Do Dogs Get Seasonal Depression?
Does your dog get depressed in the winter? Perhaps there’s another reason that he tries to get as close to the fire as he possibly can? Maybe he needs the light as much as the warmth on these dull and chilly days?
Seasonal depression in dogs is likely. Considering that a huge percentage of human’s power down in the winter months, some even need anti-depressants to deal with the darkness. Dogs are our best friends, they are the closest creature to us and studies show that the humble hound certainly experiences empathy.
So, what’s to say that our dogs don’t suffer alongside us and struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder too?
What is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression is actually a physical reaction to the lack of light available in the summer months. It can be treated with light therapy and vitamin supplements, yet it is a severe and dilapidating form of depression.
SAD is caused by the reaction in the brain when the living environment is so dull that light cannot get through the retina to stimulate the neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin, which gives us energy and happy feelings. When we don’t have enough serotonin we feel pretty rubbish and if our dogs have low serotonin they feel rubbish too.
Low dopamine is another effect of winter sadness, this is the neurotransmitter that motivates and keeps the mind clear. Many people that suffer with SAD state that one of the main symptoms is brain fog. Our dogs can’t tell us if their brain is foggy, yet if the behavior of your best friend changes in the winter this could be something to look out for.
Seasonal Depression in Dogs – Symptoms
The symptoms appear during the autumn months and can be a lack of energy, listless behavior, over-eating or going off food, loss of interest in playtime or training. Like all types of depression, lifestyle can play its part in helping your dog to cope with the seasonal blues.
What Can You Do?
There are a few things you can do to keep your dog happy in the winter. Take a look at the list below, some simple changes will help your hound to cope with those long dark nights and dull days.
- Ensure your dog’s diet is healthy and free from additives. Too many unnatural foods can actually cause depression.
- Add a Vitamin D supplement into your dog’s diet. This is the sunshine vitamin, something we get little of in the winter.
- Keep to your walk routine as much as possible. Serotonin is created when your dog exercises so try to keep hiking if the weather is all but completely obstructive.
- Interact and play more. Treat your dog to some interactive toys and games that make him happy and use his mind. A busy dog is a happy dog and if your best friend is working out how to get treats from a toy or playing fetch then he has less time to be sad.
- Provide your dog with a light. A specific seasonal depression sunshine lamp, or even halogen heater with its bright light, maybe enough to keep your dog happy.
So if your dog seems fed up this winter and you can’t work out why, perhaps it’s time to start watching him carefully, he might just have the winter blues.