Seasonal Depression In Pets: Do They Have It? (And How To Treat It)

Posted on
April 6, 2021
A shaggy white dog sits on a deck in front of a red house.
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When the season turns to colder winds and the nights are dark and long, it’s not uncommon to feel a little down about it. Seasonal depression is common in people, when there’s less sun around and a constant chill in the air your body and mind can feel the repercussions. 

But can your pets have the same problem? It’s not as common in pets as it might be in people, but there have been cases of seasonal depression in pets, and it can greatly affect their physical and mental health.

And though you can’t call the sun back out from behind the clouds or make the dreary rain go away there are some easy fixes that will lift your cat or dog’s mood. 

But before you dive into solutions for your pet’s seasonal depression it’s important to understand what it is, why it happens, and then the multiple ways in which you can fix it. Read on for more information. 

A black dog with a white muzzle and a brown and white tabby cat sit in the snow.
You might be familiar with SAD, but here is how it happens. 

What is seasonal depression, aka SAD?

The official name for this illness is seasonal affective disorder often abbreviated as SAD. Its main culprit of choice is us, people, in the autumn and winter months when we spend less time outside with less sunshine and warm weather. 

It can cause depression-like symptoms in human beings, and can occasionally show similar traits in the behavior of dogs and cats. 

The reason that our pets, and us as well, take on these depressive traits in the winter months is because of the lack of sun and a change in our day and night routines. As winter creeps on so does the sunlight and we often go to bed earlier, differing from our summer schedules.

This reduced amount of sun exposure as well can cause our serotonin levels to plummet, one of the chemicals in our brains that make us happy. Dogs and cats are not so different. Our pets operate usually on the same schedule as us, and so can be similarly affected. 

A white and black cat lies against a glass door.
The common symptoms of seasonal depression should be easy to catch. 

Signs of seasonal depression

So now that you know about how and why your dog or cat can be affected by season depression, then how exactly do you spot its symptoms?

Your pet can’t talk to you, so diagnosing this for them is going to be harder than it would be in yourself or a family member. As always, if you’re seriously concerned for the health of your pet then you should take them to your veterinarian immediately. 

However, if your pet’s behavior isn’t too distressing you can hold off on that vet visit and instead assess the situation for yourself. 

Here are some of the distinct signs and behaviors of seasonal depression in pets, something to keep an eye out for as the weather begins turning.

Less energy

Is your dog or cat normally one to play and run and have a great time all around? Then it definitely will catch your attention if they don’t seem as bright and cheerful as usual, instead prone to lethargy. 

Lazing around the house can be an indication of multiple illnesses, but combined with dreary weather can easily be seasonal depression.

A loss in appetite or grooming behavior

These acts tie into the lack of energy your pet seems to have these days. They don’t want to move around much, so maybe they’ve become reluctant to eat. A lack of appetite in your pet can be a serious problem.

For cats too overgrooming can be a sign of something amiss in their health. If your cat is grooming more than usual it could be due to an outside stressor like a change in weather.

An increase in sleep

No, your dog and your cat don’t hibernate. So when the snow starts falling they shouldn’t be curling up in some cozy corner of the house to sleep the days away like a bear. 

Because of the darker days and the lack of sunlight your pet might be more inclined to sleep than do anything else. No matter the reason, it’s cause for concern. 

A chocolate lab in a pink collar puts up its paw for its owner.
Now that you’ve confirmed your pet has seasonal depression here is what you should do about it.

Treatment

There are a couple of solutions to your dog or cat’s seasonal depression. Some of them involved changes to your house and lifestyle, others not so much.

No matter what you choose, you can mix and match these treatment options as you please to your and your pet’s comfort, remember that eventually, the weather should clear up and your pet will likely begin behaving normally again.

Spend more time outside

An easy solution, especially for dog owners, is to keep up with your daily walks or increase them as you see fit. 

While the sun outside might not be shining as brightly as you might wish it’s still here for most of the day, and you should take advantage of all the light given for you and your pet. 

Keep your home well lit

Draw open those blinds and keep your room’s lights on. A dreary and dark house will not only reflect on your moods but your pets.

We are all less inclined to be moving around when the atmosphere around us is gloomy and to cheer your 

Try a food supplement

An added supplement to your pet’s diet, with veterinarian approval, of course, can curb the lethargy in your pet’s behavior.

The supplement of choice is usually omega-3 supplements when it comes to curbing seasonal depression. It can boost brain cognition and give your dog that much-needed boost in energy.

A yellow and white cat lays down underneath a bike tire.
Seasonal depression is tricky to navigate, but we have all the tips and tricks for you. 

Diagnosing seasonal depression in pets is the hardest part of this process. So often the symptoms associated with the depression can double for several other illnesses in pets. However, once diagnosed the solution is simple.

Whether you change your pets’ diet or keep up with that walking routine complete with extra sunshine, it shouldn’t be too long before your pet is feeling back to normal.

Those dreary days might feel like they last forever, but good weather is around the corner and so is wellness for yourself and your furry friend. 

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Posted on
April 6, 2021
in
Advice
category

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