Every year we’re told that the third Monday in January is ‘Blue Monday’, supposedly the saddest day of the year.
Truth told, there’s zero scientific proof that it exists beyond our imaginations - but now we’re told that dogs suffer the ‘January blues’ too.
To be fair, it seems far more plausible to believe that our four-legged friends experience feelings of loneliness at this time of year - after all, during the festive period dogs are spoiled for company, then suddenly everyone returns to work and they’re back to spending much of the day alone.
Recent findings from leading veterinary charity PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) reveal that over two million dogs are frequently left alone for five hours or more on a typical weekday.
“Ideally, dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours on a typical day, so it’s hugely concerning that millions are routinely left alone for longer periods of time,” says PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman.
“Dogs are naturally very social animals and need companionship. Loneliness can be very harmful to their mental well-being."
The PAW report also found that 1.6 million dogs aren’t being walked every day and, worryingly, an estimated 94,000 dogs are never walked at all.
“Regular exercise is vital to encouraging positive interactions with people and other dogs, and avoiding obesity,” says Ashman.
But it’s not just pets of the K9 variety who are suffering a life of loneliness and boredom - rabbits are too.
Despite being highly sociable animals that should live with a companion of their own kind, a worrying 780,000 rabbits still live alone. Vets are also concerned about the high number of rabbits who are completely forgotten about.
Cats, however, are solitary animals, naturally preferring to live alone. But PDSA figures show 2.3million cats are living in homes with another cat, or cats they don’t get along with, potentially causing chronic stress and other health and welfare issues.
“Ninety-three per cent of owners told us that their pet makes them happy, so we are undoubtedly a nation who value and love our furry companions,” says Ashman. “But caring for a pet and ensuring you are providing for their needs can be very demanding.
“It’s important you do your research before getting a pet, and make sure your chosen pet is right for you and your lifestyle. Your local vet is perfectly placed to help you with this important decision.
“Pet owners need to make sure they understand what their pet needs to be happy and healthy - and be certain that you can meet these needs on a daily basis. For example, do you have time to walk a dog every day? Do you have the space, resources and time to commit to two rabbits?
"While the nation may be feeling the New Year blues,” adds Ashman, “it's important not to forget about keeping our pets happy too."
For free practical advice on how to keep pets healthy and happy, visit PDSA’s website www.pdsa.org.uk