We all know that people can get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – sometimes known as ‘winter depression’ – at this time of year and it might seem like our pets feel down too, but how much do the seasons really affect our pets?
PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, explains: “Pets don’t suffer with SAD in the same way humans do, but that’s not to say they don’t feel different at this time of year. Pets are still affected by the changing seasons of autumn and winter, especially as days get shorter and the weather turns cooler, which can alter their usual routine.
“Some pets feel the changes more than others, and they can all respond in different ways.
Seasonal changes in pets
- Eating more. You might notice your pet appears hungrier over cooler months. There are lots of reasons why this could be happening. One theory is that even though our cats and dogs have been domesticated for years, the instinct to build up fat stores so they have the energy to stay warm over the winter still remains. It could also be that if we’re spending more time with them in winter, we’re around to see them eating so it seems like they’re more hungry. Keep an eye on them and if you notice that they’re hungry all the time and are gaining or losing weight, contact your vet in case there could be an underlying problem.
- Sleeping more. You might notice your pet prefers to nap a little longer, especially as evenings and mornings get darker. Again, there’s a good chance this could be similar to how shorter days affect us humans – less daylight hours in winter can affect hormones that control how much sleep we need, meaning your pet could be more likely to sleep more. It’s important to make sure your pet is still getting all the exercise they need though, you should walk during daylight hours when possible and make the best of the Vitamin D (from sunlight) that is available.
- Stiff joints. As the temperature drops, pets who suffer from arthritis or stiff joints might find moving a little harder and start to slow a bit more. Try to keep them warm and comfortable, and discuss with your vet if you’re worried or think they’re getting worse. You can take a look at some joint care tips on our blog.
- More shedding. You might find your pet sheds more during the autumn months due to the process of moulting as their thicker winter coat comes through, so you might find more hair around the home. Try giving them a brush more often and take a look at our fur-busting tips. If you’re noticing bald patches or itchy skin, this could be a sign of a skin problem so contact your vet for help.
Looking after your pet during seasonal changes
There are lots of things you can do to take care of your pet in winter months. Nina’s top tips include:
- Make sure to keep your home a comfortable temperature for your pet. Provide a cosy space to curl up in, lifted off the floor to stop them from lying in drafts and cats prefer a bed that’s high up.
- Pay more attention to older pets and make sure you call the vet if they’re struggling with the drop in temperature or don’t seem as keen to get up and about.
- Provide extra litter trays that are well spaced out amongst your home for cats reluctant to go outside.
- Think about getting a coat for recovering, unwell or older dogs or those with thinner fur.
- Don’t stop exercising your pet! They’ll still need to get just as much exercise as they normally would to keep them healthy and stop them from getting bored. Always try to take dogs out for their daily walks and allow cats to have exercise. In extreme weather conditions though, they may need to stay in, so try a game with a fun toy to keep your cat, dog or rabbits entertained indoors instead.
“As the weather gets worse around this time of year, we might not be as keen to get out for walks, but you could challenge yourself to go out as you’ll feel so much better in yourself when you get home and so will your pet. Not getting out can really impact on their lives and our own” Nina adds.
“It’s important that you use every chance you get to go for walks in the daylight, as this will help you and your pet to stay feeling positive and get through the winter months. Most dogs will still be excited to go out for their normal walks come rain or shine, but even if they don’t seem as keen in the colder months it’s still important to encourage them to get some exercise.”