Christmas has come and gone. And January can feel like a long month with pay day seeming miles away. It’s no surprise that Blue Monday falls in January, apparently the most depressing day of the year! So if we feel these winter blues, do our dogs? Do our dogs suffer the winter blues, also known as SAD?
Doggie Winter Blues?
The ‘winter blues’ (medically know as seasonal adjustment disorder-SAD) is thought to be caused by reduced daylight in the winter months and can be debilitating for some people (according to The Mental Health Foundation approx. 7% of the UK population suffer from SAD).
SAD is not just a condition that affects people. It is thought that dogs also suffer the effects of winter. This hasn’t been proven categorically, but given dogs share the hormones melatonin and serotonin with us humans, then it seems rational. (And also, many dog owners have their own experiences of their dogs being less motivated and less lively during the winter months.)
Melatonin is involved in regulating sleep cycles. It is produced in the pineal gland which is light sensitive. Melatonin is usually secreted at night in darkness. So in low light conditions like in the winter months more melatonin is produced. Melatonin amongst other things causes someone to feel sleepy, lethargic and relaxed. For some people, when melatonin levels are high enough, feelings of depression and despair may develop along with reduced motivation.
Serotonin can affect mood, appetite and sleep. Low serotonin levels are known to have an effect on the mood of people and animals. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of serotonin. This hormone is sometimes called the “feel good” hormone. Don’t we all feel so much better after a sunshine holiday?!
In people, treatment for SAD includes improving amounts of daylight, exercise and eating healthy foods. The latest figures from the PDSA accentuate the issue dogs face:
- 24% are left alone for long periods
- 16% are walked less than once a day
- 40% are overweight
So if your dog (and you) are feeling the winter blues, there are things you can do to help push on through to those brighter spring days.
Brighter days, brighter dog walks!
I think we can all relate to that feeling of sometimes dreading the dog walk. It might be cold, raining, dull outside – all in all not the most appealing circumstances for leaving the house! But how many times have we braved the elements only to get home, maybe a tad soggy, feeling re-energised and less blue?
Sometimes even a silly thing like having a “sunshine” collar and lead set, can be a small help to chase away the clouds of the winter blues.