Have you ever thought about lying down and sleeping in winter? Relax on the sofa with your furry companion or drape an Afghan (the blanket, not the pet) on top of your head, and request people to wake you as the day gets longer and mornings get pleasant. Did you think that your pet may have the same feeling?
Have you ever thought whether your pet is more restful during winter months, then you could be right about something? While there aren’t many research studies regarding pets’ seasonal sleeping routines, it is evident that when the days are shorter and more time in the house, what else could a pet do other than curl up and have an extra nap every couple of times hours? This could fall into the ” anecdotal evidence category,” but it’s easy for pet owners to track their pets and their sleeping habits as winter turns to fall.
If you notice that your pet has been asleep more than usual, it could be a reason for it similar to the one actually, which could trigger the desire to curl up with your pet in the warmth of winter is a seasonally-affected disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms can drain people’s energy and cause “moodiness” from the end of autumn through winter. Other signs are:
- Feeling depressed, sad, or depressed most of the day, often throughout the day.
- The activities that you used to love
- Feeling depleted and unmotivated
- Sleeping too often
- Experimenting with carbohydrate cravings, binge eating, and losing weight
If any of these signs appear in your dog this winter, it could suffer from winter blues.
U.K. Pets Have the SADs?
In 2013 in 2013, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals investigated U.K. pet owners concerning SAD and their pets. 40% of respondents reported that they experienced a “downturn in the mood” in their pets as the days are shorter and the temperatures drop. More alarmingly, half of the respondents reported that their animals slept more, and four out of ten reported that their pets seemed less active. One-third of cat owners said explicitly that their cats seemed “sadder” than usual, and 25% of participants reported the pets were eating more.
Although this research isn’t conclusion-based, they are valid reasons why your pet’s mood may be negatively affected in winter.
There Goes the Sun
The sun’s light affects melatonin. It is the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. Melatonin is released when the skin gets exposed to sunlight. Low melatonin levels can lead to daytime sleepiness and disrupt standard sleep patterns, leading to exhaustion.
The sun’s rays also help to produce serotonin which is accountable for the brain’s capacity to create a positive mood. For those who suffer from depression, many antidepressant medications boost serotonin to combat negative emotions. Serotonin also gets produced in the human body after consuming sweet, sugary foods, which could be why depressed individuals (and animals) are more likely to overeat.
In winter, there is a natural decrease in days of sunshine, and pets tend to be cooped inside more often, as it’s either too cold or wet or both for a stroll outside. This means that less melatonin in the body regulates your dog’s sleep pattern and serotonin levels to “feel good.” Does this count as a type of depression? We may never discern our pet’s true thoughts and feelings. However, it could be an indication of depression.
Your Mood Is Their Mood
Have you noticed that the animals get over the moon when you speak to your pet (and sometimes, your cat) with a rousing tone? Tails are flapping, feet hopping. They’re happy because you appear to be. But, the reverse may be the case. If you’re letting the winter blues take over your life, your pet picks it up on this and may react accordingly. A study at the University of Lincoln showed that dogs could sense human emotions. They may observe and be sad to show solidarity if you’re sorry.
All Sleep and No Play Makes Biscuits a Sad Boy
There’s a more real reason your pet may suffer from SAD. They may be grumpy out by the lack of playtime. It’s possible that they’re exhausted, and understandably so. What was once an enjoyable, comfortable 7 p.m. walk could now be a boring couch time. The pee breaks in the yard could become more of a “run out and run right back in” scenario. It’s not just the lack of sunshine causing them to fall but a lack of time for play. It could affect you too. In turn, you might be affecting the mood of your pet. Winter isn’t a good time! If you allow it to be one.
A Little In-and-Out Can Circumvent SAD
There are two options to reduce SAD symptoms for your pet. The first one is simple. Go outside! Bring both you and the pet sun and enjoy some time outdoors. The exercise will do you and your pet well while the sun can do its magic.
Of course, too much outdoor time is only sometimes possible as winter comes around. In these situations, heightened indoor activities are necessary. The game of tag, tussle, hide and seek, and fetch are a few games that are “outdoor” activities that you can quickly adapt to indoor areas. Invigorate your blood flow and exhaust your pet naturally. They might even have more rest, but it will be the correct type of sleep.
Oddly, your pet may be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. However, it’s not unusual to be able to alleviate symptoms with a small effort. You may be feeling better!