Seasonal Affective Disorder and Dogs: Know the Warning Signs

    • 5 min read

    Freezing temperatures, a lackluster sun, and bare, solemn trees come around every winter, and while the holidays have a way of elevating moods, once the new year arrives, it can feel like this weather will go on forever! With cold, dreary days still going strong, those winter blues have a way of bringing down everyone, including your dog. 

    Don’t let your dog feel down and out this season---here’s what you need to know about seasonal affective disorder in dogs and what you can do to help keep your dog happy and healthy.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder and Dogs

    What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder in Dogs?

    Also called seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a disorder usually seen in humans that can cause depression during the winter months. While there are no official studies that confirm that SAD affects dogs, many pet owners report lower energy levels in their pets in the winter for whatever reason. 

    Since SAD does impact pet owners, it’s possible that dogs experience similar symptoms to their owners due to lifestyle changes, such as reduced outdoor activity, which can affect a dog’s mood, energy levels, and behavior. 

    How to Tell If Your Dog Suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder?

    It’s important to know the signs of SAD in dogs to properly recognize if your dog could be suffering from the disorder. Here are a few suspected signs of SAD: 

    • Your dog seems withdrawn. Your dog may seem less willing to play with toys and interact like usual.
    • Your dog is lethargic. Is your high-energy dog suddenly down in the dumps? It could be due to mood changes from depression.
    • Your dog sleeps more. Lethargy often comes with longer naps, so if your dog is also sleeping more frequently or for longer than normal, it could be due to SAD.
    • Your dog is suddenly eating more or less than normal.People aren’t the only ones who might binge on sweets or forgo eating their usual amounts. You might see a decrease or an increase in how much food your dog eats if depression is at play. 
    • You see behavioral changes.Your dog may seem more aggressive, have accidents, bark more frequently, and destroy items around the house if there is an underlying mood or other health issues. 

    Remember, every dog is different, so some signs of seasonal affective disorder could be your dog’s norm or could be due to another underlying problem, whereas other signs could be due to SAD.

    How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder in Dogs?

    Dogs might benefit from the same kinds of lifestyle changes that help improve our moods, making combating seasonal affective disorder a team effort. Check out these tips for treating SAD:

    Chopper & Otis walk in snow

    1. Go on Walks with Your Dog 

    Regular exercise is key to a healthy body and mind. Going on walks with your dog helps increase mental stimulation, decrease stiffness, and boost endorphins—the “feel good” hormone. So layer up and get moving!

    2. Catch Some Rays

    Sunlight has a way of brightening up the day, and science shows that when dogs bask in that sunshine, it helps to increase serotonin levels—the “happy” hormone! It’s no wonder limited sunlight in the wintertime can leave your pup feeling down. Be sure to open the blinds in the daytime and encourage your dog to soak up those rays.

    3. Stick to a Routine

    Whether rain or shine, snow or frost, you should still try to keep to your everyday routine with your dog. Dogs thrive on a consistent schedule, so if you’re both bundled up inside in the dark, this could affect your dog’s mood, as well as your own! Try to go on regular adventures out of the house, even if it’s just for a short while, as changing settings can do wonders for elevating mental stimulation and boosting energy levels.

    4. Spend Quality Time Together

    Those new year’s resolutions might have you deep into your latest work or health goals, but sometimes it can be hard to slow down that ambition and make quality time for you and your dog. Consider setting new year’s goals with your dog. Bonding with your doggo can help keep your dog from feeling lonely and under-stimulated when it’s just too cold to get outside for some fun.

    5. Make Time for Indoor Play 

    On days when blizzards are blasting or ice is a slippery danger zone, you might find that going outside with your dog isn’t an option. Indoor play with your dog is just as important as outdoor play and can increase endorphins and improve moods. 

    Best Dog Toys for Elevating Moods

    Though not a treatment for SAD, having the right toys on hand can make indoor playtime with your dog an exciting and mentally stimulating time.

    Here are a few of our top picks for boosting your dog’s mood:

    Tug-of-War Toughies

    Since you’re probably not set on tossing a fetching friend around your home, the next best option for getting those wiggles out of your restless dog on a snowy day is to choose a tug-of-war toy. 

    The Bumi Tug Toy is a great option because you can play tug-of-war with your dog when the weather is unsuitable for outdoor play and then take this sporty little retrieving toy outside once the weather is clear and warm! Its colorful and unique shape will be sure to get your dog motivated to play.

    Another dog favorite is the Beco Rope Ball, which takes a regular ball to the next level. Your dog will love chasing and tugging this irresistible and fun toy around the house! This toy is extremely durable and made from cotton, natural rubber, and rice husk fibers.

    Chopper playing with Duraplush Pea

    Interactive Treat Finders

    Dogs need mental stimulation, and an interactive puzzle toy can help keep your dog engaged and focused throughout the winter months. Orbee-Tuff Mazee merges all that fun your dog gets from a ball with a treat-dispensing maze, making it perfect for dogs who love to paw at and roll their toys around. 

    For more laid-back dogs, the Jigsaw Enrichment Licking Mat is ideal for a pup who is prone to licking in the winter. Licking treats can also help calm your dog down while providing hours of stimulation.

    Snuggle Buddies

    Snuggle buddies, like the Hollywoof Cinema Poppin’ Pupcorn and Duraplush springy squirrel tug toy, offer your dog a cuddly friend to help lower anxiety and increase feelings of calmness. Whether your pup simply needs a lovie to snuggle up with on movie night or needs a bit more spring to his toy for extra engagement, you can’t go wrong with either of these two durable options.

    For more daring dog lovers, consider getting your dog George the Giraffe—a plush cuddle toy with a squeaker for added fun!


    *Dog toys are not a substitute for treating potential health conditions in your dog. If you suspect your dog is exhibiting unusual changes in mood, behavior, or health, contact the veterinarian. 


    Until next time--

    Chopper & Otis See you Next Time