by Joyce Handzo
Happiness, as described by philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is "a hound dog in the sun." But what happens if the dog doesn't get enough sun? According to a survey conducted by The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, a leading veterinary charity in the UK, dogs and cats can exhibit signs of depression. This condition, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is well documented among humans, but pets may show similar symptoms. SAD can negatively impact both the emotional and physical well being of your pet, but there is a safe and effective way to minimize and even eliminate the symptoms.
How To Tell if Your Pet May Have SAD
Since dogs and cats cannot vocalize their feelings of sadness, pet owners need to be sensitive to certain forms of behavior. If a pet is sleeping more, lacks energy, or seems to crave extra attention, consider the possibility of SAD if you can link these symptoms to the pet having less exposure to sunlight. An increase in appetite or an indifference to their favorite toys may also be indicative of physical and emotional changes that correspond to lower light levels. Interestingly, canine hair loss, like light responsive alopecia or seasonal flank alopecia is often treated by exposing the dog to more sunlight, thus strengthening the case for the vital role of light for health benefits.
Effect of Sunlight on Key Hormones
Sunlight affects two key compounds: melatonin and serotonin, both of which provide specific support to the body. Melatonin, a hormone, regulates sleep cycles and is produced by the pet's pineal gland which is located in the brain. This gland is light-sensitive, so the production of melatonin is actually inhibited when sunlight hits the retina. When a pet is not exposed to direct sunlight, more melatonin is produced and feelings of sleepiness or lethargy can develop. Pets may then lose interest in their favorite pastimes and may shun activities that they once enjoyed.
Sunlight is also necessary to produce serotonin. Low levels of this neurotransmitter are associated with aggressive behavior and anxiety. Serotonin is made in the brain and the intestines. It's commonly thought of as the "feel good" substance; it's serotonin that gives people and pets a pleasurable feeling after exposure to sunlight and also certain foods. When pets are not receiving adequate amounts of sunlight, they may seek to compensate the lowered amount of serotonin by eating more, as previously mentioned.
If You Suspect Your Pet Has SAD
Pets that are experiencing lethargy or a decreased interest in favorite toys or activities should first be examined by a vet to rule out any illnesses. If the pet is otherwise healthy, and if the owner knows that the dog or cat has been receiving less sunlight, then it's time to consider SAD as the reason for the new behavior. Fortunately, this disorder is treated very simply: increase your pet's time in the sun.
If possible, allow your pet more time outside in the sunshine, especially during the time of day when the sun's rays are stronger. However, this option has a number of drawbacks. It's very possible that the reason your pet is experiencing symptoms of SAD is because the weather is not good enough to be outside for long periods of time, or the season is one in which the sun's rays are limited by less hours of daylight. While taking your pet outside more to receive direct sunlight is a good idea to combat the effects of SAD, there is an even better and more effective option.
Pawsitive Lighting 10,000 Lux Sol Box
Max Marvin developed a holistic and natural way to allow pets to gain the benefits of sunlight, when weather conditions do not allow them to experience it outside. He founded Pawsitive Lighting to combat the symptoms of light deprivation that pets may develop. Max created the first light therapy box made specifically for pets. And since he's a pet owner himself, he designed the Sol Box with style, portability, and of course, effectiveness in mind.
Max was introduced to the concept of light therapy after a bout with insomnia. A sleep specialist recommended a bulky light box and told him to use it at least 30 minutes every day. He did, and so did Luke, his Lab. Max noticed the way his dog literally basked in the simulated sunlight, and he made a solid connection: dogs need sunlight as much as people do.
His research led to the creation of the Sol Box as a way to combat the effects of SAD as well as to maintain a healthy exposure to light during times of inclement weather. The Sol Box delivers an effective 10,000 lux of light. Lux is a unit used to measure the intensity of light in a given area; 10,000 lux is an amount that represents the best average of the intensity of sunlight in a typical day. Outdoor light can range from 120,000 lux (which is painfully bright) to less than 5 lux on an overcast day. The Sol Box delivers 10,000 lux that provides a healthy, safe, and therapeutic dose of simulated light.
How to Use the Sol Box
Position the Sol Box near the pet's bed or crate. Encourage the pet to lay under the light for at least 30 minutes a day for maximum benefit. The portability of the Sol Box and its sleeker design enables pet owners to place the light in places where the dog or cat enjoys to rest. The Sol Box does not produce any heat so there is no danger of the pet being hurt. Another option for placement of the light is to choose a spot where both you and your pet can receive benefit. This may be near the sofa or a comfortable recliner. Since the Sol Box is providing a therapeutic dose of light, both humans and the pets can profit from the health advantages of the light.
What To Expect From Light Therapy
The objective of the Sol Box is to simulate the sun's rays and therefore expose the retina to enough ambient light for the pineal gland to suppress the production of melatonin while increasing the serotonin levels. The most immediate response pet owners see is their dog or cat gravitating toward the light. Pets actually enjoy receiving the light rays probably because they instinctually recognize the universal need for sunlight. Additional benefits will be seen over time, with the amount of time being determined by the pet's starting levels of serotonin. A pet who is experiencing a more advanced stage of lethargy may take longer to exhibit a positive benefit than one who may be in an earlier phase of SAD.
The therapeutic dose of light from the Sol Box should provide your pet with a more restful sleep at night which will result in an increased energy level during the day. As the serotonin levels are raised, the pet's overall mood should also improve, since serotonin is the neurotransmitter the creates an awareness of enjoyment. As this line of progression continues, once the pet has more energy and an elevated mood, the appetite should be regulated as well as the need for more affection. Food and attention may have been the pet's way of communicating a feeling of unrest. The overall improvements gained through light therapy are a series of positive changes. Each advance relates holistically, as the melatonin and serotonin impact mood, digestion, energy levels, and sleep patterns. The body is a whole unit and light therapy acts on that fact.
Sol Box is Safe and Effective
If you're looking to combat the symptoms of SAD or if you just want to ensure that your pet is receiving a healthy maintenance dose of light, the Sol Box is a safe and effective way to do this. The light delivers an appropriate intensity that offer benefits, and the box does not create heat to present a hazard. There is also a UV filter that prevents harmful ultraviolet rays from reaching your pet. The device is also designed to operate with the least amount of intrusion into your pet's life, or in other words, the Sol Box should not be distracting or 'scary' to pets. It's also portable so it can be easily moved and arranged for the pet to receive maximum exposure.
This holistic approach to treating SAD is innovative and appeals to pet owners who do not wish to buy pharmaceuticals to mask symptoms. By allowing your pet to absorb the healing benefits of light, you begin to create an atmosphere of health. Not only will symptoms disappear, but the pet's serotonin and melatonin levels should be regulated which positively impacts the rest of the body.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge understood that a hound dog in the sun is the definition of happiness. Max Marvin expanded on that idea and created the Sol Box to help foster both happiness and health by providing pets with the light they need. The sun's light provides benefits to humans and pets; the Sol Box ensures that they receive these advantages so their life together will be the best it can be.