It should come as no surprise that humans aren’t the only member of the animal kingdom to experience stress. Dogs, too, can experience periods of stress and anxiety. Since dogs are creatures of routine and habit, this happens most often when a circumstance in your dog’s life changes such as the addition of a new dog to the family, the death of a family member, or even something as minor as hearing a loud noise. A stressed dog may have behavioral changes that suggest that he’s experiencing discomfort or anxiety which you can recognize if you know what to look for. Here’s how to tell if your dog is stressed:
Signs of a stressed dog: Changes in eating habits
Dogs normally have voracious appetites particularly for their favorite foods. If your dog stops eating or turns down his favorite treats, this can be a sign of stress. Other changes in digestive function may occur such as diarrhea and having “accidents” in the house. If your normally housebroken dog starts relieving his bowels or bladder in the house, consider whether something has changed in your dog’s life that may be causing stress and anxiety.
Signs of a stressed dog: Changes in activity level
If your normally active dog becomes unwilling to play or take part in his favorite activities, he may be experiencing stress and anxiety. Likewise if your normally quiet dog starts to show signs of hyperactivity, restlessness, and pacing, stress may be playing a role. Although these symptoms are often caused by stress, it’s important to rule out pain as a cause for your dog’s hyperactivity and restlessness.
Signs of a stressed dog: Unusual shyness
If your normally outgoing, friendly dog suddenly becomes shy or afraid of people, he may be reacting to some anxiety provoking factor. A stressed dog may manifest behavioral changes such as hiding under furniture, holding his tail between his legs, and now allowing people to pet him. These are all signs that your dog may have recently experienced a traumatic event he’s reacting to.
Signs of a stressed dog: Bad behavior
If your normally well trained dog manifests uncharacteristically “bad” behavior such as chewing on household items, snapping, or growling, stress and anxiety may be the culprits. In this situation, it’s important not to reprimand your dog until you know why he’s behaving in this manner as reprimands and punishment may further exacerbate the anxiety he’s feeling.
Signs of a stressed dog: Physical signs
Dogs experiencing stress can also experience physical symptoms such as hair loss, chewing on legs and paws, a glazed facial expression, and a lack of emotional response.
If your dog appears to be anxious or stressed, what’s the best course of action? Because some signs and symptoms manifested by a stressed dog can be signs of pain, it’s important to rule out medical problems. Have your dog seen by his veterinarian to rule out more serious causes. If your dog is found to be physically healthy, it’s important to evaluate any recent changes that may have occurred in your dog’s life.
The best treatment, of course, is to change whatever circumstance may be causing your dog to experience stress and anxiety. Your veterinarian may be able to give your dog a prescription medication to relieve some of his symptoms but these can have side effects. Another alternative is to have your dog seen by a veterinarian who specializes in naturopathic veterinary medicine. Naturopathic vets can make recommendations for safe, herbal treatments that can relieve some of the symptoms of dog stress and anxiety.