Your dog’s depression may get worse, so you should help them survive this time. To better understand what dogs suffering from winter depression experience, let’s go back to our own experiences. When our mood goes down for some reason, we can either feel sad and discouraged, or be irritable and tense. We are also trying to do something that will improve our mood. Most often, in order not to be bland, we give ourselves small pleasures, such as computer games, coffee with friends, a good book or shopping.
Dogs react in a similar way, because their well-being is regulated like ours – on the principle of homeostasis. This means that the mental apparatus tends to balance and restore good mood. We have our own ways of releasing tension and providing satisfaction, and dogs – ours. They depend on race, age and past experience, as well as on the response of the environment and possibilities.
Depression in the dog. Does your dog have her?
If for at least 5 days:
- sleeps much more than before
- he is definitely less active and it is difficult to get him to play, which he had enjoyed so far
- walks do not please him or want to return home quickly
- much less than before and begins to lose weight
… he may have been the victim of depression
Depression in a dog – autumn boredom
The first attack of behavior problems occurs shortly after the autumn cold weather, when the grills and deckchairs disappear from the terraces, the door to the garden opens less often, there are fewer birds, passers-by, sounds and smells. Also, walking and playing with caregivers become shorter and less frequent.
Dogs living outside often try to secure some attractions on their own feet. They destroy flower beds, make grass roots, are more excitable and barking, guard the area with greater passion, and if they have problems with aggression, they show it more often and more intensively.
These problems were experienced by the carers of Kora, an adolescent collie mixed bitch. The immediate reason for seeking help was the biting of hands, the intrusive demand for interest and the destruction of newly planted trees. The bark lived on the edge of the village near Kraków. Her owners working in the city spent most of the day away from home. At that time, the dog was left alone on a large property. In the summer, the guardians returned before dark and often bustled around the house, and Kora was always with them. The autumn change in the rhythm of the day, forcing a significant decrease in activity and limiting contact with guardians, caused the dog’s well-being to deteriorate. The bitch’s behavior became the way the bitch found it to improve it. Active morning and evening walks, combined with fun, providing chews for the time when the dog is left alone, and closer contact with the owners caused that the trouble ended quickly.
Depression in a dog – winter cold
If the state of frustration lasts longer, it can lead to a constant decrease in mood. The dog becomes apathetic, he does not feel like walking, playing and social contacts – both with guardians and with dogs. He sleeps more, eats less, which means he may lose weight. Although in our climate most animals (including us, humans) react to winter aura with a natural decrease in the level of activity and slowdown, but if our pet’s condition persists longer or is extremely severe, it’s worth checking to see if something bad is happening.
First of all, the veterinarian should examine the dog and assess whether the depressed mood and lack of natural activity are caused by physiological factors. Emotions and well-being are regulated by the nervous system thanks to the complicated play of hormones and neurotransmitters. An imbalance or deficit of some of them adversely affects the dog’s behavior. Modern veterinary medicine has many drugs that improve mood in such situations.
Together with the veterinarian, it is also worth considering whether the neurohormonal imbalance can be caused by an improper diet. If there are such suspicions, it is worth changing it or using vitamin-mineral preparations prescribed by your doctor.
Infect your dog with your joy
Even if depression in a dog causes aversion to activity, which is caused by the state of the body, care should be taken to ensure the attachment and mental stimulation of the pet. Systematic movement and mental activity improve the mood because they increase the level of hormones and neurotransmitters. It is worth making a list of your dog’s favorite activities and systematically offering them in a more attractive form.
The most important, however, is the attitude, emotions and commitment of the guardians – arousing joy in the dog, motivating him to the desired behavior, rewarding with fun or caress. To help an animal suffering from chronic sadness, we should give him a lot of our joy – every exaggeration and inventiveness in showing it is here! Encouraging him to play and walks should be saturated with vivid emotions.
At home, in addition to games, it is worth spending some time on massage. It improves the circulation and blood circulation of the skin, stimulating and relaxing. It can be combined with brushing and grooming, because many depressed dogs neglect their cleaning rituals. In addition, due to limited traffic, the coat becomes compact and not ventilated.
Four-year-old Luka, a golden retriever bitch, living in a block of flats with her older couple, became less active at the beginning of December and began to lose her appetite. She left the house almost exclusively at the suggestions of her guardians, and walked slowly, with her head bowed, rarely sniffing or interested in playing with other dogs. From day to day she became less joyful, came reluctantly at her command, and most of the day she slept under the table. Despite the efforts of the carers, she did not eat much. Even friends who came to the house, whom she had once greeted with exuberant joy, could only count on a sad wave of tail.
The veterinarian did not find anything alarming about her health. However, when we compared the rhythm of Luka’s daily activities a few months ago and now, it turned out that they differ significantly. Not only that, due to the weather and falling darkness, the dog was recently taken out only for three short walks, the guardian, usually playing with him, to earn a pension, took up additional work in the afternoons. In winter, much less guests visited the house, and less was taken care of the dog because of the festive cleaning and preparation.
The program for removing a female from winter depression consisted of two elements. Due to quite deep symptoms of depressed mood and difficulties in motivating her to any activity, the veterinarian ordered the administration of an antidepressant. The second element of therapy was to create a program of daily activities stimulating and activating Luka. We came up with the idea that the carers living nearby and his family, especially children, would help implement this plan. Three times a week the bitch was taken to them on the afternoon and sometimes on the weekend. In another, though familiar to her surroundings, having contact with children willing to play and caress, she felt much better. To provoke her to do something to get a treat soon ceased to be a problem.
Scratches in front of the TV
Of course, the older countries also got new tasks. We have temporarily removed the full bowl standing in the kitchen, and the daily portion of food was spent in the form of rewards for active behavior and showing the dog’s interest. It is worth noting that the mere acquisition of food increases its attractiveness and is an additional reward, thanks to the stimulation of the so-called of the brain’s reward system (which is why some animals are ready to beg desperately at the table with a bowl full of delicious food).
Contact with the dog became more saturated with emotions. They spoke to him more often, calling him to the kitchen or inviting him to the couch, where he received treats or caresses. The ritual of evening scratches in front of the television became a pleasure not only for the bitch, but also for her guardians.
It took Luka just a few weeks to get back to her former form. What’s more, exercises with delicacies made her obedient and more willing to cooperate.
Depression in a dog should not make us depressed. So instead of falling into it at the sight of our dog, we’ll get rid of the enthusiasm we can infect him with.
How to help a dog get out of depression
- offer him new, attractive games
- buy some toys that provoke activity – for example kong, snack ball or ball on a string
- extend walking time
- take your dog on trips to unfamiliar surroundings, where there are many different smells
- add extremely tasty morsels to the dog’s bowl