Does your pet have the winter blues?
If you’re finding it hard to cope with the cold, grey winter days, then spare a thought for your pet, who might be suffering too. Julian Hall investigates.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the medical name for what many people call ‘winter blues’. If you have SAD, you may find that your sleep pattern, energy levels and mood change during the winter months.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes SAD but it’s thought that a lack of daylight can interfere with particular hormones and brain chemicals in some people.
You may be surprised to learn that pets also appear to be susceptible to the condition. Research carried out by the charity PDSA (the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) showed that approximately 8 million pets exhibited classic SAD symptoms in winter. Many pet owners reported a tendency towards grumpiness, a reduced desire to exercise and an increased appetite.
The PDSA’s findings also showed that, in the winter months, 43 per cent of pets have less energy, 59 per cent sleep for longer periods and 47 per cent demand more affection from their owners.
If you suspect that your pet may have the winter blues, there are things you can do to combat the problem – in fact, you and your pet can have great fun at the same time.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
For dog owners, going for walks can be instrumental. Once outside, a dog will be able to interact socially with other dogs, and this is likely to raise their mood. Timing your walks with the brightest time of day will also make a difference. Dogs who are particularly down in the dumps might benefit from playing games indoors. Try playing hide-and-seek, scent-focused games or hiding food (not too well!) for your pooch to discover.
Indoor activity is important for cats and rabbits too, whether they are usually kept indoors or not. Step up your indoor playing time with them if you can and vary the games you play.
Common to all domestic animal types, and humans, is the need for light. Providing they are warm, you might want to place your pet’s bed near a window, glass door, or under a skylight. Higher levels of artificial interior lighting might also help, as might SAD light-boxes which are used by some people to alleviate their own symptoms. The first SAD light-box specifically for pets recently went on sale in America.
Plus, don’t forget love and cuddles. More contact during the winter months can be a great comfort to pets and owners alike…
Does your pet seem less happy in the winter months? Have you discovered any remedies? Please let us know by commenting in the box below.