Seasonal Affective Disorder and Pet Health
The winter months can be dark and dreary, and in people we know that seasonal affective disorder is a real thing that can affect our well-being. But is pet health affected by the seasons? The Whole Pet Vet Hospital & Wellness Center aims to answer the question for you.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that is influenced by the change in seasons. For those 5% or so of the population affected, it begins and ends around the same time of year each year.
The brain’s chemistry is potentially influenced by light cycles and the weather, and most of those who suffer from SAD experience symptoms through the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter.
Symptoms might include:
- Feeling sad or down
- Losing interest in activities normally enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Sleeping more
- Problems with overeating
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness
Having some ups and downs is normal, but when these feelings are persistent they can be a huge detriment to overall well being.
Is Pet Health at Risk?
Our pets are subject to the same light exposure and seasonal changes as we are, so it is only natural to wonder whether pet health might also be affected by this disorder. Our dogs and cats can also be influenced by melatonin and serotonin levels, and it stands to reason that these similarities might also set them up for seasonal depression.
At this time, there hasn’t been much official research done regarding seasonal personality changes in pets. One U.K. survey, however, did note behavior changes in the winter months including decreased activity levels, increases in destructive or aggressive behaviors, increased barking, more anxiety, and decreased appetite.
We also know that reduced sunlight exposure can affect pets in other ways such as hair growth. Pets can also pick up on our emotions as well, so chances are if you are experiencing some winter blues, your animals may pick up on that fact. We tend to also be less active in winter months, which may elicit behavioral changes, too.
So how can you support pet health and safety in the darker months?
- Make it a point to spend time outside in the sunshine
- Keep an exercise schedule for you and your pet
- Practice good mental enrichment at home
- Let the light in by opening blinds or investing in full spectrum lighting
If you have concerns about your pet, you should also contact us so that we can help to evaluate. Before you chalk a symptom up to just seasonal depression, we will want to be sure nothing else is going on. Knowing what we are treating is important!