I know that some people are affected by what is called “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) and that a common treatment for the syndrome is to just provide more light, but now I am wondering about my pets. Do they get down in the dumps in winter too? Other than the obvious winter-related things like keeping them warm and sheltered and wiping the snow off their feet, do I also need to take steps to prevent SAD for them? Signed, Carla
We were stretched out on the couch feeling too slothful to write this column today but your question was interesting to us so we got up and did some research.
As daylight begins to decline in the fall, some people experience a downward spiral mood change which is very hard for them to handle. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects people who usually feel normal and energetic throughout the year--except for the winter season. They experience mood changes, feel depressed, have little energy, and sleep a lot. Health officials estimate that about 5% of the United States' population is affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, and, for obvious reasons, it is much more common in the northern states.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a clinically recognized form of depression in humans—not to be taken lightly. But does it affect animals? Animal behaviorists think that the phenomenon of hibernation is one way that animals cope with the problem of lack of sunlight. And honestly, the idea of just sleeping through January and February has a certain appeal. The evidence for other animals that don’t hibernate is mostly anecdotal though, and the truth is, no one knows for sure.
But still, common sense tells us that our pets react to the hardships of winter the same way we do even if we aren’t diagnosed clinically with SAD. They lie around, and mope and they would complain constantly if they could talk. Whether or not they technically have SAD, they are probably at least bored because, let’s face it, you are lying around and moping too and no fun at all.
By the same token, the same remedies are helpful. There are various ways to handle the grumpy winter blues. If you are affected by the lack of sunlight, simply increase your exposure to daylight. Spending more time outdoors or close to bright windows in the house may help you get through the winter season. Similarly, if your dogs have to stay inside while you are at work, make sure they are near a sunny window if you can. Go for a walk with them in the daytime as often as you can have fun. Throw snowballs. Play stupid games in the house with your cats. Laugh. Entertain them. Entertain yourself. It will be over soon.
### About Oswego County Humane Society
We provide services to promote and strengthen the human-animal bond through fostering-to-adoption programs, spay/neuter clinics, and humane education... Because people and pets are good for each other. The Oswego County Humane Society is designated under IRS code 501(c)3 as a charitable organization: 161586001 and registered with the New York State Charities Bureau: 06-70-81. Our registration number with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is RR239.