10 Signs of Stress in Dogs (And How To Help Your Pet)
Stress in Dogs: How To Help Your Pet
It can be difficult to pinpoint the causes of unusual behavior in pets. Even if you know your furry friend better than any human, some signs of stress in dogs end up slipping under the radar. Put yourself in the best position to best help your dog by understanding what to look for and how our own stress levels can affect their stress levels, too.
Can Stress Affect My Dog?
Humans aren’t the only ones who can be affected by stress. Our canine friends can also experience mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and grief. Whether it’s from loud noises, new environments, being left alone or feeling their owner’s anxiety, a stressed out dog is more like us that you may think.
A 2013 study on the canine brain conducted by Emory University scientists concluded that a dog’s brain is surprisingly similar to a human’s brain when it comes to emotions. But unlike humans, our pets can’t tell us what’s wrong or how they’re feeling.
So, what are the signs of stress in dogs?And how can we help our pets?
How to Recognize Stress in Dogs
It can be tough to spot signs of stress in a dog. Just because they exhibit one symptom doesn’t mean they are experiencing a mental health condition; however, abnormal behaviors from your pet should never be ignored. Whether it’s a temporary ailment or a chronic health condition, of course you want to keep your pet as healthy and happy as possible.
- Trembling or shaking
- Attempts to hide or escape
- Compulsive behavior such as licking, scratching or excessive tail chasing
- Destructive behavior including self-injury
- Gas, diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Lethargy and reduced activity
- Loss of appetite including refusal of water\
- Drastic weight loss
- Decreased social interaction and playfulness
- Abnormal shedding or drooling
Note: if you notice significant behavioral changes in your dog, you should consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Can My Own Stress Levels Affect My Dog’s Stress Levels?
Numerous studies have shown that interacting with animals can lower human stress-related hormones. Simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure and raise our levels of serotonin and dopamine, the hormones responsible for relaxing and calming our nervous system.
New studies about pets and mental health are continually emerging, but this one is particularly interesting: a study published in Scientific Reports on stress hormones in dog owners and their pets shows that canines can feel our emotions and even match the patterns of cortisol levels of their owner.If you're suffering from chronic stress, chances are strong that your dog is feeling stressed, too.
This study indicates that owners who experience long bouts of stress can transfer it to their dogs. Similar to the bond parents have with their children, stress levels in dogs and their owners actually sync up. The scientists believe that dogs mirror their owners stress level, rather than vice versa.
The Mind + Muscle Connection: 5 Ways to Ease Your Dog’s Stress
Mental health is just as important for dogs as it is for humans. Just like us, dogs need to be taken care of daily. As a result, they need our help to build healthy mental and physical habits. If you notice any signs of stress in your dog, here are a few ideas to give him some relief.
Get Regular Exercise- Dogs often lose muscle as they age (any veterinarian will tell you that). Exercise can help to slow that process down and also be an amazing stress-reliever for your dog by helping them to relax long after the activity is over. Bonus points for strengthening the bond between humans and their pets at the same time.
Spend Time Outdoors- Walking a dog or playing ball with your pup outside can directly affect mental health. In fact, studies show that simply being outside in nature actually lowers levels of the stress-associated chemical cortisol.
Establish a Routine- Patterns are important for dogs and mental health. From where they sleep to what they eat and when they go for a walk, dogs experience less stress when they know what to expect.
Bond with Your Dog- The more time you spend with your dog, the less stress he will experience. Even when life gets busy, give them lots of love; this can come in many forms, including taking a hike, going to the park or even massaging your dog. Time together is good for his soul (and yours).
Prioritize Good Nutrition- Simply by feeding your pup certain foods, you can help alleviate stress and anxiety. A balanced, nutrient-dense diet packed with vitamins and minerals can support his immune system and keep him healthy (happy) and strong. Eggs, for example, are a great source of easy-to-digest protein, riboflavin, and selenium.
And, thankfully, pet owners can provide extra support from MYOS Canine’s patented Fortetropin®, a unique bioactive composition made from fertilized chicken egg yolks.