The Winter Blues: Pets and Seasonal Depression
Can dogs get seasonal depression? What about cats? Read to learn more about how the changes in the seasons could be affecting your pet's mood.
If you live in a city that's grey for the majority of the winter, you've probably heard of or have first-hand experience with a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is a form of depression that typically affects people during the winter and fall months. Experts believe that the shorter daylight hours during these seasons may trigger symptoms like exhaustion, withdrawal, or irritation. But is it just humans that suffer from SAD? Or can the gloomy weather affect your soulful sidekicks as well?
Can dogs get seasonal depression? What about cats?
Some owners claim that their dogs and cats seem more depressed during the gloomy winter months. Their pets sleep more, are grumpier, or just aren't interested in doing much.
Many of these symptoms are similar to those experienced by humans affected by SAD. However, not everyone is in total agreement on whether this means pets can get SAD. In fact, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recently stated that there is "no scientific evidence" to prove that dogs are actually affected by SAD.
That's not to say that dogs can't become depressed. Experts do believe that dogs can experience depression for various reasons. For example, some pets will show signs of depression after losing a long-time companion.
It's also possible that a pet may feel depressed due to behavioral shifts connected to the seasons. For example, you may not be able to take your dog on as many walks during the winter, because it's too wet or too cold for your usual number of outings. Or maybe all of your walks have to be done in the dark before and after you go to work.
Can pets sense depression?
Most dogs and cats are very attuned to their owners' feelings. So, if you are feeling sad and depressed during the winter months, and you've noticed a change in your pet's mood and behavior, it's possible they could be mirroring your mood.
Ways to help pets affected by seasonal depression
Open your shades during the day, so your pets can enjoy the sunlight.
Provide your pet with more exercise. Play with your cat, or take your dog on more walks, especially when the sun is out. If your schedule doesn't allow this, consider hiring a walker who can take your dog out during the day.
Invest in a light box, which is designed to provide therapeutic doses of bright light.
Keep an eye on your pet
Another reason why your pet may not be their normal happy self? Your companion could have a physical condition affecting their mood. If your pet's mood does not improve after a few days, you may need to take it to a veterinarian.
Don't forget: regular vet visits and investing in pet insurance are two ways you can help ensure that your pet lives a healthy and happy life, no matter the season.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.