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Can dogs get seasonal affective disorder?

3 min read

Can dogs get seasonal affective disorder?
The cold weather and long nights could give dogs their own version of seasonal affective disorder. Here's how to spot the signs and give your dog's mood a boost
As days are getting shorter and colder, people can often find themselves feeling sad or lacking the motivation to do anything. One possible reason for those feelings is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is common during the cold months.
While we know people can suffer from SAD, can dogs get SAD, too?
Eager to provide dog owners with handy information on the topic, experts at Puppy Hero outlined all of the potential SAD symptoms dog owners should keep an eye out for, as well as useful tips on the best ways to help their pet.

Five signs your dog might have SAD: 

  • Being lethargic or sleeping more than usual could be a potential sign your dog has SAD.
  • Inability to sleep well, seeming constantly restless or sad.
  • Changes in appetite—not wanting to eat or eating more than they usually do.
  • Unusual behaviour changes, such as misbehaving, enhanced irritability or aggression.
  • Expressing little to no desire to play games they otherwise love, exercise or go for a walk.
Keep in mind that sometimes the above symptoms might be a result of something else. There might have been a change to your dog’s routine or in their surroundings that has made them feel uncomfortable.
In order to know how to best help your pet, observe their behaviour for a while and speak to a vet if needed, before taking any actions.
Dog with seasonal affective disorder lies on ground looking sad
Here’s how you can help your dog

Pay close attention to your dog’s behaviour

Analysing your dog's behaviour will help you get a better understanding of if they may be feeling sad.
Sometimes a change in their usual routine or their environment could result in your dog feeling unwell for quite a while.
Knowing what to expect throughout the day and feeling comfortable in their surroundings is very important for a dog.

Spend time interacting with your dog

Even when you’re inside, make sure to spend time playing or training your dog. Try to come up with new games that require you to interact with your dog, as this is a great way to get your pet excited and boost their mood, and yours, too.
Liz Clifton, a rescue dog rehabillitator, shares useful insight on great activities to interact with your dog:
  • Snuffle mat—you can purchase these or make one yourself with a pet safe rubber mat and pet safe material strips. You can scatter healthy treats which your dog can sniff out.
  • Digging box appropriate to their size. This could be a pet safe cardboard box filled with pet safe shredded bedding that you can hide some healthy treats, chews or toys in.
  • Enjoy relaxing music, meditations or Animal Reiki together to help you relax, calm down, release any stresses and rebalance your emotions together.
  • Dog safe den area appropriate to their size. This can be as simple as a pet safe cardboard box with their favourite pet safe bedding inside it. Or a pet safe piece of material over a table or over the gap between two armchairs.
  • Licky mat—this can be anything pet safe that you can smear a healthy treat such as their favourite meat broth on.
Dog sitting in cardboard box

Provide them with as much light (or ideally, sunshine) as possible

As with humans, the lack of light during the winter can cause lower mood levels, so it is very important for your dog to get as much light exposure as possible.
Whenever possible, take your dog outside for a walk or trial out tactics such as moving their bed closer to a window, or even use more artificial lighting.

Ensure your dogs get exercise during the day

The winter months are colder and darker, and it might be tempting to skip an exercise or a walk outside, but much like humans, this can have a significant effect on your dog’s mood. Even a short walk can help improve your dog’s mood and also your own.
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