dogs get S.A.D too

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At this time of year, as the days shorten from reduced daylight and temperatures drop, many Brits will suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s a common condition which can make the winter months quite tough. But did you know that our four-legged friends suffer from similar symptoms?

Dogs by nature want to be outside in natural sunlight, exploring and exercising, but for a number of reasons winter makes this difficult. Many pet owners are put off walking in the dark for safety reasons, while others don’t like to get out with their dogs in the rain or much colder weather. This means our pets often have to take on a more sedentary lifestyle, with substantially reduced exposure to daylight.

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We caught up with leading canine behaviourist Nick Jones to find out more on the effects of S.A.D on dogs: 

“The long dark days of winter don’t just take a toll on the two-legged population, our four-legged friends also feel the strain. It’s clear that many dogs exhibit symptoms replicating the human condition of SAD: lethargy, an increased appetite, irritability and a reluctance to go outside and exercise – all as a result of natural sunlight being at a minimum”.
Those of us who suffer from winter blues know how important it is to resist junk food and keep our diets healthy, and the same goes for our pets. Poor diet can be directly linked to lethargy and depression within canines, so try not to be tempted to share pet foods with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. Feeding a natural healthy diet is a key part to winter-proofing your dog!”

S.A.D symptoms

  • Sleeping more
  • Reluctance to go outside
  • Less active than usual
  • Appearing lethargic
  • Eating more & generally more hungry
  • Desire to be alone & rest in a quiet place
  • Begging for more comfort food/human food
  • Less playful
  • Less interested in social interaction with humans or dogs

top tips

  • Taking walks in daylight hours is a must and when on walks get dogs really moving; jumping over logs and chasing balls
  • During the week when time may be limited, try placing your pet’s bed under a skylight or close to a window to take advantage of what little light there is
  • Nutrition plays a big part in mood and poor diet is directly linked to lethargy and depression within canines
  • Play games inside the home to stimulate your dog, such as ‘find it’ games, indoor agility or ‘take it and leave it’ games
  • No matter the size or shape of your pet, the garden offers a great outdoor space for them to get some natural sunlight
  • Feed your dog a healthy, natural diet and avoid junk and fillers. Eating poor quality dog food, or even human leftover food, can increase behavioural problems and isn’t good for a dog’s overall health

Pip & Rubi's story

Earlier this year, during the darkest depths of winter we sent out a plea to customers to help find dogs who may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) so that we could work with them to try and get their beloved canine companion back to their usual tail-waggingly happy self.

We were contacted by Pip, a veterinary nurse who was growing increasingly concerned about her 6 year old Pug, Rubi.

Rubi is usually a healthy, happy dog with a very loving nature. She is eager for attention from anyone who would be a willing participant – and sometimes even those who attempt to ignore her. She loves nothing more than trying to lick anyone who gives her some fuss.

But sadly last winter, Rubi’s behaviour changed.

Rubi was very out of sorts. There was one occasion when I thought I had lost her. She is usually my shadow but I suddenly couldn’t find her anywhere. Eventually I found her in our spare room sleeping, something she had never done before.

Pip was so concerned that she decided to book Rubi in for a check-up with the vet. The vet listened to her heart to rule out an abnormality there and they also ran a full blood check. They performed full biochemistry and hematology looking for any signs of kidney or liver disease and infection – thankfully all these tests came back clear and there was nothing physically wrong with Rubi.

I was relieved that Rubi had been given a full bill of health, but I knew in my gut that there was something wrong. The problem had to be more psychological. After having conversations with colleagues and doing my own research, I concluded that the only thing it could be was winter blues – there had been no other major changes to Rubi’s lifestyle and diet. I am aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder in humans, but firmly believe that dogs can suffer this too and the unsettled weather we have had this winter has led to Rubi suffering from this condition.”

Check out our short video below to see how Rubi’s behaviour changed when Pip swapped her onto a 100% natural diet, and followed our top tips for avoiding SAD for 6 weeks.