We know that seasonal changes can affect a person’s mood—a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The shorter days of winter reduce our long-term exposure to sunlight. This can change the chemistry of the brain, causing an increase in melatonin production and a decrease in serotonin production, the chemical that enhances mood and social function.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) manifests itself in a variety of ways, including a loss of appetite, low energy, and an overall despair that lasts until the days lengthen again in the spring. Because the minds of dogs and humans are so similar, it’s logical to question if the winter blues impact our pets as well.
Seasonal Depression in Dogs
One in three pet owners in the United Kingdom noted changes in their pets’ behavior over the winter months, according to a survey conducted by researchers.
Symptoms dog lovers noticed in the cold months included:
- More frequent barking
- Increase in aggression
- Increased destructive behavior
- Decrease in play
- More time spent sleeping
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Abnormal shedding
While it’s reasonable to assume that dogs are impacted by the seasons in the same way that humans are, it’s crucial to remember that the poll done in the United Kingdom only examined dog owners’ views and was not a scientific study. There is insufficient evidence to make a clear diagnosis of SAD in pets.
Explaining the Symptoms of SAD in Dogs
Other factors could be at play when dogs appear depressed during the cold, dark months. For starters, we know that dogs frequently mimic their humans’ actions and moods. Dogs’ emotional intelligence allows them to detect and respond to certain human behaviors.
A dog living with a human suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, for example, will observe a change in the owners’ behavior toward a more sedentary and low-energy way of life.
As a way of adapting to his environment, the dog can pick up on the quiet or melancholy atmosphere in the house and adopt that mood. And, because of their bond with their humans, dogs are more inclined to stick close by, partaking in whatever the human is doing, whether it’s rushing around or lying low.
Getting outside for exercise and play during the cold months may be more difficult. The accumulation of “indoor time” that results may simply lead to boredom. Physical movement, play, and sniffing all the many aromas outside are all important to dogs. When they are denied this stimulus, they are likely to become bored, which can resemble depression.
Help Your Dog Get Through the Winter Months
Whether or not your dog has Seasonal Affective Disorder, there are things you can do to keep her happy and brighter in the winter if you see her mood slipping.
The following ideas may help combat SAD in dogs:
- Resist the impulse to hibernate and spend as much time as possible outside with your dog, even if the weather isn’t ideal. Physical activity and exposure to sunlight (however low) will help to lift your dog’s (and your own) spirits when they’re feeling down.
- Increase the amount of light exposure as much as feasible. During the day, move your dog’s bed closer to the window that receives the most light. During the brightest portion of the day, try to get outside for a walk (even if it’s only a short walk). Alternatively, consider bringing artificial light into your home.
- Winter is the best time to spend the majority of your dog toy budget, especially if you live in a cold climate! Purchase a few interactive puzzle toys or brain teasers for your dog. Don’t just leave your dog’s toys lying around the house; get down on the floor with him and play tug-of-war or fetch down the hallway. This mental stimulation and interactive play will not only enhance your connection with your dog, but will also keep you both entertained and happy.
Keep Up with Mental and Physical Stimulation
While we can’t say for sure if dogs are prone to SAD, we do know that some dog owners notice mood changes in their pets throughout the winter. Many of us want to hibernate, remain warm, binge-watch TV, and snuggle throughout the winter. However, if your dog exhibits any of the signs listed above, keep an eye out for changes and make an additional effort to keep your dog active, engaged, and entertained.
Toy Ideas for Dogs Showing SAD Symptoms
There are many toys out there to pick from, but we have selected a few that may be of interest below:
Kong Crackle Ball: KONG Crackle is a fresh spin on the popular KONG Squeezz brand. The crackle sound on these toys is unique and appealing, making them excellent for quiet play. Squeezz Crackle is a vibrantly colored glitter with a catchy sparkle. The flexible material is ideal for fetch activities and will provide hours of entertainment for both dogs and their owners.
IndiPets Organic Rubber Amrood Dog Toy: The IndiPets Organic Rubber Amrood Dog Toy is manufactured entirely of organic natural rubber. Natural rubber made from plants is a long-lasting, safe, and sustainable resource! NO PLASTIC OR ARTIFICIAL ADDITIVES WERE USED IN THE PROCESS. This item can aid in oral hygiene and promote both indoor and outdoor play. Indoors or out, this toy is perfect for a game of fetch.