Public awareness of Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, in pets has grown in recent years, and with this awareness has come a lot of good information about causes and symptoms, not to mention quite a few great ideas for curing our companions’ winter blues. 

Cases of SAD in pets can range from moderate to serious, with symptoms ranging from lethargy and potty-training relapse to sudden aggressive behavior and refusal of food. The majority of solutions out there boil down to three big ones: exercise, socialization and sunlight. Hit these biggies on a regular basis for the next couple weeks, and you’ll have your old friend back in no time:
  1. Exercise. There are plenty of easy, pet-friendly activities that will help you beat the boredom, even on a snow day. For example, you might start with a simple round of fetch in a long hallway, progress into a stimulating session of hide and seek, then move on to a cardboard box obstacle course or a scratching-post play area. And now that you’ve got your pet panting or purring, why not round out the afternoon with a soothing session of doga
  2. Socialization. Ready for a day out? Consider taking your pet to an indoor pet park where he can interact with his peers, or enroll in a day class that you can participate in together. Lack of socialization is a key factor in SAD, so the combination of exercise and social interaction such activities offer may well justify the extra expense. Also, having your pup tag along for your kids’s after-school activities is a great way to work in some much needed social interaction for their pal.
  3. Sunlight. Pets are susceptible to SAD in the first place because they’re mammals, and all mammals respond to the sun’s seasonal retreat in the same way: they ramp up production of melatonin, the body’s sleep medicine. If your pet is staying active during the day, more melatonin is a good thing. But without ample daylight and activity to balance things out, your pet’s double dose of drowsy medicine can effectively push them into hibernation mode. Which is not a good thing. Unless your pet is a bear. 
Yes, natural light can have a miraculous effect on your pet. But between the short days, gym memberships, kids’s recitals, unpredictable weather, bad traffic and looming deadlines—sometimes a leisurely walk in the dog park can be a lot to ask. But fear not, there are some nifty solutions out there that can safely promote independence and boost your pet’s morale, even when you’re away from home. 
The common pet door, for example, has seen some notable transformations in recent years that make them a unique solution for busy pet parents. Offering advanced features like customizable automatic locks and integration into electronic containment systems, pet doors aren’t what they used to be. For those seeking an indoor light supplement, the phototherapy box, or lightbox, a proven boon to humans, has now been successfully adapted for the pet market as well.

So, this winter, when you find yourself caught off-guard by erratic, out-of-character moods or behaviors from your pet, remember the big three: exercise, socialization and sunlight. A little sunlight, a lap or two at the pet park, and a rousing session of the Muffin Tin Game--and you’ll have your pet’s case of SAD licked.

Tags: Cats, Dogs, Health, Pets, Winter

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