by Monique Balas
Special to the Oregonian
Rainy days getting you down? You may not be alone. Pets are also susceptible to depression during the winter months, says Mary Lee Nitschke, a psychology professor at Linfield College.
“If your dog or cat seems lethargic or refuses to eat, they may be depressed, and when a pet is down in the dumps it can lead to physical problems,” says Nitschke, an animal behaviorist.
A survey by British veterinary organization PDSA found that one in three dog owners notice Fido becomes less playful and appears sad during dreary winter months.
The organization lists symptoms to watch for that may indicate your furry friend is feeling low:
- Aggressive behavior or soiling inappropriately
- Clawing at furniture
- Demanding more attention or appearing withdrawn
- Frequent barking
- Lethargy - sleeping more than usual
- Less interest in going for walks or playing
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
Nitschke offers some tips to ease the depression:
- Provide extra light during the winter time.
“Light is intimately tied to the functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands,” she says, “and can stimulate the body to release hormones that have an uplifting effect on mood.”
Even 30 minutes a day on a sunny back porch or window perch may do the trick.
- Offer distractions from the doldrums: Hide treats throughout the house and watch Fido find them. Or use a feather or fishing pole-type toy to play with your cat.
- Seek a change of scenery by taking a weekend trip.
“The combination of new sights and smells will help lift your pet’s spirits,” Nitschke says.
If those don’t help, the symptoms could indicate a more serious medical condition. Check with your vet if your pet’s disposition doesn’t get sunnier soon.