Do Dogs get the Blues in Winter, too?

For many humans, winter and waning daylight in certain areas of the world (including Boston, Lowell, Springfield, Worcester MA), cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or depression that is related to the changing of seasons, as defined by the Mayo Clinic here: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047.

But is there any definitive evidence that SAD affects our four-legged friends?

A 2009 Pet MD blog on the matter by Dr. Patty Khuly found here at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047 explored that topic.

“Research has shown that even pets get the blues during the time of year when the Earth is tilted away from the sun’s direct intervention…The study I cite, however flawed its methodology might have been, is at least illustrative of people who consider their pets to be depressed during these months,” she writes. “They report greater indolence, increased sleep time and less of an appetite in their pets. I question the study’s merits only because true Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is difficult to establish among humans, let alone their pets. After all, pets may merely be resting more, as many of mother nature’s creatures tend to do when faced with a diminished opportunity for play or prey time.”

Khuly referred to research findings published  at http://www.medindia.net/news/Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-Could-Leave-Pets-Moody-In-Winter-28277-1.htm in her article.

Still another and more recent online article published in 2014 in The Dogington Posthttp://www.dogingtonpost.com/do-dogs-get-seasonal-affective-disorder-in-the-winter-months/addressing the matter reveals that in severe SAD cases pooches may begin to lose their hair.

“The dark, gloomy days and longer, colder nights of winter can cause dogs to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder, just like humans,” writes Brandy Arnold. “In dogs, symptoms include lethargy, neediness, behavioral changes such as aggression and inappropriate pottying, and a general feeling of “blah.” In extreme or extended cases, even hair loss can occur.”

Arnold noted information from AnnArbor.com that examined chemical similarities shared by humans and pets.

“Many researchers indicate that although we don’t really know what a pet is experiencing, they are mammals, just like us, and they are affected by the same mammalian hormones, like melatonin. Melatonin has the ability to regulate biological rhythms, among other things.”

Melatonin, produced by the pineal gland, is inhibited by light to the retina, and it increases in production by darkness, they write.

“With the shorter days in the winter and subsequent higher level of melatonin, it can be a little challenging to try and combat the winter blahs that result for both humans and pets alike, and getting outdoors for a fair amount of time can be next to impossible.”

So if your pooch displays SAD this autumn or winter what can you do?

Increase his or her exposure to artificial sunlight, experts say.

“Light boxes commonly used by humans for SAD have been found to be effective in treating dogs, too. The premise behind the light box is that it fills a room with artificial sunlight to help balance the body’s production of melatonin, thus keeping sleep cycles and moods in check,” writes Arnold.

Always consult your pet’s veterinarian if you suspect your pooch is not feeling well or displaying symptoms of illness of any kind. Your vet may agree or disagree with these SAD premises and potential solutions but it’s important to keep them in the loop.

If you have questions or concerns about your pup’s obedience, or lack thereof, contact your local Boston, Lowell, Springfield or Worcester, MA Off Leash K9 Training professional. He or she has the expertise to address any dog obedience, dog aggression, canine food aggression or potty-training issues.

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