Do Dogs And Cats Suffer From Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Jan 7, 2023 | Tips and Tricks

Happy Wednesday everyone!  And Happy New Year!  After a much needed break, I’m back to blogging and will be doing so every Wednesday.  I took time to work on a fun new project which I’ll be talking about here shortly.  But for now, it’s all about our sweet pets!  The weather in Weirton has gone from cold to freezing to warm with some snow in between.  We’ve had some very dreary days lately and it got me wondering about seasonal depression and if our fur babies can experience it.  It turns out they can!
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD is not considered a separate disorder but is a type of depression characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting about 4 to 5 months per year. Therefore, the signs and symptoms of SAD include those associated with major depression, and some specific symptoms that differ for winter-pattern and summer-pattern SAD.
Can dogs and cats suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects roughly 10 million people annually.  Like people, dogs can be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
According to research completed by The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), an estimated 40% of dogs suffer from SAD each winter. Dogs supposedly suffering from SAD tended to sleep for longer and lost interest in activities they usually enjoyed. 

That SAD is linked to low sunlight levels seems to be demonstrated by research that has compared winter depression in places with high levels of sunlight to those with low sunlight. 

For example, one study showed that SAD was less common in Florida, which has high light levels in winter (only 1.4% of people were diagnosed with SAD), compared to New Hampshire, where the winter light levels are much lower (9.7% of people were diagnosed with SAD).
Signs of SAD in your pup:
• Withdrawn – the dog may have little enthusiasm for exercise, games, or doing things they usually enjoy
• Lethargic – they may be sleeping more than usual
• Aggressive behavior or soiling inappropriately
• Demanding more attention 
• Frequent barking 
• Loss of appetite – they may lose interest in food, or there may be other changes to eating patterns
• Inability to settle – the dog may appear restless, not sleeping well or deeply, or other changes to sleeping patterns
• Increased shedding, loss of fur, or over-grooming
Ways to keep your pet happy during the winter months;
Pets mirror our moods so if you are having a bad, try to do something productive or positive to help you and your pup!  According to Steve Dale, a certified animal behavior consultant, here are a few ways to do just that:
*Improve Your Indoor Lighting

Dale suggests ensuring your cat’s or dog’s bed is situated near a sunny-side window. This is especially important for animals, such as indoor cats, who are unable to go outside.  An increase in the amount of light entering your home means more light entering your pet’s pupils, which positively affects brain chemistry.

Use full spectrum lighting for both you and your animals during the months when natural sunlight is decreased, and you can’t get outside as much as you’d like.
Light boxes designed for people with SAD might also help pets with similar symptoms.

*Get Outdoors

Venturing outside is not only good for you, but for your companion, as well. It gives animals opportunities to move, ground themselves, and improve circulation. A side benefit is that your dog will get exposure to natural sunlight and be able to socialize with other dogs and people.

*Keep Them Engaged Indoors

There are several things you can do to enrich your pet’s indoor environment. With cats, Dale says you can promote their foraging instincts by placing food devices around the home, instead of bowl feeding them. Or try placing cat toys around the house horizontally and vertically, as well as rotating enriching toys and games.

With dogs, he says you can try something as simple as putting some kibble inside a plastic container. Your dog may enjoy the challenge of watching the kibble bounce, then empty from the container.

Making time to interact with your companion on a daily basis inside the home is essential to their wellbeing. If you need to be away from home for extended periods, letting them have access to a window can be beneficial.

I’m Bobbi Jo, a lab-lover who took my passion for animals and dogs and turned it into something bigger.  When I adopted Jake and Maggie, my love for them became the driving force behind Two Adorable Labs, and my blog was born.  My hope is to not only share them with the world, but to help educate others on the importance of animal health and well-being. 

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