Is your dog depressed? Blue Monday nightmare as owners' woes make pets' lives miserable

MILLIONS of pets are following in their owners’ footsteps by suffering from the January Blues, a leading animal charity warned today.

English Setter looking wistful

Pets face the winter blues of loneliness and separation and (Image: PDSA)

Dogs and cats face a winter onslaught of loneliness, chronic stress and obesity as the cold winter weather bites and dark nights linger. The PDSA says while the bitter conditions and post-Christmas cash shortages burden pet owners, their animals face an equally tough time in January because owners are getting back into their work routines. It means as many as 2.1 millions dogs face the misery of being left alone for more than five hours a day during the working week, and 1.4 millions dogs only getting one walk a day.

Our felines are also feeling the mid-winter blues, with as many as two million cats living with other animals they do not get along with. For the nation’s rabbits, being on their own is a source of suffering. The highly social creatures need companions, but 540,000 live alone. Inadequate housing is also a major problem, with 280,000 rabbits living in hutches not right for their needs.

With Blue Monday – the date ringed on calendars as the “most depressing day of the year” – earmarked for January 21 this year, the leading veterinary charity is warning of a winter pet plight backed by findings from its recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report.

PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan explained today: “Pets face another year of long hours spent home alone, with too little exercise. As our busy routines resume after the festive break, we know that millions of dogs will be left for longer than the recommended four hours, leaving them mentally unstimulated and bored.

"It’s no surprise that problem behaviour can develop if they’re left home alone for so long.”

Sorrowful looking puppy

It's a dogs' Life for pets when winter blues strike (Image: PDSA)

Ginger cat snuggling in woollen jumper

Cats get winter woes when they live with animals they do not like (Image: GETTY)

Cat also suffers the winter blues, especially if they are indoors and living in close proximity to other pets they do not like.

Vet Anderson-Nathan explained: “Cats are naturally solitary creatures and, for many, living with other cats can be a source of chronic stress and lead to the onset of problems such as cat fights and behavioural issues like house soiling.

“Cats also don’t have enough ‘resources’ to live in harmony, each cat in a household should be given their own food and water bowls, toys, beds, scratching posts and litter trays to be happy and stress-free and then there needs to be one spare on top of this. Dot these around the house so each cat can have their own space.”

Lounging about and getting too much food and too little exercise has also spawned an obesity crisis. Scientific studies suggest that around 40 per cent of all UK cats and dogs are now overweight or obese, putting them at risk of series health issues such as diabetes and arthritis.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Having a pet in the home can actually lower a child’s likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent. Children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall.

Cute puppy looking miserable

Blue Monday a crisis time for pets (Image: PDSA)

Two rabbits looking happy

Rabbits are happier when they can form social bonds (Image: GETTY)

Vet Anderson-Nathan added: “Too much time indoors without enough exercise leads to health problems on a much larger scale, such as obesity. Worryingly, our report found that 89,000 dogs are not being walked at all. Vet professionals report that 46 per cent of dogs, 34 per cent of cats and 30 per cent of rabbits that they see in their practice every week are overweight or have obesity.”

Beside bunnies facing weight issues, the winter woes also impact on them through inadequate housing or living alone.

Vet Anderson-Nathan continued: “Rabbits are often the most misunderstood pets, and very sadly, thousands are not facing only a ‘Blue Monday’, they’re facing an unhappy life. Too many rabbits live alone, in hutches which are far too small for their needs. They need a spacious hutch or living area to jump about, with a large outdoor run where they can play, hop and stretch.”

If you’re worried your pet might be feeling blue, free pet health advice can also be found on PDSA’s website: www.pdsa.org.uk/blue-monday