Like us, our animals require sunlight in order to maintain a healthy existence. According to a survey conducted by the United Kingdom’s leading veterinary charity, People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PSDA), dogs and cats can suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Bright light triggers the production of serotonin, which is the “feel good” brain hormone responsible for mood and temperament. Dogs and cats without regular access to sunlight can become depressed, anxious, and even aggressive. Veterinarians are prescribing Prozac and other SSRIs to those pets displaying symptoms in SAD, BUT this pharmaceutical approach comes with a heavy dose of negative side-effects. (See my blog post on SAD in humans.)
Light boxes designed for us can also treat pets suffering from a lack of sunlight. Emitting 10,000 lux of UV filtered light, light therapy can produce the equivalent of a sunny day to your pet, anytime. By boosting serotonin levels, the increased light can increase energy, enhance sleep, reduce anxiety, and elevate your pets mood. Additionally, scientific studies have shown that low levels of serotonin can lead to aggressive behavior in dogs. Light therapy may be the golden ticket for discouraged parents struggling with an unruly dog.
What Causes SAD?
SAD in canines, as in people, is influenced by the amount of sunlight that your dog is exposed to. It is a type of depression. Nonetheless, it only affects dogs and humans during the same season each year. You may notice your furry -best friend feeling gloomier during the winter months, yet when April and May arrive, he is more energetic and has a healthier appetite. This is called winter depression and is caused by the lack of full spectrum light that sunlight provides. Lack of sunlight reduces the production of melatonin, which in turn will lead to depression, drowsiness and sometimes anxiety. Lack of full spectrum light also results in low levels of serotonin. Dogs suffering from low levels of serotonin, a hormone that serves as a neurotransmitter, will display symptoms of depression, aggression and have mood changes.
Symptoms of SAD
While we all enjoy lounging on the sofa and bed with our furry – best friends, there is nothing wrong in taking note of a few simple symptoms that your pet may be displaying. Is your dog or cat over anxious? Perhaps less playful? Or gradually spending most of his days sleeping, displaying little interest in new foods or toys? Dedicated pet parents sometimes will fall into a trap of overfeeding during the winter months or gradually accustoming ourselves to our pet’s lack of enthusiasm. The very behavior that humans with SAD display is similar to that of pets suffering from SAD.
How is SAD Treated?
Veterinarians often recommend light therapy to treat SAD. Being informed about non-invasive and low cost treatments that are natural and certainly cost less than yearly supplies of doggie Prozac, allows for pet parents to maintain control over their pets emotional well-being. Using a full spectrum light therapy that is generated through a light box and emits light on all wavelengths helps ease the winter blues