Dogs help owners chase away the January blues

As the post-festive buzz wears off, the cold weather and short, dark days can leave many of us feeling blue – but our four legged friends still need their walks, fresh air, and exercise.

Our pets still need fresh air and exercise even in winter (photo: Adobe)
Our pets still need fresh air and exercise even in winter (photo: Adobe)

PDSA vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said: "As our busy routines resume after the festive break, we know that it can be tempting to stay in and hibernate in the warmth when we get the chance, but it’s vital that we get outside with our dogs and, if it’s during daylight hours, all the better.

“Christmas is such a fun time, family members coming and going, long wintery walks with more time on our hands, and time to spend playing with our dogs. Come January, things go back to ‘normal’; we all return to work and family visits are less frequent but it’s important not to forget to make time for your furry family member.”

Company

Vital to keep pets in tip top condition (photo: Adobe)

Leaving your pooch home alone for more than four hours per day can cause feelings of loneliness, frustration, and misery so, as you return to your normal routine, remember to factor in your dogs’ fun time too. If you are going to be out of the house for longer than four hours, could you arrange for a friend, neighbour, or dog walker to go and see your furry friend? Or maybe consider booking them into a doggy day care.

Daily walks

Not getting enough exercise can cause health problems, such as obesity, but can also lead to long-term behavioural problems

Bored dogs are really unhappy dogs – they can show their frustration by chewing, barking, toileting in the house, being destructive, and over-grooming themselves (licking too much).

Giving pets exercise at any time is vital (photo: Adobe)

Dogs need daily outdoor exercise to ensure good physical and mental health. Worryingly, our 2022 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report found 45 per cent of owners have concerns about dog walking! Fun, fresh air, running, and jumping can’t be underestimated, our pets need this, and probably many of us could take a leaf out of their book too!

Home environment

As the New Year begins, it’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves that the animals in our lives need to have their five welfare needs met. Their environment, is just one of these needs. They need a home that’s comfortable, where they can rest and feel safe. Dogs love to get outside in the fresh air for their daily exercise but they also love a cosy, warm home to snuggle up in. Make sure their bed is in a warm spot away from any drafts with plenty of thick bedding as the January chills make an appearance. They may also choose to hop up next to you for a cuddle and a fuss! PDSA is UK’s largest vet charity (Visit www.pdsa.org.uk website) providing a vital service for pets in UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their pets. (photos: Adobe)

ASK OUR EXPERT

PDSA vet nurse Nina Downing answers all your pet questions

Dear PDSA vet, my rabbit Rosie has started growling and running at me, sometimes baring her teeth. She’s well otherwise. I’m scared to go near her, what can I do? Joanne

Dear Joanne, rabbits can show aggression due to fear, pain, hormones or frustration.

Your vet can check her for pain, or may suggest neutering if her behaviour appears hormone related.

This will also protect her from cancer of the womb, which affects 80 per cent of unneutered female rabbits.

Bunnies are happiest living with at least one other neutered rabbit in a large hutch with a run where they can dig, run and hide.

But be sure it’s rabbit-proof as they’re expert burrowers!

Make sure your bunnies have plenty of hay to eat as well as toys and activities to help prevent boredom.

Rescue centres can help pair your bunny with a friend of their choice.

You’ll need to make sure she’s vaccinated though.

Dear PDSA vet, my daughter’s gerbil has a lump on her tummy. It doesn’t seem to be growing or causing her any discomfort. What might be wrong? From Rob

Hi Rob, the lump could be an abscess, cyst or tumour.

An abscess is caused by infection and cysts are caused by blocked glands.

All three can be very uncomfortable and can make your gerbil feel unwell.

It’s important to take her to your vet as soon as possible to get this checked out and make sure she isn’t in any pain.

Your vet will need to check the lump so they can advise on the best course of treatment.

They may recommend an operation to remove the lump.

However, if they are not concerned about it, and it is not causing the gerbil any problems, they might advise to leave it alone.

Dear PDSA vet, my budgie Ron loves to fly around outside his cage but it’s really hard to get him back in and takes ages. We don’t want to stop letting him out, but how can we make it easier? Joan

Hi Joan, exercise and time out of the cage are vital.

Make sure the cage is a nice place to return to though by keeping it clean, roomy, with toys and natural, budgie-safe perches.

Wild budgies live in groups and feel safer together.

So, bonding him to another budgie may help him to feel more secure in his home, when he has to go back inside.

Lure budgies back inside with a favourite treat.

With patience and time, budgies can be trained to step onto your finger or a perch so that you can take them in and out of the cage easily.

Make sure any training you do is reward-based, using favourite treats.