Do pets suffer from the winter blues?
Winter can be a hard season to get through, and January is typically the month when our cosy Christmas decorations come down, wallets are tighter, days get shorter, and the weather is colder.  (Unless you live somewhere like Hawaii or Florida, in which case, lucky you.) The winter blues are a real thing, which is why Blue Monday has become a recognised date in our calendar (January 16 this year).  The scientific term is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD); as our exposure to sunlight decreases, so does our bodies’ production of serotonin – a chemical which helps make us happy. SAD can cause low energy, low moods, and a low appetite. Some pet parents have claimed they notice a change in their pet’s behavior over the winter months – but the reasons for this are slightly more complex.  

Do dogs and cats also suffer with SAD?

Although there’s no medical evidence to suggest that pets can experience SAD specifically, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that our furry friends can ride the lows with us during winter.  Some breeds are genetically prepared for cold weather, like Huskies and Labrador Retrievers, while others are more suited to curling up next to the fire. And some dogs will avoid the snow and rain at all costs simply because they don’t like it, which could make January a pretty boring month! A more likely explanation for the behaviour of pets that seem to be experiencing SAD, is the change in routine over winter. Pet parents suffering from SAD may not feel up to playing with their pets or going out for walks, which can make their pets feel less fulfilled.  Animals are also great at picking up on human vibes and are incredibly loyal, so you might notice your pet beginning to mirror your behaviour and moods. For example, dogs and cats have both been known to cuddle up to teary-eyed pet parents. Our furry friends can also have bad days unrelated to the weather, so it’s good to keep an eye on their behavior to give them the best care possible.

How can you tell if your dog is sad or depressed?

Dogs normally stick to a routine, so the main thing to look out for is any change in their normal routine or behavior that hasn’t been instigated by you. This could include:
  • Eating less or a complete loss of appetite
  • Clingy behavior and demanding attention
  • Not interested in toys or social situations
  • Sleeping too much or lethargic 
  • Not sleeping enough
  • Ears pinned back
  • Tail between legs or lower than usual
  • A change in vocalization e.g barking more/less than usual or whining 
  • Hiding or unusual aggression
If you’re concerned that your dog might be unhappy because of the weather, here are some things you can try:
  • Brave the rain and go for your usual walks
  • Increase playtime indoors
  • Make sure they have somewhere to get warm and cozy

How can you tell if your cat is unhappy?

It’s not just dogs that can suffer from depression and low moods. Our feline friends can be just as emotional so look out for:
  • Excessive scratching of furniture, woodwork etc.
  • Toileting outside of the litter box
  • Decrease or loss in appetite
  • No interest in toys or play
  • Change in vocalization particularly low-pitched growls
  • Poor grooming
  • Unusual aggression
If you notice these behaviors in your cat or dog, it also might be worth taking them to the vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying health issue. 

Is sadness or depression in pets covered by pet insurance?

The good news is that most pet insurance policies cover behavioral issues – and these include more than the obvious things like anxiety and aggression. They will often cover the diagnosis but also the treatment, from training to – in many cases – alternative therapies. So it’s well worth looking for these benefits when searching for a pet insurance policy.