November – Seasonal Affective Disorder and Your Pet

Written by Creature Comforts. Posted in Blog

***STAT Holiday – No dog-walking on Friday, November 11th, Remembrance Day***

As the dreary coastal fall/winter season rolls in, you may start feeling less energetic and a little down.  Recent research shows that our furry friends experience similar symptoms (lethargy, reduced appetite, clawing or chewing, frequent barking or aggression) during this time of year.  The lack of sunlight affects the levels of melatonin, serotonin and other hormones our (and their) brains produce.

A great way for you and your pet not only to bond, but to increase your endorphin levels is to get at least 20 minutes of outdoor exercise per day.  Endorphin production usually begins about 15 to 20 minutes into exercise and peaks after about 45 minutes.  Repetitious movement, such as walking, running and cycling, increase levels of serotonin.

Leave some curtains open while you are out of the house during the day.  Light is tied to the functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands and can stimulate the body to release hormones that have an uplifting effect on mood.  Even 30 minutes a day on a sunny back porch or window perch may do the trick.

On the weekend, try taking a trip to a different park in town.  The new sights and smells will help lift your pet’s mood.  For a list of off-leash parks in Vancouver, visit the Vancouver Parks Board website.  If it is too miserable outside to consider a walk in the park try introducing new toys and games.  Hide treats around the house or inside toys to entertain and challenge Scruffy.  Put a bird feeder by the window for the “hunter” in Fluffy to spy on.  ***Dog walker’s note: It is never too miserable for a walk in the park!  Chillydogs is a small Canadian company with Canadian-made products and materials.  They sell rain and winter gear for your pup.

Funny enough, you can buy movies specifically for pets!  These are designed to alleviate separation anxiety and boredom while you are out of the house during the day.  A movie for a cat might contain small animals such as birds and squirrels scurrying about their natural habitats making their glorious squeaky sounds.  A movie for dogs might show dogs playing with other dogs in the park, doing agility contests, playing fetch, etc.  I know my dog LOVES to watch “Dog’s With Jobs” on the Knowledge Network… Similarly, my cat likes to watch our parrot bathe himself and chew up his toys… I read about these videos at: http://www.themoviefordogs.com and www.cattv.com.

One more product I have read up on is the Thundershirt.  A couple of the dogs we know experience frequent anxiety with a number of different triggers: loud sounds, car travel, crating, separation from loved ones, etc. These shirts create a constant and gentle pressure which calms the nerves, much like swaddling a baby.  To watch the video and read more, visit http://www.thundershirt.com/.

Stay cheerful this winter and cuddle your critters!