Dealing with stress in dogs is incredibly important, not just for their well-being but also for your own safety. A stressed out, on-edge dog is an accident waiting to happen. I’ve seen it too many times myself. A dog who is generally happy and friendly gets over-stressed and snaps. Suddenly, you’re dealing with a dog bite and the potential loss of your dog.
Even if your dog isn’t one to bite when stressed, constant pressure can cause other health problems in poor Fido. Tail-biting, destructive chewing and loss of appetite are just a few potential issues that can arise from stress in dogs. Let’s talk a bit about the signs that indicate your dog could be feeling a bit overwhelmed and what we can do about stress in dogs.
Related: Handling Severe Anxiety in Dogs
Signs and Symptoms of Stress in Dogs
Unlike people, dogs can’t say “hey, I’m feeling a bit over-taxed today, I need a break.” Instead, they show us that they’re stressed out through certain signs and symptoms.
Constipation, Diarrhea or Digestive Issues
Keep in mind; these issues are typically attributed more to food intolerance or even disease. All the same, any gastrointestinal issue can also be ignited by anxiety. You should speak with your vet if the issue becomes severe or lasts more than 24 hours. If blood is present in vomit or stool, it’s likely a food borne illness that needs addressing.
While some dogs enjoy their alone time, it’s important to distinguish these instances from those which prove to be consistent isolation from other pets or people. Such actions could indicate stress or illness which a vet can better help you to identify.
Since dogs don’t go on diets, a veterinarian should be called immediately if your pup suddenly stops eating and shows no interest in food. This could be blamed on stress or an existing health condition that can eventually cause dramatic weight loss.
It’s more than likely that you are familiar with your dog’s sleep routine. When this sleep schedule alters drastically often causing lethargy, you should contact your vet. Lethargy is typically the very first symptom indicating a dog is sick, injured or even traumatized. Furthermore, it can prove symptomatic of diabetes, dehydration, heart or liver problems, hypothyroidism, anemia and even poisoning.
Acting aggressively with either other animals or people can often be an indicator of stress. Consult a vet or even a medically trained behaviorist before the issue compounds. Typically, these signs of aggression are also accompanied by fearful body language or facial expressions and even submissive behavior. During treatment, the vet will focus behavior on various management methods that will help your pup with anxiety and anger.
Safely Dealing with Stress in Dogs
If you see signs of stress in your dog, your vet should be your first phone call. While vets may not be able to get at the root of psychological causes of stress, you want to rule out any physical conditions. As I’m sure you noticed, many signs of stress in dogs are similar to those you’d expect to see if your dog was sick. Constipation or vomiting, for example, is often a sign of a gastrointestinal issue.
Once your vet rules out physical issues, it’s time to figure out what’s stressing Fido out. In some cases, the cause will become apparent pretty fast. If he always freaks out when it thunders, there’s your culprit- loud noises. Likewise, if he goes into fits when he sees the mailman, perhaps he’s over-sensitive to “stranger danger.”
If you just can’t see any obvious reason for your dog’s stress, though, try keeping a log. Jot down times when you see him showing the signs of stress in dogs, along with notes about what was going on at the time. Were you out for a walk? Watching a particular television show (some dogs seriously have issues with TV shows, don’t rule it out!)? Was your toddler circling a bit too close for his comfort? Like people, dogs can get stressed over many things, so don’t leave out a detail because you think it’s too silly or minor.
While you’re working on identifying Fido’s stressors, it’s even more important to supervise your kids as they interact with your dog. It’s one of our top child safety rules for all dogs, but with a stressed out dog it’s even more vital. You can try anxiety aids for dogs and see if any of them help your pooch, but keep in mind that not all dogs react to those the same way.
Be patient with your dog as you work to identify the source of stress. Abused dogs, in particular, require incredible dedication and love. Most important of all, remember to follow basic safety rules. It’s not fair to your dog if he ends up at the pound because he bit someone when he was under duress.
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