Do Dogs Get Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Winter Months?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that commonly occurs in humans, especially in the winter months when we spend less time outdoors, have minimal access to bright, sunny days, and have fewer hours of daylight each day. While the disorder commonly causes depression-like symptoms in humans, evidence suggests that dogs, too, are affected by the lack of sunlight this time of year.

The dark, gloomy days and longer, colder nights of winter can cause dogs to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder, just like humans. 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.

Reporters at AnnArbor.com explain,

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

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, how do you combat Seasonal Affective Disorder in your dog? The same way some humans find relief – with artificial sunlight!

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.

Light boxes vary in size and price, but are typically used for 30-45 minutes each day for optimal results.

Does your dog experience Seasonal Affective Disorder? What types of changes do you notice in your pet?

Learn more about SAD and light therapy for dogs in this ABC News Video:

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