How Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Pets: Expert Insights

This weekend, millions of people across the United States will adjust their clocks, losing an hour of sleep as daylight saving time comes into effect. However, for pets, the time change is an outdated human construct that can negatively impact their sleep and daily routines. Animal behaviorist Karen London, PhD, explains why pets are affected by daylight saving time and shares tips on how pet owners can help their furry friends adapt to the new schedule.

Circadian Rhythms and Internal Clocks

Dogs and cats, like humans, have internal clocks that regulate their sleep and wake cycles, known as circadian rhythms. These rhythms are influenced by external cues, such as sunlight, meal times, and daily routines. When daylight saving time begins, the external cues change, but the internal clocks of pets do not adjust accordingly. As a result, pets may continue to wake up at the same time, regardless of the time change, leading to sleep disruptions and other behavioral issues.

The Impact of Springing Forward

In the spring, when clocks move forward an hour, pets may struggle with the abrupt change in their routine. Dogs and cats that are highly schedule-oriented may become confused or anxious when their feeding times and walks are shifted suddenly. Some pets may take longer than others to adjust to the new schedule, but keeping a routine can be helpful in easing the transition.

Tips for Helping Your Pet Adapt

To help your pet adjust to daylight saving time, Dr. London recommends keeping a routine and gradually adjusting their schedule. Pets that respond to external cues, such as sunlight or meal times, may need more time to adapt to the new schedule. Breaking up the hour difference into smaller increments and gradually adjusting their feeding times, walks, bedtime, and wake-up time by 15-30 minutes each day can make the transition smoother for some pets.

In addition, some dogs may benefit from training programs that can help them adjust to new routines and basic obedience. Online resources, such as those provided by Dogo, offer free training programs that can help pet owners and their furry friends navigate the challenges of daylight saving time and other changes in their routines.

In conclusion, while daylight saving time may seem like a small inconvenience for humans, it can have a significant impact on the sleep and daily routines of our pets. By understanding their circadian rhythms and internal clocks, pet owners can help their furry friends adjust to the time change with minimal disruption to their lives. With patience, routine, and gradual adjustments, pets can adapt to the new schedule and continue to thrive alongside their human companions.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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