We’ve all heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as S.A.D., or the winter blues: that feeling of sluggishness and depression that strikes in the winter months when the days are shorter and we’re just not getting enough natural light. Most of us living far enough away from the equator have experienced it to one degree or the other. But could our dogs be feeling the same way?
In an article on Psychology Today, Canine Corner columnist Stanley Coren, PhD, asks the same question in his article “Do Dogs Have Winter Blues or Suffer from SAD?.” First he considers the effects of the syndrome on humans.
At the root of Seasonal Affective Disorder is the effect that light has on our bodies’ levels of melatonin and serotonin. Those are hormones found in all mammals, so that means humans and canids. If your dog seems to be more sluggish or sleepy than usual, is there a possibility they’re experiencing the same chemical changes you are?
Melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles and circadian rhythms, is secreted at night by the light-sensitive pineal gland. Too much production of melatonin can occur in the winter, when there are fewer daylight hours, causing us to feel overly tired or low-energy. The release of Serotonin, which regulates mood and appetite, decreases with a lack of sunlight, leading to feelings of depression.
Stanley Coren concludes it’s not far-fetched to presume our mammal companions succumb to the same bleary-eyed Winter Blues that we do. Likewise, Dr. Patty Khuly comes to similar conclusions in her article “Does ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ give your pet the blues?” on PetMD, but she makes allowances for our tendencies to anthropomorphize our pups.
Stanley Coren suggests a few ways to combat symptoms of S.A.D. in your dog:
He believes increasing your dogs’ exposure to natural light is key, whether it’s changing the time of your daily walk to incorporate more daylight hours or moving your dog’s bed closer to a window or skylight. There are even dog versions of S.A.D. lamps that you can try, such as the Sol Box a 15 inch tall unit emitting 10,000 lux of full spectrum white light. The company that makes the Sol Box, Pawsitive Lighting, suggests turning on the lamp for your dog for a minimum of 30 minutes a day.
Whether the cause of you and your pup’s winter malaise is capital S.A.D. or just a case of the stir crazies, getting out of the house and exercising can do wonders. Winter sportz anyone?
Or if you just want to hibernate, that works too: