Does Your Cat Get Depression in Winter? Light Therapy Can Solve it
October 2, 2020
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A typical morning for our cats may involve purring, stretching, or meowing at the family members. After some time, the cat might retire to its favorite spot looking normal. But, do we really understand our felines? What if they were depressed? Would we understand why? Can we help them overcome the winter blues?
Cats are sensitive to changes in light, more so than people. Less lighting in the fall may cause a decrease in brain chemicals like serotonin. Given the inevitability of rain, snow, and cold weather in the fall, cats are often faced with a change of schedule.
If your cat is indoor/outdoor, he may become depressed during the winter months and shorter days. Even if your feline is indoor-only, lack of sunlight, less exercise during the fall, and longer periods of alone-time all contribute to the telltale symptoms of restlessness and depression of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
What causes SAD?
SAD in felines, as in people, is influenced by the amount of sunlight that your cat is exposed to. You may notice your cat appearing slower and gloomier during the winter months, yet when April and May arrive, he is more energetic and has a healthier appetite.
Lack of sunlight reduces the production of melatonin, which in turn leads to depression, drowsiness, and sometimes anxiety. It also results in low levels of serotonin, a hormone that serves as a neurotransmitter; cats may display symptoms of depression, aggression, and mood changes.
Restoring the chemical balance is not done easily, since serotonin cannot be given as a shot or in pill form. Many veterinarians turn to drugs — the same ones prescribed for humans.
If the idea of giving your cat pills or a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) makes your heartache, then it’s a good idea to learn about light therapy, which manipulates your cat’s environment to simulate the brightness of sunlight.
Using light therapy to treat SAD
Veterinarians often recommend light therapy to treat SAD. These natural, non-invasive, and low-cost treatments can cost less than a yearly supply of cat's food, and they let you maintain control over your pet’s emotional highs and lows.
In Kaiyan Medical, we recommend using light therapy for 30 minutes a day.
Like us, cats and dogs suffer from conditions such as inflammation, infections, and arthritis. And no matter how closely we watch them, they’ll scrape their legs, cut their pads, jar their shoulders and sprain their ankles.
How it works
So, how does red light actually help animals? Very simply, it delivers an energy boost to the cells, which provides wide-ranging health benefits.
Using LEDs or LASER diodes, LLLT penetrates your animal’s skin, blood, muscle, and bone using specific wavelengths of photons. Photoreceptors in your animal’s cells absorb this light energy, which enhances the healing process by giving the cells a boost of energy. Various wavelengths reach different layers of tissue. Red light, for example, is more efficiently absorbed by tissue rich in hemoglobin and is beneficial for healing surface wounds and stimulating acupressure points. Near-infrared light is able to pass through to deeper tissues such as tendons, ligaments, bones, joints, and muscles. Ideally, a combination of both red, green and near-infrared light is used in a light therapy session.
What else light therapy can do for your cat?
Because of the way it energizes the cells, red light can help with a number of health conditions in animals, including the following:
Wounds and injuries
Rashes and infections
And there’s clinical data to prove it! In one study, horses that suffered from chronic back pain for years responded so well to red light therapy that in less than 3 months, over 70% were back to training and competing! (3) In addition, studies have also shown that horses treated with red light experience significantly faster tissue healing times.
If you’re thinking of trying light therapy for your dog or cat, the first step is to ask yourself — and your vet — if it’s the right option for your companion’s needs. Light therapy can help with a wide variety of minor conditions. If your pet is experiencing something more severe, light therapy may be able to complement a more extensive treatment plan. In Kaiyan Medical we love animals and we want health and wellness for them as well.
Low-Intensity Light Therapy: Exploring the Role of Redox Mechanisms. Joseph Tafur, M.D. and Paul J. Mills, Ph.D.
Effect of NASA light-emitting diode irradiation on wound healing. J Clin Laser Med Surg. 2001
Treatment of chronic back pain in horses. Stimulation of acupuncture points with a low-powered infrared laser. Martin BB Jr. 1987.
Equine wound healing: influence of low-level laser therapy on an equine metacarpal wound healing model. Jann. 2012.
Effect of light-emitting diode (LED) therapy on the development of osteoarthritis (OA) in a rabbit model. Biomed Pharmacother. 2011
Low-level laser therapy reduces time to ambulation in dogs after hemilaminectomy: a preliminary study. Draper WE. 2012