Daylight saving time makes pets go bonkers. Here’s why

Spring forward, that overnight wonder where clocks magically change and evening light lingers longer, is a sign that spring is here and summer’s coming.

And while generally welcomed, it can throw us off.

That lost hour of sleep when we spring forward? For some, it hits hard.

And you know who else can be undone by springing forward? Our four-legged friends.

“For animals that are really set in their ways, that can be really tough,” said Dr. Liz Stelow, chief of service for Clinical Behavior Service at the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California at Davis.

While not as psychologically (and physically?) difficult as the time change in the fall when we gain an hour, spring forward can still be disorienting.

And the moodiness we feel when our schedules, our sleep and our sunlight is fiddled with? Our pets not only feel their own discomfort, they take on our discomfort, too.

“You are going to be grumpier and your pets are going to feel that,” Stelow said.

And it may be more than a case of sleep deprived moodiness this time.

This spring forward comes as many people, and their pets, are still getting used to changing home and work routines brought on by the pandemic.

For those who were able to pull it off, working from home in the past two years has allowed us to spend more time with our pets. It’s been one of the few silver linings of a pandemic that has been devastating in so many ways.

But as we return to more “normal” routines, many of us are spending less time at home.

Our pets can read that not as “return to work,” but more “where are my people going?” or, more painfully, “Why are they leaving me?”

Stelow said she’s seen some animals that have really suffered with the changes.

“We have seen so much separation anxiety,” she said.

So add to that yet another change — jumping clocks ahead an hour — and some pets are going to feel it deeply.

“Pets that already have separation anxiety are probably thinking, ‘Why are you getting up and going so early?’” Stelow said.

Dogs and cats can’t read clocks, they simply feel the routines of their own bodies and of their humans.

“They think, ‘Are you leaving me longer?’” Stelow said. “No, just earlier.”

And like the good friends that they are, they take on our worries too.

That’s a lot of unease in a little fur body.

So what do you?

“For animals really set in their ways it can be challenging,” she said.

First and foremost is to take it slow and make changes in increments.

“The world generally doesn’t change so much but our schedule does,” she said.

And that, to some degree, you can control.

“Gradually adjust your pet’s schedule,” she said.

It’s not unheard of for pets, especially dogs, to have accidents around daylight saving time. They might not feel ready for a trip outside an hour earlier, but need relief after you have already left for work.

Or they might be uneasy, even mad, and that can trigger “accidents.”

But there is a little ray of sunshine this time of year. And that’s literally, a little ray of sunshine.

Days are longer, evenings are lighter and warmer, all which means longer walks, more play time outside and probably a renewed energy level — for you and your friend.

Ease their anxiety with all the exercise they crave. It’s good for you too.

But if this next week feels hard, you are not wrong, Stelow said.

And you are not alone.

This time of anxiety is real, for both you and your furry friend.

“It’s just so challenging,” Stelow said. “I wish I had quick tips.”

For more acute cases in which animals pace, howl or cause damage during the day, a visit to the vet is likely in order, she said.

But if pooch is just moody and sad, maybe leave a new toy for her to chew on.

“Do little things for dogs that are alone,” she said.

And better than a stuffed toy, Stelow said, if you are able to pull it off?

“Come home at lunch if you are lucky.”

You can reach Staff Columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @benefield.

Leave a Comment