Signs of a Stressed Dog and How to Help Them

Like people, dogs can get stressed out. If the stress is not alleviated, it could affect your dog’s health and the quality of their life.

By Guest Blogger, Kyle Holgate

Dogs can suffer from some of the same emotional issues as people. Like people, dogs can get stressed out. If the stress is not alleviated, it could affect your dog’s health and the quality of their life. While some stress factors are not in your control, others are, so you need to know the signs and symptoms of a pet suffering from stress and what you can do to improve your pet’s wellbeing.

The Harm Stress does to your Dog

While you may feel you over-indulge your pet and he shouldn’t have a care in the world, it’s important to know that a dog’s stress factors are very different from a human’s. Research shows that too much stress can reduce a dog’s life. Living with fear and or an anxiety disorder will definitely have a negative impact on your dog’s health.

The reason stress is harmful to dogs is that when your dog is suffering from stress, his body will release an excess of the fight or flight hormone called norepinephrine. This, in turn, will harm gut bacteria and reduce the mobility of the GI tract. Your dog will be suffering from diarrhea which adds to the stress especially if he has an accident in the house.

Stress may be a single occurrence but chronic stress is going to be a problem. The better you understand what may trigger a dog’s stress, and know the signs of dog stress, the better you will be prepared to identify these signs and help eliminate the causes.

Common Signs of Stress in Dogs

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association produced a manual for canine behavior. In this manual, they outline the 10 most common stress signs for dogs.

• Yawning
• Panting
• Nose or lip licking
• Reduced appetite or no appetite
• Diarrhea
• Tail lower than usual or tucked in
• Ears pinned or pulled back
• A crouched body posture, cowering or hiding
• Shaking or trembling
• An increase in whining, barking or howling

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, especially if they have not been present in the past, they are a good indication that your dog is suffering from anxiety and stress. The next step is to review what may be causing the stress.

Most Common Triggers of Stress for Dogs

1. Entering into new situations and meeting new people or animals may stress-out our dog. Perhaps you acquired a new family pet, just had a baby, or someone new is now living in your home. Novelty may not be a dog’s best friend; it may be the reason he is stressed.

2. A very common source of stress for some dogs is loud noises. This is one of the most obvious stressors as you can see the dog react immediately when there are loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks. Some dogs also get stressed from noises of household appliances like vacuum cleaners or garbage disposals. Some vacuum cleaners for pet hair are designed to be quieter than normal with the hopes of not disturbing your dog as much.

3. If you have recently moved to a new home, this may be stressful for your dog. Any change in environments such as dog daycare, or boarding, can be a stress factor.

4. Changes in household routines can take its toll on your pet. If you are working new hours, have kids going back to school after the holidays, this can trigger stress. Even a change in a routine because of the holidays may cause your dog anxiety.

5. If you have begun a new training system that uses punitive punishment, this can be a cause of stress for dogs. Us of shock collars, invisible fences, yelling or hitting, may be very upsetting and stressful for certain breeds of dogs.

6. Something as minor as the invasion of a dog’s personal space may trigger stress or anxiety in a dog. If a dog has constant disruptions when resting, this may be a stress factor. If you have a small child constant hugging and kissing or forcibly restraining your dog, this may be affecting your dog’s mental health.

7. For more active breeds, a lack of an outlet for their normal instincts may be causing stress. If it’s in your dog’s nature to herd, run or retrieve and he does not have an outlet for those behaviors, this may be very stressful.

8. An obvious source of stress is the separation from family members. While some breeds of dogs are more independent and cope with a break from the family, others will become terribly stressed by this separation.

9. Pets are very intuitive. If you have a poor or strained relationship going on in your household, your dog may be reacting to this negativity. Dogs are very aware of their owner’s emotions and any type of negative relationship may cause him stress as well.

If you see signs of stress in your dog, review the items on this list to see if one of these might the stress-causing factor. Some of these items can be avoided and there are others that you might not have any control over. Even if the stress is unavoidable, there are things you can do to relieve your dog’s anxiety and make life better for him.

Relieving Your Dogs Stress

Here are some simple solutions to make life happier and healthier for your dog and ways you can reduce the stress in his life.

• Make sure your pet gets uninterrupted sleep and gentle handling.
• Allow working dogs to get daily physical activity.
• Don’t leave your dog alone for long stretches.
• Leave clothing with your scent with your dog when you are gone.
• Try a treat-release toy when you are gone.
• Try products for separation anxiety in his water or play soothing doggy music.
• Play calming and soothing music to reduce loud noises.
• Use thunder wraps or anxiety wraps if your dog responds well to pressure.
• Massage techniques can help pets with anxiety.
• Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can reduce anxiety in dogs.
• For abused or adopted dogs, find a professional to assess and make recommendations.

Understand the major signals and causes of stress that may be affecting your dog’s physical and mental health. If your dog seems stressed or anxious, try a variety of solutions until you find a way to ease your dog’s stress. A happy dog will live longer, be healthier, and you and your family pet can share the love and special bond that brings joy into both of your lives.

About the author

Kyle Holgate writes about all things dog on his website Woof Whiskers. He’s most passionate about researching and analyzing dog food nutrition and how pet owners can better care for their pets. He owns two mixed breeds – a Golden Retriever/Australian Shepard mix named Kartoffel and a Husky mix named Pidgy. Kartoffel and Pidgy love helping Kyle with paws-on reviews of all the latest and greatest pet products for the site.

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