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Knowing the Signs: Stress

Knowing the signs of stress

Stress can be as hard for our pets as it is on us humans and should never be underestimated. Changes to routines or other disruptions around the home can be a big cause of stress in dogs. Good changes often mean a dog’s stress response will return to normal much sooner than if it is a change they don’t like.

Common stressful factors can include loud noises (like fireworks, storms or construction), boarding in kennels, moving to a new home, a new pet or family member or even traveling. Long periods of stress can start affecting health and behaviour and can lead to some serious problems if not addressed quickly.

Knowing the signs

1. Loss of appetite

An upset pet may turn up their nose at their meals once or twice, but prolonged decrease in food intake can result in dangerous weight loss. There may also be signs of Pica (a disorder where pets eat non-food objects), such as chewing toys, doors, window sills or licking/chewing at themselves.

2. Compromised immune system

A stressed body will release cortisol, a hormone that is part of the fight or flight mechanism to help us all respond to stressful events. When stress is chronic the continued elevation of cortisol levels can lead to a weakened immune system. This weakness means your dog is unable to fight off infection or disease, which is a serious problem for your pet and can lead to them becoming sick more often than a healthy pet.

3. Diarrhoea

Like cortisol, a stressed body also releases the hormone adrenalin. While these hormones are designed to help your dog survive an immediate threat, adrenalin can increase heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time, it also decreases blood flow to the intestines and stomach, resulting in diarrhoea in many cases. This is typically not accompanied by fever or vomiting.

4. Behavioural Issues

Dogs often aren’t able to escape their problems. They can develop fidget-like or aggressive behaviours because they are often forced to face whatever it is that is causing them to stress around the home. Signs of these behaviours showing themselves are pacing, panting, shaking, licking/chewing, scratching, digging, yawning or other actions that don’t quite make sense in that given situation.

5. Aggravation of current illnesses

The anti-healing effects of cortisol act as a barrier between your already sick pet and their health. That decreased ability to fight a disease is often a cause of stress in dogs, which creates a nasty cycle that can be difficult to break.

6. Incontinence Issues

Stress and fear can cause an immediate release of stress hormones that will relax the bladder sphincters, causing inappropriate urination. It may also cause defecation and anal gland expression. This is a common defensive mechanism that is used in the wild as an attempt to make a predator back away, but can be upsetting to your pet and very unpleasant for us humans.

It is important to contact Pet Doctors Palm Beach on 5576 0400 if you notice any of the above mentioned symptoms to determine if stress alone is the cause. We can help you create an action plan and recommend the best ways to decrease your pet’s stress levels.