In uncertain times it’s normal to feel stressed out or uneasy. It’s important to recognize our furry friends may also be under additional stressors than can affect everything from their personality to their appetite.
Our dogs are our best friends, so when they get anxious, it’s no wonder that we do, too. Seeing your dog in stress can be emotionally draining, but luckily, this common issue has plenty of treatments to help your pup feel safe and sound. In this article, we’ll help you understand everything about dog stress, including:
- Common causes of pet stress
- How to tell if your dog is stressed
- Pet stress relief treatments
Common Reasons for Pet Stress
Dogs can become stressed out by any significant change in their circumstances, from the loss of another pet to an owner starting a new job and being out of the house. The most common causes of pet stress are:
- Owners’ anxieties
- Separation anxiety
- New pets in the home
- Loud, abrupt noises
Dogs Feel Stress from Their Humans
Yes. It’s true. Dogs can can feel stress from their human counterparts. A 2019 study showed that dog cortisol levels were mirrored with their owners, indicating that your emotional state may be affecting your pooch as well.
Dogs are social creatures, and being left alone for long periods of time can cause them to be anxious and scared. Separation anxiety is most prevalent in dogs who are used to being around humans constantly and are then suddenly left alone.
If you’ve just relocated and your animal is showing behavior changed, it’s likely your dog is stressed from moving. Generally, dogs don’t do well with sudden changes, and they are probably apprehensive about the unknown space, and missing their first home.
A New Pet
This is another sudden change that can cause dog stress signals like agitation or even aggression. When introducing a new pet to your dog, be sure to follow a slow and steady approach to reduce your pet’s anxiety about their new friend.
Did you know that the 4th of July is the #1 day of the year when pets are lost? Many pets are terrified of the unexpected BOOM of the fireworks, which can cause them to panic and run away in search of a safe place to hide. Similarly, many dogs are afraid of thunderstorms and show dog stress signs every time it rains.
Signs and Symptoms of a Stressed Dog
The most common sign of dog stress is behavioral changes. A usually calm and happy dog may appear agitated, whining, barking, or pacing the floor. Other indicators your dog is stressed out include:
- Panting or sweaty paws. If your animal hasn’t been exercising or out in the heat, these can be signs of a stressed pup.
- Ears laid back against the head. This is one way your dog shows that they are unhappy.
- Bowel movement changes. Most commonly, dogs get diarrhea from stress, which upsets their whole digestive tract. Loose stools are also a sign of dog stress colitis, an irritation of the bowel caused by anxiety.
- Prolonged yawning or drooling. A stressed yawn from a dog lasts longer than a typical yawn, and excessive drool is a common sign your dog is anxious.
- Disappearing and avoidance. If your normally friendly dog is suddenly hiding in their crate, or won’t come to you for attention, this is a sign they are either sick or stressed.
- Not eating. A scared or stressed out dog may experience a loss of appetite and refuse even their favorite treats.
Treatments for Pet Stress
The first thing you should do if you notice changes in your dog’s behavior or bodily functions is to take them to the vet. Your veterinarian should be able to eliminate any other reasons for your dog’s behavior, such as a virus or other illness or injury. Your vet will also discuss with you the possible causes of your dog’s anxiety, and what you can do to help your pet feel more comfortable.
Treatments for pet stress vary based on the kind of stressor and the longevity of the stress. For example, dogs who panic during thunderstorms may not exhibit stress when a new animal comes into the home. For these animals, the best thing to do is create a safe space for the dog to go to when they are scared, and keep them inside the home during storms until they pass. You can also purchase products like the thunder shirt, which hugs your dog for stress relief during loud weather conditions.
For dogs who are stressed out by a move, the best thing to do is give them time, love, and attention. Help your dog become comfortable in each room, before giving them the run of the house, and provide them with plenty of praise while they explore, so they understand this is a safe space.
A dog who has separation anxiety, or prolonged anxiety over days, weeks, or months, may require more intervention. Again, training your dog to be comfortable with time alone and creating a safe space can be helpful. You can also speak with a doggie behaviorist about non-medical solutions to help your pup feel safer alone. CBD oil is another way to help ease doggie anxiety and can be applied topically to help your pup calm down. For dogs with severe anxiety, your veterinarian may also prescribe an anti-anxiety medication, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Keeping Your Pet Happy and Healthy
Pet stress can be concerning, but with the right treatments, care, and time, you can help your pet feel safe in their home. If your pet’s stress requires medical assistance, having the right pet insurance can help mitigate your long-term costs. Click for a free quote, and ensure your pet stays healthy their whole life long!