Nearly every dog sheds and it is part of daily life for a pet owner, even if it can be frustrating sometimes to have to clean up the clumps of hair left behind by your favorite friend! The type of dog you have affects how much hair they shed and how often they shed, but it is pretty easy to recognize their standard shedding cycles. But what happens when your dog suddenly starts shedding more than normal? When your pooch is stressed, it can cause drastically increased hair loss. Why does this happen and what causes this kind of stress? Read on to find out!
The Root of the Behavior
We can easily recognize the signs of stress in ourselves, but what about our furry friends? Dogs can feel easily stressed for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons may include changes in home environment, conflict, and visits to the veterinarian.
A change in your home environment can be a cause of stress for your dog. If you’ve recently moved, added a new pet, or remodeled your home, this can cause your dog some serious anxiety. They were used to how things were, and the sudden shift can be a major stressor for them the same way it is for you.
Conflict or strong emotion from you is always a stressor. If you’ve been feeling higher stress, have had some conflict in your family, or have been experiencing strong emotions, your dog will pick up on that. Because you’re part of their pack, they may have similar reactions to you, and may also be stressed that they can’t seem to help you feel better.
Vet visits are naturally stressful for your pup. Unfortunately, some dogs are more prone to stress and anxiety than others; the simple routine of the yearly checkup can be a great source of stress to your dog, and you may find them shedding excessively on the way to the vet and for several days after the visit.
Your dog’s hair loss may not be a direct result of the stress; some dogs will compulsively lick themselves when stressed, which causes hair loss in the areas they lick too often. Because dogs are sensitive to both their people and their environment, you may find that your dog experiences frequent shedding or licking issues. In this case, a trip to a vet or even a pet psychologist or behaviorist may be in order.
The base of the shedding issue lies in the stress hormones that are released into the bloodstream, much like our own stress responses. If you notice excessive shedding, licking, panting, yawning, or other unusual behavior, your dog is having a stress reaction to a new situation and needs some positive affection. The creation of a “safe space,” and a feeling of comfort should help him calm down and relieve the effects of the stressor.
Encouraging the Behavior
Obviously, as a pet owner, you don’t want to encourage your dog to feel stressed! You want your pets to feel happy, healthy, and safe in their homes. You’ll instead want to encourage those feelings of safety to discourage the stress/anxiety response of licking and shedding. Some great ways to help your dog feel happy include:
Creating a safe zone – Creating an area in your home where your pet can escape high-stress events can really help mitigate the over-shedding stress response. If your dog is crate-trained, this is a fantastic use for your crate; if they’re not, you may consider crate-training them. Otherwise, set up a corner with their favorite blanket and toy, check on them often, and give them a lot of love and affection during high-stress events. They’ll come to associate that space with safety.
Play and exercise with your dog – Dogs love playing and physical activity. And, much like people, a good jog or game of fetch can be a great reducer of stress in your pet, increasing positive hormones while letting them burn off some of that anxiety.
Providing a balanced diet – This may seem like an odd one, but making sure your dog’s diet is balanced, healthy, and proper for their age can help prevent health issues that may cause stress and anxiety.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you’ve tried to mitigate your dog’s stress and nothing seems to be working, it’s likely time for a visit to the vet. There could potentially be an underlying health or behavioral issue that is causing the stress or being exacerbated by the stress, that you can’t detect on your own. Your vet will be able to help make sure that your pet’s doing all right and prescribe any necessary medication or treatment if they need additional help! They may also refer you to a behavioral expert if there’s no underlying medical issue. Your pet may simply need to learn new coping mechanisms or receive additional training to help them handle the stressors in their lives. Much like people, every pet is different, and your pet may need more or less care depending on the situation.
While it is normal for your dog to shed, excessive shedding should be treated with care and handled quickly. The sooner your pup feels better, the happier both of you will be! Making sure to keep your pet’s life as free as stressors as possible is a big help for you, too. If your pet’s life is stress-free, they will be able to relieve your stress and make you smile with their love for you!