Do Dogs Get the Winter Blues?

Do dogs get the blues in the wintertime like some people do?

The winter blues. Many people in colder climates start to feel a little (or a lot) sad during the cold, dark winter months. For some people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this can be a serious condition. Have you ever looked at your dog in the wintertime and wondered if she gets a little (or a lot) blue in the wintertime, too?

SAD Is Related to Low Light Levels

Some areas have higher levels of sunlight during the winter than others, and it's been established that SAD occurs in people at a much higher rate in the areas with lower sunlight. A main treatment for human SAD is exposure to full-spectrum light bulbs, to mimic the effect of receiving sunlight.

Scientists believe that the symptoms of SAD in people, which include lethargy, depression, and increased appetite, are related to the effects of sunlight on two major hormones. Melatonin, a hormone that is triggered when it is dark and helps people sleep, is the first one. Sunlight hitting the retinas of the eyes turns off melatonin production, so when it's dark outside, that hormone might not be regulated normally, resulting in extra sleepiness, lethargy, and even depression.

The second hormone related to SAD is serotonin. Serotonin levels in the brains of people and dogs are affected by sunlight, with less of it produced when light levels are low. Low serotonin levels in the brain can lead to comfort food cravings, increased sleepiness, and even depression.

But Are Dogs Affected By SAD?

The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, based in the UK, conducted a survey of pet-owners in which they evaluated whether people saw changes in their dogs' behavior during the winter that might indicate they suffer from SAD. The results were that 40% of dog-owners noticed decreased mood in their dogs during the winter, and over half of them felt that their dogs slept more and were less active in wintertime than they were in the summer.

How to Help Your Dog with the Winter Blues

In humans with SAD, light therapy is effective in decreasing the symptoms. This is probably the case for dogs, as well. Here are some ways you can help your dog get over or avoid the winter blues:

Remember, these techniques can help improve your SAD symptoms, too.


References

  1. Stanley Coren PhD., D. F. (2013, January 2). Do Dogs Have Winter Blues or Suffer from SAD? Retrieved from psychologytoday.com.

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