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Daylight Savings Time and Your Pet

Updated on April 4, 2015
Maggie Bonham profile image

Maggie Bonham, or Margaret H. Bonham, is a multiple award-winning pet author and expert. She has written more than 20 books on pets.

Every spring time, I dread the inevitable "spring forward" of Daylight Savings Time, and I'm pretty sure my pets do, too. After all, they're pretty used to being on a schedule of sleeping, eating, napping, eating and sleeping. Okay, maybe there's the walk and the playtime, but given that they're used to a certain schedule, they're probably wondering what insane person came and switched my internal clock.

The days after the time change always signals confusion for my dogs - and little wonder. According to their internal clocks, I'm waking up an hour too early and going to bed far earlier than I should in the springtime. Mealtime is also vastly confusing, now that they get fed earlier in the spring and too late in the fall. They're pretty much convinced this is some sort of monkey version of a practical joke.

Circadian Rhythms

But, you may wonder why this is. People and animals have what is called a circadian rhythm, which is a fancy term for a rhythmic biological cycle that runs over a 24-hour period. Although I haven't read anything about cats, I do know that dogs have a particular circadian rhythm that seems to mimic our own diurnal cycle, if the dog is a house dog. (Working dogs and dogs that exercise quite a bit aren't necessarily diurnal). Like us, our pets get used to patterns in their life and when we go about upsetting things, well, we upset things.

The only studies about circadian rhythms in dogs I've seen comes out of long distance mushing and they really aren't applicable to pets because sled dogs' cortisol levels don't behave in a diurnal fashion. However, if we look at the studies with humans, we can see that people do much worse after the time change from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time. A study published in 2009 in the Journal of Applied Psychology concluded that workers were more likely to have accidents after the time change and that the injuries were more severe. Furthermore, the effects of Daylight Savings Time can affect humans for weeks after in a very negative way.

Daylight Savings Time

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Effects on Pets

If something as simple as Daylight Savings Time affects sentient beings as ourselves, you have to wonder what it does to our pets. My guess is that for the next several weeks, our dogs are just a tiny bit confused as to what is really going on. They may be asking themselves why on earth you insist on getting up early and going to sleep early, when they certainly aren't ready to wake up or sleep when you are. Chances are, they'll probably sleep more and be out of sorts for a while until their bodies adapt. They'll probably be more active at night and not ready to go to sleep when you do. (A little more exercise before bedtime may be in order to settle them down).

Personally, I've never been fond of the time changes and my pets agree with me. But unless I move to Indiana or Arizona where the inhabitants have come to their senses and ignored the whole Daylight Savings Time thing, I guess it's just something my dogs and cats are going to have to put up with. And yours will have to as well. But, show a little sympathy and let Fido and Fluffy nap a bit. After all, you wouldn't want to throw their circadian rhythms off too much, would you?

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