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We all want happy dogs and so it’s vital to know the signs of your dog’s wellness. Stress Awareness Month presents an excellent opportunity to educate ourselves on identifying and alleviating stress in our canine companions, thereby improving their overall health, happiness, and lifespan.
Dogs can indeed experience stress which, much like in humans, can lead to health complications, reduce their quality of life, trigger depression, and shorten their lifespan. As dog owners, it’s our responsibility to be aware of our pets’ stress levels, pinpoint the sources, and implement suitable strategies to alleviate it. This is a crucial component of pet wellbeing and can greatly enhance their lives.
Signs of Stress in Dogs
Various signs of stress in dogs can also be symptoms of other problems, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions. A thorough investigation is necessary to ensure that you can effectively support your dog and prevent future health issues and expensive vet bills.
1. Itching: While itching can point to problems like fleas, ticks, lice, or allergies, excessive itching may indicate stress. Once you’ve ruled out the usual suspects, consider stress as a possible cause. Natural treatments can help alleviate allergy-related itching and eliminate the source of discomfort, thereby reducing stress.
2. Excessive shedding: Increased levels of stress can lead to increased shedding. However, shedding can also be due to poor quality food, an inadequate diet, genetic factors, lack of sunlight exposure, or when the pores of your dog’s skin do not close fully, causing continual hair loss. If these factors are not the cause, then your dog may be experiencing high levels of stress.
3. Lethargy: Lethargy can be a sign that something is not quite right with your dog. It could be due to depression, poor health, insufficient exercise, or general unhappiness. Stress could also be the cause, and it necessitates immediate investigation.
4. Aggression: Dogs may display aggression when they are unwell, injured, or in pain. If these are not the causes, stress might be the root of such behavior.
5. Reduced or no appetite: Dogs might eat less or lose their appetite altogether when they are stressed, unwell, or depressed. Dog owners need to address this issue as soon as they notice it.
6. Loss of interest: If your dog suddenly shows less interest in activities they previously enjoyed, this could mean that they are sick, unhappy, or depressed. After checking for illness, consider stress as a possible reason.
7. Passive behavior: Some dogs may become passive when under stress.
8. Negative behavior: Dogs can resort to digging, chewing, or barking incessantly due to stress or sadness. This is particularly common in intelligent breeds that are not sufficiently stimulated mentally or physically, or that are left alone for extended periods.
9. Changes in bathroom habits: If a house-trained dog suddenly forgets their training, they could be stressed or unhappy. Bear in mind your dog’s age and training duration, as accidents can occur, especially during the learning phase.
10. Sounds: Dogs tend to growl when they are distressed or agitated.
11. Body Language: Changes in body language like slouching, walking slower than usual, or constantly lying down can be a sign your dog is unwell, injured, depressed, or stressed.
Factors that can contribute to your dog’s stress:
1. As a dog owner, identifying if your dog is stressed and taking necessary actions to improve the situation is crucial for pet wellness. Consider your own mental state first. If you’re frequently stressed, anxious, depressed, or upset, your dog may absorb your emotions, negatively affecting their mental state.
2. If your dog is ill and not recovering, this could cause stress similar to how you would feel under such circumstances. Keep an eye out for any unusual behavior and take immediate action if necessary. Delays could make the situation worse or even life-threatening. For dogs already dealing with illness or health issues, stress can hinder healing and could even turn the problem chronic.
3. Constant exposure to loud television, flashing lights, or a lack of visual stimuli can stress your dog’s eyes. Limiting television time, creating a calm light environment in the evenings, offering stimulating toys, and maintaining a clean environment can alleviate this.
4. Similarly, constant, loud television noise, barking, arguing humans, children screaming, sirens, video games, thunderstorms, and slamming doors can stress your dog. Consider playing classical music when you leave your dog home alone as it has been shown to have a calming effect.
5. Strong perfumes, overpowering essential oils, hair spray, air fresheners, deodorants, and smoke can cause stress and agitation for your dog. It’s preferable to find the source of the odor rather than masking it. Limit the use of these products to specific areas to keep the rest of the house clean.
6. For dogs experiencing anxiety and fear, dog owners often consider a product called Dog Appeasing Pheromone. Alternatively, lavender aromatherapy has shown promising results in reducing stress and anxiety in dogs.
7. Poor diet, unhealthy dental conditions, inadequate water, or competition for food can cause stress. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings, a safe and comfortable eating environment, and a balanced diet can mitigate these stress factors.
8. Temperature and living conditions can also cause stress. Dogs living in uncomfortable or isolated conditions tend to have higher stress levels.
9. Excessive exercise, poor training methods, or untreated injuries can lead to arthritis and joint disease, which in turn cause stress. Suitable exercises and training techniques, along with prompt treatment for injuries, can help prevent these issues.
Hopefully the above information does not apply to your dog, and you dog is happy! This list can help you confirm:
Signs of a Happy Dog
1. Curiosity: A curious dog is a happy dog. If your dog is actively exploring its surroundings, sniffing around, and showing interest in new objects, these are signs that it’s engaged, mentally stimulated, and content.
2. Playfulness: Playfulness is a clear indicator of a happy dog. If your dog is eager to play fetch, run around, or engage in other games, it’s expressing its joy and happiness. A playful dog is a sign of good physical and emotional health.
3. Recognition of Familiar People: Happy dogs are always excited to see familiar faces. They express their happiness by wagging their tails, jumping up, or showing other signs of excitement when they see people they know and trust.
4. Regular and Undisturbed Bathroom Habits: A content dog typically has regular bathroom habits. If your dog is consistently eliminating in the appropriate places and at regular intervals, it indicates a healthy, stress-free canine.
5. General Happy Demeanor: A dog that’s generally relaxed, peaceful, and shows a wagging tail often is a happy one. Positive body language, such as relaxed ears and a loose, wiggly body, are also signs of a dog’s overall happiness.
6. Healthy Appetite: A good, consistent appetite is a sign of a happy dog. If your dog is eagerly eating its meals and maintains a healthy weight, it shows that it’s content and free from stress or illness.
Dogs have different personalities and reactions to stress depending on their owners’ lifestyles and environments. Some dogs may be more anxious, while others may be more relaxed. They are highly sensitive to their owners’ emotional states. If you are stressed, anxious, or depressed, it’s highly likely that your dog will mirror your feelings.
In the spirit of Stress Awareness Month, we should be proactive in identifying and addressing any changes in our dogs’ behavior. Stress might not always be the cause of all issues your dog might encounter, but it should never be dismissed outright. Ensuring a healthy lifestyle, diet, exercise regimen, and environment tailored to their breed and age will improve your dog’s wellbeing. Following a natural diet, rich in vegetables and free from low-quality ingredients and harmful additives, will boost your dog’s health and protect them from diseases. By prioritizing stress reduction in dogs, you can enhance their quality and length of life.