As winter looms and the days get shorter, it's not just humans who feel gloomy. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects dogs as well, causing them to feel depressed during the winter.
Symptoms for Seasonal Affective Disorder in humans can include feeling low, disinterested or lethargic. The condition affects one in three UK residents every year during winter when our melatonin levels increase and serotonin decreases.
But it turns out that dogs can get SAD as well, as their symptoms include grumpiness, irritability, general fatigue, changes in appetite and reduced energy, TeamDogs reports.
Like humans, this condition seems to affect a third of dogs as well. A study conducted by the UK’s leading vet charity, People’s Dispensary of Sick Animals (PDSA), found that nearly a third of dog owners reported such symptoms in their pets during the winter months.
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One in two also reported that their pets slept for longer periods of time, while 20 per cent said that their pets were significantly less active.
As a result, experts at leading pet food brand, Webbox Naturals, have issued a warning to pet owners about the warning signs to look out for – plus tips for helping your pup.
Pet expert Julie Butcher said: “Studies have shown that humans share a lot of the same brain chemistry with dogs, so it’s no surprise that our pets may also experience the chemical imbalance that causes SAD.
“Just as we can feel our moods drop when the seasons change, our pets can too. With the Autumn Equinox having just fallen, it’s important to keep an eye on pooches for the tell-tale signs of SAD.”
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Thankfully, there are lots of ways to help reduce the effects in our much-loved furry friends!
Tips for reducing the effects of SAD in dogs:
Keep up your summer routine through the winter months
One of Julie’s top tips was maintaining your summertime routine – despite the change in weather. She said: “Whilst we do appreciate that windy walks in the rain may not be as inviting as those lovely warm summer strolls, it’s important to keep your dog stimulated by new sights and smells.
“With less sunshine throughout the winter months, a daily walk may also be the only chance your dog gets to experience some natural sunlight, so try to get out during the day if you can.”
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Improve your internal lighting – or move your dog’s bed
Light boxes are increasingly popular among humans – and they could well work for pups too.
Julie explained: “You could even purchase special light boxes that are designed to replicate natural sunlight to help alleviate the effects of SAD. While these products are designed by humans, it’s something that could also have a positive effect on your pooch.”
However, those who aren’t keen on switching up their lighting situation can also try the simpler trick of moving their dog’s bed nearer to a sunny-side window, allowing them to soak up the natural rays better.
Encourage indoor activity
Given pups likely won’t be able to entertain themselves outside as much during the colder months, it’s important to ensure that they have frequent opportunities for stimulation and entertainment inside.
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Julie encouraged owners to interact with their pup regularly throughout the day, as well as invest in some sensory pet toys. This will give your pup something exciting to play with even when you’re not at home.
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Look after yourself
Julie also encouraged owners to keep an eye on themselves “Many people agree that pets will often react to and reflect their owner’s moods, so it’s important that you look after your own mental health – especially if you’re worried about your pets,” she explained.
“Focus on your stress levels, and make sure that you’re not outwardly projecting any negative characteristics around your pet that they could pick up on.”
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