If you feel anxious during winters, then you aren’t the only one to do so. Seasonal changes can impact us cognitively, and this condition is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
As the winter days are short, and this decreases our exposure to sunlight. Hence, this can change the chemistry of our brain and cause a drop in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical in the brain that enhances social function and mood.
People who struggle with SAD experience symptoms like general sadness, loss of appetite, and low energy levels. However, the question that arises here is if dogs experience SAD too?
Seasonal Affective Disorder in dogs
A survey conducted in the United Kingdom (UK) found that one in three dog owners saw a change in the mood of their pet during the cold months. These changes included:
- Increased shedding
- Loss of fur
- Reduced appetite
- Decreased weight
- Less energy
- More time spent sleeping
- Increase in destructive behavior
- More barking
However, it is also possible that this change in behavior was just the perception of the owner. According to research, there is not enough data to support the diagnosis of SAD in pets.
Why your dog may be feeling low
If you have experienced your dog feeling low during the winter months, there could be other reasons behind it. The reason behind why dogs feel so low during dark months could be that canines mirror the behavior of their owners. Dogs have an emotional capability that allows them to identify specific behaviors in human beings and respond to them accordingly.
This means, that if a dog is living with someone who experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder, then the dog could just be mirroring their behavior. Hence, when the dog sees its human shift to a low-energy lifestyle, it is possible that the pet starts to copy that behavior and bring it in itself.
It can pick up on the depressed feeling in-home and embody it as a way of adapting to the environment around it. As dogs are close to their owners, they are likely to stay by and accompany their humans in anything that they are doing. So, if you are playing, your dog may actively participate in the activity with you. And, if you aren’t, then it is possible that your dog lays down next to you because it is trying to stay close to you.
As winters make it tough to go outside and indulge in mentally stimulating activities, you need to ensure your dog is getting enough playtime. The inside time could cause boredom in your dog, which may lead to unfavorable behavior.
Dogs love physical activities and they love to play and bond with you. When they are not getting playing time, they can feel bored. The symptoms of boredom resemble that of depression.
If you see that your dog’s mood is off during the winters, there are some steps that you can take to help them through it.
How to improve your dog’s mood in winters
First is, as much as you want to, do not hibernate. Do not spend the winters completely inside, and as much as possible, spend time with your canine outdoors. You should also expose your dog to sunlight, as it will help to alleviate the mood.
Move the bed of your dog to near the window. This way, they will see more light during the day. If there is not much sun, then introduce indoor light. Lightboxes are a great way to bring light indoors in winter, it can also help in the production of serotonin.
You can also create time to play indoors. If you cannot leave the house, put together indoor activities that will keep not only your dog, but also you, busy. You can also get toys for your dog. This bonding time will strengthen your relationship with your dog. It will also keep them from feeling gloomy and keep you entertained as well.
Caring for your dog in winters
To keep your dog safe from the cold, there are some things that you need to do. You need to towel dry your dog after outside time. This will keep their skin healthy and dry.
If your dog has long hair, then trim the hair around its feet. This way, the snow won’t cling to their fur and form between their paw pads. After you come back from a walk, check the paw pads of your dog for any snow, and also, use a paw protector.
Dryness in such a season is normal. So, get products that will help combat dry noses and paws. For aged dogs, pains due to the cold are normal. They may also be more prone to slips on surfaces that are icy. Talk to your vet about this situation and incorporate a hip and joint supplement into their routine.
When you are on walks with your dog, be careful of antifreeze puddles where cars are parked. Do remember that antifreeze is toxic but the taste is appealing to dogs.
Ethylene glycol poisoning has the following symptoms
- Stomach pain
Keep your dog under supervision when outside and if you see any symptoms that are out of the ordinary, immediately take your dog to the vet to rule out any medical complication.
You can also use jackets for your dog to keep it warm. Feeling your dog’s ears is a good way to check their temperature. If they feel cold around the edges, they may be cold.
It may take time for your dog to get used to the jacket, but it is useful at keeping them warm.
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