet or person into the home
• Other changes to their general routine
• Empathy for an owner who is depressed or unhappy themselves
To make your dog feel better, be sure to spend a lot of time with them, make them feel loved. It is very important to stick with their routine and not to do things like overfeed them or forget to take them for walks. Regularity provides stability, for both humans and dogs, and if you are there for each other you will help each other to beat the winter blues.