In the UK, the clocks change twice a year and with those changes comes a disruption to routines and sleeping patterns. For most people, it takes a few days to adjust to living life an hour out of kilter.
But what about dogs? Does the move to — or away from — daylight savings time have any bearing on them?
According to animal behaviourists, dogs are no different to humans in that they have their own internal clocks. This circadian rhythm, as it’s known, tells them when to eat, sleep and wake up. But it’s pet owners who set their dog’s daily routine.
Some are so in tune with their owners’ schedules that the one-hour change in the time can cause confusion. Here we look at some of the issues around whether the bi-annual jolt in time could be detrimental to your dog.
1. Anxiety and stress
Any change in your own routine is almost certain to disrupt your dog and could be a trigger for anxiety and mild stress. Most dogs have very precise daily routines — eating their meals, going for walks, sleeping at roughly the same time — and they are likely to find significant changes to this a challenge. When the clocks change, try to adjust your own schedule gradually and if your dog is particularly sensitive to changes in your routine, speak to your vet about how to handle it.
2. Rise in road traffic accidents
Several studies have reported significant increases in road traffic accidents in the days immediately following the clocks changing. One analysis discovered a 17% rise in traffic incident-related deaths on the Monday after the spring change while another found an 8% increase. At Vets Now, we also see a rise in pets being hit by cars when the nights get lighter.
3. Increase in heart attacks
Perhaps surprisingly, there is a spike in humans suffering heart attacks when the clocks change. One study, carried out by the University of Alabama in the US, suggested this was largely down to sleep deprivation, a change in circadian rhythm, and even a small shock to the immune system. Thankfully, there’s no evidence to suggest dogs are similarly affected but it’s something for owners to bear in mind.
4. More time outside
Many vets report seeing a renewed vigour in dogs when the lighter nights arrive. This, in turn, results in them wanting to go outside more which, common sense will tell you, leaves them more susceptible to the usual springtime hazards such as adder bites, wasp and bee stings and slug and snail pellets. Our out-of-hours pet emergency clinics are busier during the lighter nights in spring and summer than they are in autumn and winter. Check our infographic for a full breakdown of these hazards.
5. Separation anxiety in dogs
People tend to go out more after the clocks go forward. One study, of 2000 adults, revealed 72% are more sociable when the weather improves. If the lighter nights mean you’ll be out more, perhaps playing sport or socialising, or you’re more likely to stay at work longer, then consider the impact this will have on your dog. Separation anxiety can be hugely stressful for dogs and can lead to changes in behaviour including howling, defecating and repeated escape bids.