Just like humans, dogs too can experience stress when they are faced with difficult situations. Stress could be the underlying cause of certain health problems in canines. If it goes unrecognized, it may have serious psychological implications for your dog. It may be responsible for inappropriate and erratic dog behavior. As a dog owner, it is essential that you learn about the common contributory factors for stress in canines.
Stressors for Canines
Dogs are social animals. Since they share a strong bond with their owners, they may display abnormal or erratic behavior when left alone. This erratic behavior could be a sign of separation anxiety. The abnormal behavior may include barking, urinating, defecating, digging, or chewing. If confined, the affected dog may try to escape from the confined area. Such a behavior could even result in self-injury. This condition affects the dog physically as well as emotionally. The incidence of separation anxiety is high in case of dogs that have been neglected or abandoned by their previous owners. There may be a sudden onset of anxiety if the dog experiences a traumatic event while the owner was away. Bad treatment by previous owners or trainers could also make them susceptible.
Introduction of a New Puppy
The introduction of a new pet in the house could also arouse feelings of stress in the old dog. Dogs have territorial instincts. The old dog would instinctively try to defend its home. The introduction of another dog could trigger stress especially if the dogs have not been introduced to each other in a right manner.
Disruption in Routine
Dogs are used to going out for walks and having meals at a certain time. It's essential that their daily routine is not disrupted. It is hard for canines to adjust to changes. Dog owners must therefore pay a lot of attention when they are relocating or planning a vacation. Presence of unfamiliar people or absence of the owner can certainly cause stress to the dog. Dogs could get stressed due to boredom. They need to play. Lack of exercise can cause them to get stressed. Stress levels could increase if the owner doesn't spend time with the dog.
Dogs could also develop anxiety if they are in pain and discomfort due to an injury or an illness. Older dogs who suffer from an illness may become more attached to the owner as their dependence on the owner increases. They may develop anxiety if left alone. The abnormal behavior that they exhibit is their way of relieving the tension. Fear of loud noises or any phobia could also be contributory factors.
It is extremely essential to ascertain what triggers stress. Here is a list of symptoms of stress in dogs and the steps that can be taken to prevent them.
Excessive Barking or Whining
If a dog is stressed, it may bark or whine too much. The barking may continue for an extended period of time without any particular reason and can get quite troublesome for the family members.
Dogs usually pant if they are tired from physical activity or due to thirst. But if your dog has been panting excessively even if it's not tired or thirsty, it could be one of the signs of stress in the dog.
Trembling or Shivering
Fear can also induce stress. If your dog is trembling or shivering, it may be feeling threatened. When frightened, dogs may keep their tail between legs.
Restlessness in dogs could be a heat-related symptom, especially in female dogs. Female dogs in heat tend to get increasingly restless due to the various changes taking place in their body during that period. It could also indicate that your dog is stressed out or worried.
Most dogs tend to indulge in destructive chewing to show their unhappiness regarding certain things. It may also mean that your dog is trying to signal its discomfort or nervousness regarding a person or another animal.
When your dog is stressed out, it may fall asleep more often just to avoid anxiety. It may refuse to indulge in any kind of physical activity like playing, going for walks, etc. It may refuse to move within the house and may confine itself to a corner in the home or its crate. In extreme cases, it may also refuse to eat or drink.
Other symptoms include sweating of the paws, furrowed brows and glazed eyes, droopy body posture, diarrhea, persistent skin and coat problems and considerable weight loss.
What Can be Done
- Spend time with your dog. Lack of human contact and contact with other dogs can cause stress in dogs.
- Protect your dog from situations that may generate fear or stress. Make sure that your pet is treated well by all the members of the family. Don't let other dogs bully your pet.
- It is essential to adhere to the established routine. But if there's going to be any change in your routines, and you think that you wouldn't be able to spend as much time with your pet, it would be best to prepare your dog.
- Desensitization and counter-conditioning program are required for treating separation anxiety in canines. Leave your dog alone for shorter periods. Increase the time gradually.
- Emotional goodbyes should be avoided. Just a quick pat would suffice. Keep chew toys so as to provide your pet with a way of relieving tension.
- If possible, get someone to stay at home in your absence. Ensure that your dog is not overtly dependent on you.
- Follow all the necessary steps while introducing a new puppy to the old dog.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a qualified vet.