Helping your Stressed Dog
We can all get stressed at times, but we, as dog owners need to be aware that our pets too, can suffer the trauma of becoming stressed. Too much stress is not healthy, and if not identified and remedied, there will often be future unwanted consequences. Asking the question do I have a stressed dog is a step towards identifying if your dog does have a problem, and this article will help you find the causes and the solutions.
What Causes a Stressed Dog?
Stressors such as noise, training, immobilization, transport, novelty, or unsuitable living conditions are all reported as some of the causes. The consequences elicit a psychological and physiological response that can alter endocrine, cardiovascular, renal, and gastro-intestinal parameters. Not only do will have a stressed dog, but you’ll also have a dog who shows signs of disease. So, let’s take a look at what can cause a dog to stress.
Alone at Home
Dogs are social animals, and they need the company to spend time with and play. Leaving your dogs at home alone for long periods makes them feel lonely and scared. Your dog will start showing signs of Canine Separation Anxiety which is another sign of a stressed dog. It causes specific physiological changes in the animal hormonal system. Glucocorticoid measures of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) activation is high among such dogs. Glucocorticoids suppress the immune system, and the dog is susceptible to certain infections or diseases.
Change of space triggers a stress response in dogs. Putting your dog in a kennel or moving it to another unfamiliar place will cause you to have a stressed dog but also an unhappy one. The urinary cortisol/creatinine ratios increase in such dogs, a strong physiological indicator of stress. If a new member comes or leaves the pack, it is another big reason to make a dog uneasy. Similarly, the death of a family member may also be very stressful for a dog.
Travelling causes stress unless you train the dog for travelling from a young age. It can cause irritability and nausea that leads to vomiting and drooling. Without prior travel training, your dog may also develop a travelling phobia borne out of fear.
Stress Due to Ticks
Ticks insert their mouthparts into your dog’s skin and attach to him. They feed on your dog’s blood and can consume enough blood to cause a deficiency known as anaemia. As they continue to feed, the ticks produce toxins that may paralyze your dog and also transmit certain diseases, such as Lyme disease.
Loud sounds can scare your dog as their hearing is sensitive. Noise can cause a stressed dog to increase the frequency of a hanging tongue out, paw lift, snout licking, and body shaking. Besides, if your dog has experienced a traumatic situation in life such as traumatic injury, car accident and physical abuse, it will also put more stress on your dog.
Yelling at Your Dog
While training basic commands to the dog, such as wait, sit, recall, some owners may not understand that the only ways a dog learns is by reward and not fear. Researchers have analysed that such dogs show stress behaviour, including yelping, lip-licking, paw-lifting, urinating, and yawning. Their saliva also has high levels of stress hormone cortisol compared to when they are relaxing. A stressed dog will take longer to train, and may even become untrainable.
What Are the Symptoms of a Stress Dog?
Emotional indications such as passiveness and the low and slow wagging of your pet’s tail is often an indication of stress. Also, some form of vocalizations such as yelping, whining or excessive barking will all point to the probable cause of a stressed dog. To differentiate stress symptoms from normal behaviour, you need to be familiar with your dog’s usual normal demeanour. You can then tell that if your dog is licking his lips, it’s because he either wants a treat or is feeling anxious.
When dogs are relaxed, they will have a soft mouth, forward-facing ears, and round eyes. They will put their weight evenly on all paws. Differentiating normal behaviour from distress signs will help you to know quickly about uncomfortable situations.
Decrease in Appetite
If your dog suddenly stops eating and loses interest in its favourite food, it could be due to some underlying health problems or stress. Health problems and stress reduce the digestion process. Visit your veterinarian to rule out health problems. After confirming that your dog has no medical problem, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary behaviourist or trainer to evaluate stress-related issues.
If you have a stressed dog, you’ll notice that he has become lethargic or is sleeping all the time. And this is often the first symptom of an injured, sick, or traumatized dog. It can also be a symptom of health problems such as poisoning, tumours, diabetes, diarrhoea, dehydration, liver problems, anaemia, and hypothyroidism, etc. Consult your veterinarian immediately.
If your dog is continuously isolating itself from other pets and family members, it may be suffering from dog stress or another type of illness. Your veterinarian can help you identify the cause of this behaviour.
Dog pants when hot, excited, or stressed. You must be familiar with your dog’s usual behaviour to spot every change and eliminate the cause. For instance, you notice that your dog always pants after running, and you also know that dogs regulate their body temperature through panting. In winter, if your dog is not running, or exercising but is still panting, it may indicate you have a stressed dog.
Yawning and Drooling
When dogs are tired, bored, or distressed, they yawn. A stressful yawn is more prolonged than a sleepy yawn. Stressed Dogs lick and drool excessively when nervous.
Usually, dogs use ears to express their emotions, such as anxiety and stress. But, when a dog’s ears are pinned flat against the head, this is a way the animal is showing a feeling of unease.
Barking or Whining
Barking is a natural way of self-expression in dogs, but the barking often intensifies in a dog under stress. Dogs that are tense or afraid bark or whine to self soothe or to get your attention.
Changes in Bodily Functions
Impaired micturition is a sign of stress in dogs. When your dog urinates shortly after meeting another dog, your dog may be marking the territory. Similarly, the refusal of food and loss of bowel function also an indication of dog stress.
If a healthy dog with no orthopaedic problem shifts its weight on rear legs, he is exhibiting dog stress. A lowered posture of standing and sitting indicates anxiety in dogs. A scared dog becomes rigid and tucks its tail.
A stressed dog will often shed fur in places such as the veterinary clinic or a new training class. When there are unfamiliar animals or people in your home, a dog may also show dog stress by shedding. Adrenaline, a stress hormone, is released in such situations. However, malnutrition due to digestive problems may also trigger an increase in shedding.
How to Help your Stressed Dog?
Following strategies can be adopted to avoid distress in your furry friends:
Avoid Stressful Situations
If your dog gets stressed, the first obvious thing you must do remove it from the stressor. For instance, if your dog hates water, you should never to push it to learn to swim. It might be an extremely stressful condition for the dog.
Create a Safe Zone
To help your stressed dog, set apart an area for your dog in the home to escape high-stress events such as parties and thunderstorms, etc. Provide him with a favourite toy and blanket. Stay with him until the stress event passed. Your presence is a great reassurance to your dog.
Do Not Leave Your Dog Alone
Don’t leave your dog for long periods all alone. Your dog’s fear and loneliness can develop into Canine Separation Anxiety. If you’re unable to spend more time at home with your dog, you either need to arrange for ‘doggy daycare’ or get somebody responsible visit your dog every couple of hours. Dogs are pack animals, and being continually left alone will cause a stressed dog.
Prevent Your Dog from Ticks
Ticks can attach to your dogs when they go for outdoor activities. Use ticks control products regularly to prevent ticks from attacking your pet. Your veterinarian can recommend the best ticks control product for your dog, as he is aware of the most common diseases in your area that can pose a risk to your dog.
To continue to help your stressed dog, you’ll find that physical activities such as walking or playing fetch will help relax your dog. It also reduces behavioural problems, such as chewing, digging, excessive licking and stress-related behaviours. A tired dog often happier and is better behaved, focused, calm, and understanding.
Emotions Are Contagious
Dogs can sense your emotions. If you are anxious, your dog will also get sad alongside you. So, calm yourself down, and your dog will also get calm automatically. Where possible be upbeat and remember exercise is good for both you and your dog’s physical AND mental health, so enjoy the time together.
Visit Your Veterinarian
If your furry friend gets consistently stressed, visit your veterinarian for a complete checkup. Make sure that your dog’s stressful behaviour is not due to any health problem. Your veterinarian may suggest a veterinary behaviourist evaluate stress-related issues.
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