Pet Guide

Seasonal Full of Feeling Issue in Pets and People

Terry M. Cervantes 

Many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder – a more severe form of winter sapphires that some of us get when the days get shorter. But can your pets also suffer from this type of get-down?

Can pets have seasonal affective disorders?

Seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) is a mood disorder that occurs in autumn and winter as daylight decreases, changing our circadian rhythms. Reducing sunlight can lead to lower levels of serotonin — one of our “happy” chemicals – and prolonged darkness increases the amount of melatonin we produce, which makes us sleepy. This can contribute to a depressed mood at this time of year, which is recognized as sad in strong matters.

It is estimated that nearly 20 million Americans suffer from SAD, while another 46 million struggle with milder matters of the winter sapphires. If this winter get-down is so common in humans, is it possible that it also affects our pets?

Although no scientific study has specifically investigated the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in dogs or cats, similar conditions have been identified in other animals. Studies on rodents have shown that they show signs of get-down if they do not get enough daylight. Although official data on seasonal affective disorders in cats and dogs are not yet available, both animals use serotonin and melatonin just like humans and rodents, which makes them likely to experience some of the same emotions.

There are also simpler factors that can contribute to a pet’s seasonal get-down. Many pets are sensitive to changes in their Routine and may simply miss their outdoor play time and sunbathing in the summer. Pets are also attuned to the emotions of their humans, which means that when they are in a Funk, they pick it up — and can reflect it in their own behavior.

Signs of get-down in pets

There are some common symptoms of get-down in pets (including possible matters of SAD). Pay attention to:

  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Increased lethargy or fatigue
  • Less appetite or interest in food
  • More time to hide
  • Excessive Care
  • Unusual Bathroom Accidents

If your pet exhibits any of these behaviors, contact your veterinarian! They can help you determine if this change in behavior is due to body pain, a change in your environment, or a depressive disorder.

How pets and humans can help each other with seasonal affective disorder

Whether you or your pets (or both of you) are feeling the effects of the heap, you can work together to improve your mood and get closer to those happy summer vibes.

Try to stick to your summer routine all year round. Feeding your pet at the same time and taking your usual afternoon walk will help you keep both internal clocks on schedule.

Get as much light as possible. Spend some time basking in the natural light you get or get cozy under a light therapy lamp that reproduces the effects of sunlight for you and your pet.

Get outside — even if cold and wet walks are less attractive, the combination of daylight and body activity makes outdoor activities an instant mood booster for pets and humans.

Play together to stay active with your pet, even when you are indoors. Incorporate vigorous body activity into your day with a tug-of-debate or a feather hunt. Add mental stimulation and enrichment with puzzle toys, snuff mats and secretly hidden treats for dogs or cats.

Snuggle up with your pet at the end of a long day of walks, games and sunbathing. Cuddling and petting your four-legged friend releases joyful chemicals in both brains – and also strengthens your bond.

The coming season may seem long and dark, but the good news is that you are not alone in it! You and your pet are a team that keeps SAD at bay and uses each other as a mood booster for a happier winter.

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Terry M. Cervantes 

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