Many people believe they are affected by the winter blues, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. It’s that feeling of not wanting to get up in the morning and general depression that strikes during the winter months. But are dogs affected in the same way as humans? Read on to discover how the condition manifests itself in your pets.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when the days start to get shorter. The condition is thought to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter months. A lack of sunlight boosts the production of melatonin (which makes you feel sleepy) and reduces the production of serotonin, which affects appetite, sleep and mood.
Symptoms of SAD
In humans, these can include: low mood, irritability, feeling lethargic, food cravings and gaining weight.
Evidence suggests that dogs are also affected by the lack of sunlight at this time of year.
In dogs, symptoms are similar and include neediness and some behavioural changes such as lethargy and aggression. You may notice changes in their eating habits and hair loss, in extreme cases. Your dog may also lose interest in things they usually like doing.
Dogs can also become depressed due to empathy for a depressed owner, moving home or changes to their general routine.
What if my dog has the winter blues?
Many people use light boxes to imitate sunlight to help combat symptoms. The treatment is also believed to help dogs. At home, you could ensure curtains are fully opened or buy special lights to replicate outdoor lighting.
Continue to take your dog out for daily walks, as it is important to exercise your pet regularly and sniffing scents in the outside world will provide mental stimulation.
To help prevent your dog from putting on weight, you can cut back slightly on the food your pet eats. You could try hiding treats to let your dog look for them, thereby giving them some additional exercise.
Try to play with your dog as often as possible to keep them mentally stimulated.
Bring your dog a new toy to try to improve their mood
Consider getting another pet, but only if it makes sense for your situation.
Don’t forget to speak to your vet if you have any concerns for your dog’s wellbeing. If all else fails, there are medications available to help. We provide dog insurance policies to help protect your pets.