How to spot the signs your dog is suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Dogs can also get the winter blues

SAD, golden retriever
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One in three people in Britain suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And with the clocks going back this Saturday, it’s easier than ever to find yourself feeling low as the dark days draw in.

And now experts at leading pet food brand Webbox are warning that the seasonal change could affect more than just humans. It could affect your dogs too.

Sometimes known as ‘winter depression’, SAD is a much-talked about disorder as the human brain produces more melatonin and less serotonin as the daylight hours decrease. This chemical imbalance can end up having a substantial impact upon mood, sleep, activity and appetite.

How does winter darkness affect dogs?

A study by People’s Dispensary of Sick Animals (PDSA), the UK’s leading vet charity, has revealed that a third of dog owners noticed a downward turn in their pet’s moods during the colder months.

Half of the owners noted that their pets were sleeping longer and 20% of the others studied stated that their pets were significantly less active during this time.

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Senior Brand Manager at Webbox, Camille Ashforth, has said, "Studies have shown that humans share a lot of the same brain chemistry with dogs, so it’s no surprise that our pets may also experience the chemical imbalance that causes SAD."

She added that, "Just as we can feel our moods drop when the seasons change, our pets can too."

What are the most common symptoms of SAD in dogs?

SAD, dogs

  • Grumpiness and irritability
  • General fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Reduced energy

How can you help reduce the effects of SAD in your dog?

Never fear! Camille Ashforth has shared her tips for how you can help reduce the effects of SAD in your dog.

  • Keep to your summer routine throughout the winter months

Windy walks in the rain might not be as appealing compared to lovely warm summer strolls. But it's important to keep your dog's daily routine doing throughout the winter months. Keeping your dog stimulated by new sights and smells is crucial.

Camille says, 'With less sunshine throughout the winter months, a daily walk may also be the only chance your dog gets to experience some natural sunlight, so try to get out during the day if you can.'

Grab the moments when you find them and get some much-needed sunshine. You might even find it brightens your day a little too.

  • Encourage indoor activity

'It’s important to ensure that dogs frequently have opportunities for stimulation and entertainment, so make time to interact with your dog throughout the day,' says Camille.

Dog owners could invest in some sensory pet toys. That way, even if you have to leave the house or run an errand, your dog will have something to play with.

Pug, Seasonal Affective Disorder in dogs

  • Improve the lighting inside your home

There are lighting products designed with humans in mind like special light boxes that replicate natural sunlight. These help alleviate the effects of SAD and Camille suggests that these could have a similarly positive effect upon your pooch.

Though there is another way. Simply move your dog's bed nearer to a window which gets plenty of natural light. This could help them enjoy some beneficial sunlight.

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  • Look after yourself

'Many people agree that pets will often react to and reflect their owner’s moods,' Camille explains. 'So it’s important that you look after your own mental health – especially if you’re worried about your pets’.'

Try to be aware of your own stress levels. It's all too easy to outwardly project negative characteristics around your pet that they pick up on.

It seems that the calmer you can remain, the more relaxed your dog could be.

So when the clocks go back this Saturday, remember to take care of yourself as well as your canine companions.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!