DOGS AND SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)

As the days grow darker and shorter, and the thermometer plummets, so does the mood of millions of people living in the Northern Hemisphere. But humans are not the only ones affected by what scientists refer to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Our dogs – even the happiest, most active and energetic ones — can suffer the same dramatic downturn in mood.

In some veterinary studies, one third of the dog owners surveyed reported a steep plunge in their dogs’ otherwise happy and balanced personalities during the winter. According to them, nearly half of their dogs were less active, while half of them slept longer and were more difficult to rouse in the morning.

The British veterinary organization PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) recently listed some of the symptoms displayed by dogs suffering from SAD. They include aggressive behavior or soiling inappropriately, clawing at the furniture, either demanding more attention or appearing withdrawn, frequent barking, lethargy, less interest in going for walks or playing either with people, other dogs or toys, and reduced appetite accompanied by weight loss.

According to scientists, the reason for these behavioral changes in both humans and dogs appears to stem from the effect that light has on two significant hormones. The first is melatonin, produced in the pineal gland. The second is serotonin, produced in the brain.

Melatonin, often referred to as the “hormone of darkness”, plays a vital role in regulating the sleep cycle. The pineal gland is light sensitive, and because melatonin is usually secreted at night, the less light there is – as in the shorter, darker days of winter — the greater the production of melatonin. Key among its many, negative effects: lethargy, loss of appetite and sleepiness.

Serotonin, often referred to as the “feel good” substance in the brain also affects mood, appetite and sleep – but in an entirely different way. In this case, it’s sunlight that’s needed for the production of serotonin.

There are ways, however, to combat the effects of daylight’s diminishing hours on your dog’s mood before the full onset of winter. Begin by ensuring that his regular exercise regime is maintained and that his diet is well balanced. If your dog is already exhibiting signs of lethargy or withdrawal, talk constantly and comfortingly to him, and play games — such as hiding his favorite toys or tug-o-war — to keep him active and engaged. Studies show that dogs left alone most of the day are those who suffer the most. To rectify this, spend more time with your dog if possible. Otherwise, hire a dog walker or place him in doggy daycare.

Since the absence of bright light seems to be the major cause of SAD, the other solutions involve raising your dog’s direct exposure to as much light as possible. Place his bed close to a window or glass door. Change the schedule of his walks so that he is outside during the brightest portion of the day, and keep the lights on inside, particularly on the dullest days.

Ultimately, though, it’s the composition of the light that matters most. The more closely it resembles natural daylight, the more therapeutic it is. Just as there are specially designed “light boxes” for people with SAD, there are now similar light boxes for dogs. Owners opting for less expensive solutions need simply replace old, tungsten light bulbs with new, compact white fluorescent ones, labeled either “full spectrum” or “daylight.” Turn these lights on for at least an hour each day, then play with your dog to ensure his eyes are fully open and both retinas clearly exposed to the incoming light.

Hopefully, following all or some of these suggestions will spare both you and your beloved dog an unnecessary case of the winter blues.

Written by Nomi Berger

A YEAR OF DOG RESCUE RESOLUTIONS FOR YOU

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Have you thought of adding some new and different resolutions to your traditional New Year’s list?

Have you ever thought of getting involved in the world of dog rescue, but didn’t quite know how?

Here then, are twelve different ways – one for each month of the year – for you to resolve to make a difference in the lives of rescue dogs this year. Even if you choose only one, that choice will make all the difference in the world.

1. Contact your local humane society or animal shelter and volunteer your services to them: from office work, to cleaning cages and kennels, to being a dog walker once a week.

2. Donate a basket of dog items such as food, treats, bowls, toys and pee pads, together with either new or gently used collars and leashes, clothes and blankets to that same humane society or shelter.

3. Contact a local rescue organization and ask to volunteer for them. Volunteers form the backbone of every non-profit group, and no group can function without them. Areas always in need of extra hands include reference checks, web site assistance, updating email lists, attending adoption events, planning and attending fundraisers, distributing flyers, pamphlets and brochures, and transport.

4. Select one particular rescue online that “speaks to you” and make a monetary contribution to them – either as a onetime payment or as recurring monthly payments.

5. Read about the other ways you can donate to them – from wish lists to links to various online stores’ web sites – and purchase items both for yourself and them that way.

6. Follow that particular rescue’s Face Book page, and “like” them, “share” and comment on their postings regularly.

7. Instead of accepting birthday gifts this year, ask your friends and family to make contributions to that rescue in your name.

8. Host a small fundraiser (bake sales, garage sales and yard sales are among the most popular) and donate the proceeds to that rescue. You will receive not only their gratitude, but a tax receipt as well.

9. At your place of work, keep a container on your desk with the name of that rescue on it, and encourage your co-workers to deposit their spare change in it. Once the container is full, bring the change to the bank (already rolled, please), mail a check to the rescue, and begin again.

10. Sign petitions, both online and in person: one calling for legislation to ban puppy mills, and one calling on pet stores to stop selling dogs and cats.

11. Foster a dog. Learn precisely what’s required of you, then welcome one very needy and deserving animal into your home temporarily, until he or she can be placed in a permanent home.

12. Adopt a rescue dog and save two lives – the life of the one you are adopting, and the life of the one who will immediately take his or her place.

As for next year? Either continue working your way down this list, or resolve to draw up one of you own.

Article written by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the best selling author of seven novels, one work of non-fiction, two volumes of poetry and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her adopted Maltese, Mini, and now devotes all of her time volunteering her writing skills to animal rescue organizations throughout Canada and the USA

Adoption Events

Meet these and many more wonderful dogs and puppies.

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Meet these sweet pups at Poes

April 9th at Poe’s Pet Depot
from Noon till 5:00 PM
Mall St Matthews

Hand-In-Paw Rescue

Hand-In-Paw Rescue, based in the counties of Jefferson and Oldham, is dedicated to pulling pregnant dogs, nursing Moms and babies and orphaned pups from our local shelters as well as surrounding counties. Our goal is to stop the cycle of unwanted litters and to educate the public on the importance of spaying and neutering.