Q. I am affected by the time change in the spring and fall. How is my dog affected by these changes?
A. Our furry friends don’t read clocks, so they don’t know the time has changed. What they do know is their schedule has changed. Dogs are affected by changes from light and dark. Just like us their bodies work on a circadian rhythm. The most common rhythm affected is the day and night cycle.
Back in the time of Benjamin Franklin, it was suggested to alter the clocks to save on candle wax. But it wasn’t adopted until 1916 when Germany became the first country to make this change. In 1918, the U. S. implemented the idea of daylight savings to decrease energy costs. Unfortunately, this hour change has a big effect on our sleep, moodiness, loss of focus, productivity, and our health and the same goes for our best friends.
The dog uses the changing light in the morning to wake up organ function such as the adrenal glands, digestion, hormones, and the brain. When the sun goes down, these systems slow down and allow Fido to rejuvenate during sleep. Dogs are creatures of habit. Some are more attuned to their routine than others. They are accustomed to getting up and going potty, having breakfast, and going for the designated walk at a set time. How often do you hear, “My dog doesn’t let me sleep in on my day off?” When they suddenly lose an hour in the morning, your best friend can show changes in appetite, anxiety, other changes in behavior, and possible physical symptoms. Your best friend may be restless during the day or night. Destructive behavior may develop.
Be sensitive to your dog’s ability to handle change. We all have experienced our buddy developing diarrhea when boarded. Some pups can have digestive issues with a change in any schedule even an hour time change. They may not eat at the new time. Increased scratching and excessive licking or chewing can occur.
If your dog’s behavior change is more than a couple of days, or other symptoms develop such as diarrhea, itching, and anxiety, seek veterinary care to help him cope with the change. You can also use supplements to help counteract the stress. Melatonin can help with sleep and anxiety. Certain probiotics made for dogs (human products are not as effective) can help with the stress and GI issues. Herbal formulas and other nutraceuticals can also help Fido adjust to the time change.
Most dogs and people will not exhibit any problems with the hour change. For those who do have issues, be proactive to help him cope with the change. Start a few weeks before the time change. Gradually change the time you get up to take Fido out for his morning potty break. Repeat the same process with feeding, walking, and play time. The gradual change will result in a less stressed-out pup.
A little planning can make a big difference in avoiding problems with time change for your dog and for you.
Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH
Animal Wellness Center