Is Your Pet SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder and Your Dog

December 26, 2017 at 11:00 AM by Nikki Wardle

Dog SAD during the winter

If you’re a Treasure Valley local, you’re familiar with our seasonal gloomy, cloudy skies (a.k.a. inversions). Many December and January months—even into February—in Boise can involve weeks of inversion with no sun and below-freezing temperatures. It’s difficult for even the most dedicated outdoors-lover to get into the fresh air.

This affects many peoples’ moods, and can cause a recognized seasonal depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Many Americans say they’re more depressed during the winter, and studies suggest the lack of sunshine and access to the outdoors contributes significantly to this disorder. For humans, there are plenty of anecdotes: UV lamps, time with family and friends, and even time snuggling with your pet can help.

But what if Fido is also SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder in Dogs

Recently, studies and theorists have suggested that dogs likely suffer from SAD just like humans do. In fact, a veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, says, “It would be very surprising if SAD doesn’t exist in animals.”

Maybe you’ve already noticed your dog’s behavior shifting during the colder winter months, and this is only confirmation of what you’ve seen. Many pet owners report less energy, more lethargy, and sleepiness in their dogs during the winter. This is closely related to the shorter winter daytime hours, meaning that (like you) your dog is producing more melatonin than during the summer, causing tiredness, sadness, changes in eating, and behavioral changes.

How to Ease Your (Dog’s) SAD

The good news is, the same thing that will lift your dog’s spirits will also give you a boost this winter. Here are a few of the things that experts recommend for easing Seasonal Affective Disorder. Do them with your dog, and you’re sure to enjoy the results.

  1. Let the Sunshine In: Since melatonin production goes up when you’re exposed to less light, more light is the antidote. Open the blinds, turn on all your lamps and lights, and even bring in a special “happy light” if you need more light therapy. Your dog (and your body) will thank you.
  2. Get Outside: We know, it’s below freezing, and nothing seems worse than braving the weather this time of year. But you will absolutely feel better—and so will your dog—with even a 30-minute walk outside each day. Bundle up and don’t forget to protect your dog’s tender feet from snow and ice with appropriate footwear or protectant wax.
  3. Reduce Your Workload: In the winter, it’s harder to manage stress. As a result, this is a good time to schedule a vacation and follow through. Spend more time with your dog instead of rushing around from work to social obligations, making both of you harried and worn out. If you have time to go on a family trip, bring your pup along.

Your dog will appreciate your help in combating SAD this winter—and you will too. For more information about pet wellness, contact us today.

Topics: Doggy Day Care, Pet Care

Nikki Wardle

Written by Nikki Wardle

Nikki has been writing for Intermountain Pet Hospital since 2014.