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My dog is stressed? What does that mean? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Have you ever wondered how a such a pampered pet can possibly have stress in his life? The answer to those questions is a resounding yes. Our family pets, though totally pampered, can experience stress which can be both transient and chronic. This chronic stress is not only demonstrated in behaviors which are irritating and inconvenient but also in ways you don’t see. And, it’s the self-mutilating and unseen systemic changes which are the most dangerous for your family pet.
Chronic stress in dogs can be defined as behaviors exhibited by your family pet and ongoing systemic changes in response to fears or phobias in his environment.
Stress symptoms in dogs can take on a variety of looks and sounds. Some are due to anxieties and fears, some are inherited or breed related and still, others are based on unfamiliar circumstances. Here are some symptoms you might see in your pet:
There are several types of stress or anxiety in dogs. Here some of the categories into which the most common stressors fall:
Separation anxiety - Can occur with any breed, gender or age and involves the canine being separated from family members with whom they have strongly bonded
Noise anxiety - This type is pretty common in most dogs and can occur with loud noises (thunder, loud engine backfiring, dropping of heavy objects), changes in barometric pressures along with the lightning and thunder from a storm has sent many a family pet into hiding
As you can see from the list of types noted above, stressors can come from many different directions. Here are some of the most common stressors (triggers) for your canine family member:
Anything new - This includes new people, new toys, new places and anything new which has been added to your pet’s little world
Housing changes - Your pet’s familiar world can really be upset when you make changes in his accommodations. Moving his bed/sleeping area, changing to a different type of bedding for him (from sleeping on the floor with his special “blanket” to a nice basket-type bed with a cushy pillow for example). When you move from one house to another, this can really upset your pet’s world, too
Household routine changes - This can include the loss of one of your children when they’re away at college, a new job schedule, holiday routine changes
Personal space invasion - This would be experienced when someone interrupts your canine’s nap to kiss, hug or otherwise forcibly restrain him
Separation from human family members - Most family pets will bond with one or more family members and will feel varying degrees of anxiety when separated from those family members
If you notice some of the unusual behaviors listed above, or if you notice any unusual behaviors in your family pet, you should get your veterinary professional involved as soon as possible. These behaviors could signal chronic stress or they could signal the deeper internal damage from chronic stress or other conditions which can threaten the health and well being of your canine family member. Your vet will need a complete history from you which includes:
Living conditions of your pet - Where does he sleep, how often is he exercised, is he inside the house with family members or does he live outside the house, size of his kennel if kept outside, is he housed with other canines
Your veterinary professional will do a physical examination and will likely do some blood tests, urinalysis and fecal testing. He will be looking for values of blood components, nutrient deficiencies and various enzyme levels in an attempt to rule out any systemic issues which can mirror some of the symptoms and clinical signs seen in your pet. If he suspects something deeper, he may also order some imaging modalities such as radiography (x-rays), CT scanning or MRI studies if the findings warrant such testing.
If your veterinary professional has determined that your family pet is suffering from stress-related issues, then an appropriate treatment plan will be developed and initiated. Additionally, if he finds that the chronic stress condition from which your canine is suffering has caused deeper internal systemic issues, the treatment plan will include various treatments for those conditions as well. Possible treatments for chronic stress:
Additionally, treatments for any systemic issues found will be based upon the systemic issue itself. It will be important to treat both the cause of the systemic problem as well as the systemic condition itself and, whether those treatments run concurrently, or if one needs to be treated before the other, will be determined by your veterinary professional.
Recovery from the ravages of chronic stress for your canine family member may be fairly easy or it may be more complicated. It all depends on the degree to which the stress levels have progressed and any systemic damage or complications it has caused. And, the end result may take months to achieve if there are systemic changes afoot as well. It is certainly safe to assume that any steps you can take to eliminate or reduce some of the stress triggers noted above will go a long way to at least beginning the healing process.
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My partner had been very ill and for the last year we had carers 24/7. The carers were very fond of the dog and made a fuss as they came and went. My partner passed away last Fri. since then Teddy has had a couple accidents in the house and his poo is well formed but very soft. I think its stress. What do you think and if I'm correct what can I do? Thank you, Janet
July 16, 2018
The loss of a loved one can be very distressing for a dog, also the change in activity in the home may also be causing some stress or behavioural issues for Teddy; it is still very early after your partner’s passing and I would give Teddy a few weeks to adjust overall. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
July 17, 2018
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