SAD is short for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a.k.a. the winter blues. It’s that low-energy, Down-in-the-dumps, not-quite-right feeling that we sometimes get this time of year when shorter days make sunlight tougher to find.
The science is pretty simple. When the sun hits our eyes, our brains produce two hormones: melatonin and serotonin. If there’s not much sunshine around, we tend to make more melatonin, which triggers sleep, but less serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that boosts our moods.
For some of us, the changes barely register. But for others, SAD can ruin winter’s good times, and our pups are likely no different. After all, their brain chemistry is a lot like ours, and just like us they rely on melatonin and serotonin to regulate their sleep patterns and their moods.
In a survey of pet owners by the British Veterinary organization PDSA, 68% said their pets were noticeably “grumpier” in the winter. Over 40% found their pets had less energy, and a majority saw their animal friends sleeping more during the darker months.
This could just be our pets reacting to our own light-deprived moods—we know that dogs, for example, recognize human emotions—or it could be SAD. One thing’s for sure: if we notice our pets are withdrawn, sleeping more, not as interested in walks or play, have changes in weight, or are more demanding than usual when the days grow short, it’s time to help.
One big thing we can do is open all our shades as soon as the sun is up to let in all the light we can. We can also put their beds in sunny locations—access to sun-filled windows so puppers and others can soak up those precious rays all day is key. Full-spectrum light bulbs can also give pets a boost, and a nice long daily walk in the daylight will help out a lot. So does keeping everybody busy with some new toys, especially the gotta-work-for-it kind with treats hidden inside.
There’s also evidence that CBD may be able to help with animal depression in the same way scientists are learning it might have benefits for people. Our CBD dog biscuits and dog and cat CBD oils may be just the thing our pets need when winter darkens their spirits. We’re pretty sure there’s a whole lot of furballs around here who would happily agree!