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Spring Depression: a Myth or a Challenge for a Pet Owner?

Updated on April 1, 2016

Pet depressions: more info, plz!

Spring depression can be a common problem for animals as well – at least, some pet owners are sure that this is the case. I decided to explore the issue and share my findings with you.

When I got interested in the topic, I went online and searched for “pet depression”. Undoubtedly, there were plenty websites offering to read a little (or quite a lot) about it. And then, surprises came. Funnily enough, most of the articles were all about people’s depressions of all kinds: spring depressions, winter doldrums, Monday collapses… If there is something about pets, it is mostly about ways of using pets for curing depressions. Pretty selfish, isn’t it?

However, as my experience shows, many pets are vulnerable to all kinds of depression and mood swings, and spring can be a troublesome period for you both, meaning you and your pet. Why hasn’t it been thoroughly researched, then? I’m not saying there is no info on the topic at all – there actually is – but I still feel like some more scientific ground would be of use. There is only one book that partially covers the subject, The Depths: the Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic, by Jonathan Rottenberg. It is mostly about human depression, sure, but it does prove my unscientific conclusions. As the author says, “our fellow mammals, be they rats, cats, or bats, provide the most compelling and dramatic evidence for depression in the animal kingdom. High and low moods equip these animals to track opportunities and resources in their environments; the capacity for mood is essential for guiding behavior in a changing world.” I agree with every word but I would say “animals” instead of “mammals”.

As it is, we will have to base our premises on observation and logic. Ah, enough smart talk, let’s get straight down to business!

Important note: make sure that your pet’s bad mood is not caused by any health problems or intoxication. Consult the vet if the lack of joy and apathy are supervened by food and water refusal, destructive behavior, or other alarming symptoms.

Do you believe that reptiles can experience sadness, depression, and mood swings?

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The most vulnerable to spring depression

You see, being more a dog lover myself, I cannot act as an expert when it comes to cats. However, none of my cats has ever shown any signs of spring depression. Quite the opposite – these little toughies get increasingly energetic as it gets warmer, which eventually results in a bunch of tiny kittens born to your neighbor’s or your own family. So, I guess there is no use talking about cats’ spring depression. Please leave a comment if you have some ideas on this subject – I would definitely appreciate it!

However, there is no question that cats are very emotional in general and they do have mood swings. They are also very sensitive about any major losses like the death of other pets. Still, it is not the subject of my “research”, so I’ll leave it there and maybe come back to this subject later.

As for dogs, they are certainly predisposed to all sorts of spring turmoil. I noticed it when I was a kid, though at that time I didn’t give a proper thought as to why it could happen and how to help my dog. If you have noticed that your normally hyperactive pooch gets lazy and shows no sign of joy when it’s sunny and warm outside, it’s probably time to act!

Being a proud reptile owner, I can’t overlook our slippy friends and their emotional problems. Those who don’t think that reptiles are capable of emotions and mood swings can snort all they want, but I am convinced that snakes, lizards, and others are extremely vulnerable to spring depressions. Why? Scroll down if you are eager to know the answer!

Can pets feel depressed?


Seasonal triggers: dogs

From now on, my observation method should go hand in hand with logic if I want to find answers. The obvious drawback of studying pet depression is that you can’t just come up to your animal companion and ask, “Hey, buddy, what’s the matter? What ails you?” Or, to be more precise, you can ask these questions but it is very unlikely that you will get any reasonable answers. That’s where little gray cells come to the scene and help find out the truth. I found at least three major triggers that cause seasonal depression in dogs:

  • First of all, spring, with its longer daylight hours, comes a stress for many creatures whose lifestyle deviates from natural. This is true for humans and all animals that accompany them. If your dog still lived in the wild as its wolf antecessor, it would be having a hard time. Wolves usually have their mating period from January till April (depending on many environmental factors), so instincts, however deeply buried inside your pug’s or poodle’s soul, can come up to the surface. But people decide for their pets when to have “weddings”, so this gap may remind of itself in the form of spring anxieties and spleens.
  • While people are often advised to eat more vitamins in spring, it doesn’t seem to be of use for dogs, since their diet is usually well-balanced in all seasons. However, this is the period when the dog’s coat changes, so the pet can be low on vitamins and minerals because of that, which leads to a bad mood. If so, some food supplements may be of use.
  • Finally, the fault may be all yours. Oh yes, this truth is rather unpleasant, but you have to know that. If your dog is energetic and agile, spring must be one of its favorite seasons. But if you, its owner, is too lazy to take your enthusiastic pet for an extra walk, this might be a great disappointment for it. And if these disappointments pile up, you are very likely to see your dog depressed and sad when you finally feel like taking it for a walk. So don’t be lazy!


Seasonal triggers: reptiles

When it comes to reptiles, it gets even more complicated. They don’t even have those all well-known (and often untrue) mood indicators like a wagging tail and lively barking. Still, it doesn’t mean that you can’t tell whether your snake or lizard is OK or not. Here are the results of my study:

  • The fact that light days are becoming longer and warmer doesn’t mean that it’s time to reduce the heat and change the lighting pattern in the reptile’s habitat. It turns out that this is a very common mistake for many reptile owners. Perhaps it seems logical but you’d better not economize on your delicate pet’s health and emotional well-being. Make sure that all bulbs, heaters and moisturizers provide a proper environment for your pet and it doesn’t feel dependent on weather, which can be very uncertain.
  • However, the change of the day’s length can affect your reptile in terms of its sleeping habits. They do notice the change of schedule even if you do your best to maintain the same environment in all seasons, so try to be careful about it. When it comes to their timetable, reptiles tend to be really conservative and become sad every time when facing something uncommon.
  • The notion of joy-bringing varies for every species. If your dog may get depressed because you don’t give it enough attention while it is bursting with energy, it can be the other way round for a reptile. It hardly notices the romantic ambience of spring and flowers in bloom, so don’t get over-enthusiastic about it, either. Too much handling and exposing your slippy pet to ambient weather conditions may cause stress, and we don’t want it to happen, do we?

The bottom line

If spring doesn’t bring you any positive emotions and you find the warmth and the sun rather irritating, look around and think of your pet. What if it is experiencing the same? The reasons may be different for you both, but you can help each other. Try to be especially considerate and careful and your pet will soon be alright – and this is, of course, a perfect reason to be happy! Have a nice spring!


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