Winter blues hit us all but experts have revealed our DOGS could also be sharing our pain – with some even suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D).
Experts believe less time spent outside or in the sunshine during the winter months means dogs can suffer the same symptoms as humans who have the seasonal condition.
These include an increased appetite, a reluctance to go outside, low mood and lethargy.
Sixty one per cent of UK dog owners said they also see a difference in their pets’ behaviour as the nights draw in – with their canines appearing to be happier during the summer.
Commissioned by natural dog food producer, Forthglade, the research of 2,000 dog owners found 44 per cent have consulted an expert about their pet’s S.A.D. – or considered it.
Canine behaviourist, Nick Jones, said: “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 with many exhibiting symptoms that replicate the human condition Seasonal Affective Disorder.
“Lethargy, an increased appetite, irritability and a reluctance to go outside and exercise are typical behaviours exhibited by dogs in the colder months when natural sunlight is at a minimum.
“There are simple steps dog owners can take to help their pets. Taking walks in daylight hours is a must, and good nutrition also plays a very big part.
“Poor diet can be directly linked to lethargy and depression within canines.
“It’s more important than ever during winter months to feed your dog a healthy natural diet – comfort eating in winter is as bad for pets as it is for humans.”
During the summer months, fifty six per cent of dog owners walk their dogs for over 30 minutes on an average day.
However, over the winter period this falls by around half – with less than three in 10 respondents managing a 30 minute-plus walk on a typical day.
More than a third of those surveyed believe their dog’s eating habits change when they are feeling depressed.
And over a third of dog owners think their pet craves comfort food more than usual during the winter period.
Seventy one per cent of respondents said their canines sleep more than usual in the winter.
While other behavioural changes include begging for more food, taking themselves off to a quiet spot in the house alone and wanting to play less than usual.
Of those polled, nearly a quarter said they feed their pet more in the winter than they do during the summer.
While nearly a quarter of dog owners admit to using food and treats to try and improve their pet’s mood.
Gerard Lovell, MD at Forthglade said: “All pet owners want their dogs to be happy, but it seems the winter months can really have a negative impact on our four legged friends.
“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.
“Staying active and eating well – the secrets to winterproofing your dog!”
NICK JONES’ TOP TIPS FOR REDUCING S.A.D. IN DOGS:
- During the week, when your time is limited, try placing your pet’s bed under a skylight or close to a window to help take advantage of what little light there is
- Nutrition also plays a big part, and poor diet can be directly linked to lethargy and depression within canines
- Play games inside the home to stimulate the dog, such as ‘find it’ games up the stairs and in rooms, indoor agility or ‘take it and leave it’ games
- No matter the size or shape, the garden also offers a great outdoor space for your dog to get some natural sunlight
- Feed your dog a healthy, natural diet with no artificial additives – eating poor quality dog food, or even our leftover food can increase behavioural problems and isn’t good for your dog’s overall health
TOP 10 DIFFERENCES IN DOG’S BEHAVIOUR IN THE WINTER COMPARED TO THE SUMMER MONTHS:
- They sleep more
- They are reluctant to go outside
- They are less active than usual
- They have less energy/ are lethargic
- They eat more food generally
- They seem hungrier
- They take themselves off to a quiet place in the house
- They eat more comfort food/beg for human food more often
- They seem sadder than usual
- They want to play less than usual