SAD is the perfect acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The winter blues or cabin fever can sap your energy, increase your appetite, and bring on a desire to cuddle under a blanket with your pet and sleep the winter away. In the Midwest where I live, winters can be cold, cloudy, windy, dreary and snowy. Being cooped up inside can cause some people to develop symptoms of SAD, and the farther you live from the equator the more prone you are to experiencing this disorder. Pets can also be affected by a lack of sunshine and shorter daylight hours, and can suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
In Alaska, winter months are cold and dark with very little sunlight throughout the day. The Plains states, the Midwest, areas in New England and Canada also have lower levels of light during the winter months. Studies have shown that people who live in these regions have higher incidents of developing SAD compared to just 2% of people living in Florida. Changes in two hormones, melatonin and serotonin, can cause people with seasonal affective disorder to crave comfort food, overeat, feel tired or lethargic, and experience mood changes, anxiety and weight gain. These are the same symptoms seen in dogs, cats and other animals with SAD.
One of the top veterinary charities in the United Kingdom conducted a survey of pet owners and found that 43% noticed a lack of energy in their pets; 59% said their dog or cat slept longer than usual; and 47% said their pets wanted more attention. Owners also reported that their pet seemed more fatigued and depressed. Boxers, Airedale Terriers, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs, as well as a few other breeds, may also experience seasonal alopecia that causes hair loss and darkening skin in the flank area which, like SAD, is due to a lack of sunlight.