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Winter Doggy Depression and SAD: Symptoms, Causes and Cures
According to the latest NHS statistics, more than 1.54 million people in the UK were in contact with some form of Mental Health Services at the beginning of 2022 and that figure does not account for people seeking private help or no help at all with their mental health issues.
In the modern world, mental health is a well-publicised problem and is, thankfully, being taken more seriously than it ever has before, helping thousands of people get the support they need.
The winter can also be a particularly testing time for people, as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can affect many, exacerbating symptoms of poor mental health.
But, did you know it’s possible for dogs to suffer from poor mental health and SAD too? Some studies have shown that up to 74% of dogs show signs of depression and anxiety and that nearly a quarter of all dog owners had no idea this was a potential problem for their pooches.
So, in this post, we will be giving you a round-up of all the latest research on poor mental health and SAD in dogs during the winter months and will try to answer the questions; how do we spot the signs of depression in our dogs, what can cause mental health issues in them and how do we help our dogs to manage and prevent those symptoms?
Spotting the Signs of Doggy Depression and SAD
Not unlike in us humans, the symptoms of mental health issues and SAD in dogs can be varied and not always the easiest to spot, due, in no small part, to them being signs of numerous other problems. However, the most common signs include; lethargy (and conversely hyperactivity!!), loss of appetite, destructiveness, excessive barking, loss of toilet training and aggression. It is worth noting that these symptoms can also be attributed to many other causes and any mental health problems should be diagnosed by your vet before undertaking any kind of treatment. It is also essential that you regularly monitor the behaviour of your dogs so that when a change occurs you are ready to help them relieve the symptoms as soon as possible.
Causes of Winter Mental Health Issues in Dogs
The main cause of SAD in the winter months for our dogs is down to us, their owners. In the winter we are less likely to exercise our dogs as much and fewer walks lead to less quality time with our pets and less mental stimulation for them too.
According to Dr Vaterlaws-Whiteside, Chief Scientific Officer at the Guide Dogs’ Association, dogs needing just one or two walks a day to be content is “an outdated viewpoint”. In the summer months, our canine companions are more likely to join us outside in the garden or on trips out and about, allowing them to exercise and stimulate their minds a great deal more. However, it is not all down to us, many dogs hate the cold and the wet and plainly refuse to engage in physical activity when the weather is being a beast. The lack of daylight at this time of year can also cause issues, walking in the dusk and dark can be dangerous and the need for leads becomes more prevalent, preventing your dog from exercising their brain with their usual bouts of sniffing and searching.
Prevention and Helping to Relieve the Blues
The easiest way to make sure your dogs get through the winter with their mental health intact is to ensure they are exercised as regularly as they are in the summer months. Little and often is always the best policy and if you are away for long periods of time during the days and find it hard to fit in regular trips out, why not invest in a dog walker or doggy daycare?
Winter clothing for your dog can also be an easy way to ensure they are enthused by a trip into the great outdoors when the days are short. Dog coats are a great investment and will last many years if looked after properly. Have a look at our great range from Hurtgta Here>
If more walks are not an option, try investing in some puzzle toys to keep your dog active and mentally stimulated. These can be especially good when it becomes impossible or dangerous to walk them outside.
Finally, why not sign up for training or agility classes that are held indoors? Your dog might be the best behaved already, but they will love the chance to show off and spend some of their pent-up energy in a warm and friendly environment.
So, if you think your dog might be at risk of feeling the winter blues, try some of our top tips and avoid them being affected by the nasty symptoms of depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder.
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