Ever feel that with the changes of the clock each fall, that life drags a little? It has been proven that as we enter into the darkening days of fall and winter, many of us experience feelings of depression. On a chilly fall day, curling up on the couch with a book, or taking a nap in front of the fire seems like a great idea. For many, those feelings are related to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. Humans are reacting to the shortening or daylight with hormones in the brain -those hormones affect our moods and feelings of well being.
Stanley Coren, PhD, in a recent Psychology Today article, discusses similar findings in cats and dogs. We understand why the 3 pound Yorkie doesn't want to go outside in 20 degree weather, but the "Winter Blues" go beyond that. Serotonin, a brain hormone, affects appetite, mood and sleep. Sunlight is needed for serotonin to be produced. Serotonin is also produced with the ingestion of foods such as chocolate and other sweets. Many dogs and cats seek extra treats in winter as a source of "comfort food." Researchers recommend a few things to try and alleviate the syndrome. Early morning light has been shown to help. Try and make sure that your dogs get a brisk early morning walk. It will benefit both you and your pet. Open your curtains and shades so your cats can perch in the window to absorb those early morning rays. Rotate toys so that your pets "think" they have something "new" to play with. Experts say that using interior lights that are "full spectrum" or "daylight" bulbs will help battle the syndrome and makes your pets happier as we all cope with the seemingly never ending doldrums of winter.