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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
How Lack of Daylight in Winter can Affect You and Animals
We are all familiar with the way our mood shifts as the weather and seasons change. Many of us feel energetic on a beautiful sunny day of spring or early summer, and enjoy outdoor activities as long as the sun is out. On the other hand, we tend to feel down on a dingy, rainy day in winter. But most of us cope well with the down feelings that come with seasonal changes by making them somewhat oblivious in the routines and schedules of our daily life.

However, as the daylight declines and the winter time approaches, some individuals start to experience a downward spiral mood change which is very hard for them to handle. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as Winter Depression or Winter Blues, affect people who usually feel normal and energetic throughout the year - except for in the winter season (in fewer cases in the summer). They may experience mood changes, feel depressed, have little energy, and sleep a lot. Less sunlight during the winter period seems to contribute many mood problems. It is estimated that about 6% of the United States' population is affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. The cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder are more reported in northern regions where there is a more decline of sunlight.

Does Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affect animals? According to Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, the author of "Winter Blues", it is very probable. In the book, the author discusses a horse's case. This horse, which belonged to a veterinarian, was capable of managing the most complex of jumps during the summer. But in February, he couldn't handle jumps that he would easily have managed in the summer. The veterinarian remembered that his mother horse had the same seasonal difficulties and suspected an equine form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). She consulted the author.

They decided to put a bright light in his stall in the morning and the evening from September through April. Just as they expected, this intervention worked. The horse improved the winter difficulties by 85%! He could solve complex problems and handled several difficult jumps in sequence during winter.

Throughout the history, humans have adapted their lifestyles according to the seasons. They cropped, harvested, and stored food for the winter. They anticipated seasonal changes physically and possibly emotionally as well at more subtle levels. So did wild animals, especially the ones that lived far away from the equator. They had to be prepared for food scarcity in winter, migration and hibernation. Hibernating species become drowsy and lethargic in winter to sustain their energy. The change in the sun exposure is considered to trigger the behavioral changes.

There are various ways to handle winter blues. Light Therapy is one of them. If you are mildly affected by the lack of sunlight, spending more time outdoors or close to bright windows in the house may help you get through the winter season. Simply increase your exposure to daylight. Exercise is also suggested by experts. Go for a walk with your dogs in the daylight. Your dogs may also benefit from the winter sunshine. Eat healthy food. Try not to feel stressed. Have fun and learn to relax whenever possible. However, if you are impaired by Seasonal Affective Disorder, you should see a doctor for proper treatments.

Special Note: Although every effort has been made to present healthy products and useful information to support your pets' health, the products and information contained within this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The contents of this site are not meant as a substitute for consultation with a trained veterinarian. If you are concerned about the health of your pets, you should ask your veterinarian for proper guidance suited to the specific condition of your pets. The owners of this website accept no liability for any consequences resulting from the use of products and/or information provided through this site. Please use your discretion when attending to your pets' health.
Special thanks to Fintan Darragh, Rich Bensen, Maggie, Jiji, and Mary Crissman for providing our pet pictures!
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