Can Dogs Get Seasonal Affective Disorder?
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs on a seasonal basis, appearing yearly in the autumn and winter. Researchers don’t completely know what causes SAD, but it’s most likely linked to the shorter days of the colder months, which limit the amount of sunlight we get.
Lack of sunlight can affect the part of the brain called hypothalamus that can lead to decreased production of the hormones melatonin, which regulates sleep, and serotonin, which plays a large part in controlling our mood and appetite. It is also likely that our bodies’ internal clocks are disturbed by the lower light levels, causing additional symptoms of SAD.
Do dogs get SAD?
There is no official diagnosis of SAD in dogs, but recent studies have suggested that seasons can negatively affect animals as well. Surveys also show that many dog owners notice that their dogs seem down and less enthusiastic during the winter months. Due to this, awareness of SAD is growing, and many vets will be aware of the disorder.
What are the signs?
Symptoms of SAD commonly include a persistent low mood, loss of interest in otherwise joyful activities, grumpiness, increased appetite and the need for more sleep than normal. This applies to all species, but in dogs you also need to watch out for toilet accidents and hair loss.
If you notice these symptoms in your dog, the first thing to do is to take them to the vet, as there are other things that might cause these symptoms that might require different interventions. Your vet will hopefully be knowledgeable about mental health in dogs, and should also be able to give you some advice as to how you can help your pup.
What can I do to prevent and combat it?
Try to keep up your normal routine throughout the colder months. It’s not as tempting to go for walks when it’s muddy and rainy, and you’re probably less likely to meet up with friends and their dogs for some fun playing in the park, but it’s really important to make sure your dog still gets the right amount of exercise and socialisation. This works both preventatively and if you’ve already started seeing signs of SAD in your dog.
If your work schedule allows it, it might be better to walk the dog while the sun is still up, so you’re exposed to some direct light. Open blinds and curtains in the house, and consider putting the dog bed closer to a window so he or she is not hidden in a dark corner.
Exercise and light exposure are things that will make you feel better as well, and that’s another thing that will subsequently help your dog stay happy and healthy. Our pets are extremely susceptible to our mood and emotions, and your dog is more likely to suffer if you do.
Humans with SAD can sometimes benefit from artificial sunlight lamps, specially designed lamps that mimic sunlight. While there’s no evidence that these will improve your dog’s mood, it’s unlikely to hurt, so ask your vet if they think it would be a good idea.
This entry was posted in Dogs