We all know how it feels to worry about paying a bill, look at that mile-long to-do list, or have a last minute assignment dumped on our lap. Stress is known to have negative effects on our overall well-being and health, and it’s no fun.
At Long Animal Hospital we see the negative effects of stress in dogs, too. While they may not experience the same sources of worry and anxiety that you might, stress in dogs is a real and detrimental thing that we can work to help.
Stress in Dogs
Any source of anxiety or fear can lead to a stressed-out pup. This may manifest as physiological changes such as increased heart rate, panting, or decreased appetite. Stress in dogs can also show up in the form of behavioral issues.
While your dog may not have rent to pay or an overbearing boss to appease, they do have sources of stress in their lives. Dogs may experience stress due to:
- Loud noises (fireworks, thunderstorms, etc)
- Memory loss due to aging
- Separation from their pack, both human and animal
- Changes in the home environment (construction, moving, new baby)
- Schedule changes
- New people or pets
- Your stress level
Stress in dogs is a real phenomenon and one that can certainly affect their overall quality of life.
Why Stomping Stress is Important
A stressed pup can be a pretty miserable one. While most dogs are able to adjust well to change, some find it more difficult than others. Mild stress isn’t always a bad thing, but certainly high stress levels, especially for a prolonged period of time can be detrimental.
Stress affects our canine companions by causing:
Physiological and adaptive changes – Stress causes adaptive changes in the body which include increased energy diversion to the muscles, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and suppression of digestion. Over a prolonged period things like the immune system, growth, and healing can also be suppressed.
Behavioral changes – A stressed pet may be more reactive and jumpy or may become dull and depressed.
Digestive problems – The physiological effects of stress on the gastrointestinal system may lead to diarrhea, flatulence, and/or vomiting.
Bathroom accidents – Increased metabolism can lead to the increased need to urinate and defecate. Likewise, stress can lead to behavioral changes that can cause urinary or fecal accidents.
Obsessive behaviors – Behavioral changes such as pacing, chewing objects, licking, obsessive overgrooming, and spinning can be a manifestation of stress in dogs.
Aggression – Some pets when stressed may exhibit aggressive behaviors such as growling, snapping, or biting.
Straight to the Source
When you recognize that your pet is experiencing stress, you can begin to help! A stressed pet should never be punished or reprimanded as this is likely to make the situation worse.
When possible, removing the source of stress is extremely helpful. While saying no to watching your friend’s pet or not hosting Fourth of July this year are easy changes, removing stress isn’t always that easy. You can’t return the new baby or stop thunder from happening!
You can help by:
- Managing your own stress levels (your mental state really can rub off).
- Minimizing stressors where possible as the effects can be additive.
- Working to desensitize and counter-condition your pet to stressors.
- Be sure to provide structured exercise opportunities daily.
- Provide mental stimulation through interactive and puzzle-type toys and games.
- Utilize calming pheromones such as Adaptil.
- Provide a predictable and stable routine and environment.
- Recognize separation anxiety so that it can be addressed.
- Contact us if you need help.
Stress in dogs is a very real thing, and it can feel pretty awful to watch your four-legged friend struggle. If your efforts don’t seem to be helping, medical intervention may be necessary. One of our veterinarians can help to decide if your pet could benefit from extra support.
On the surface it may not seem like your dog has much to stress about, but the truth is that canines are not exempt from life. Thankfully they have a person who cares about them to help!