As with humans, stress is a normal part of life in animals. For example, fear is a stress-related emotion that assists us in avoiding potentially dangerous situations. Dogs may become stressed for various different reasons. Stress can be the product of a major change in the environment or a feeling of insecurity that exists on a daily basis. Other causes could be a fear of thunderstorms or anxiety when you leave home. While occasional stress shouldn’t be particularly worrisome, excessive or prolonged stress has the potential to weaken a dog’s immune system and can lead to behavioral problems.
Behavior Signs of Stress in a Dog
There are some physical signs that you can watch out for, in order to know that your dog is under stress. Continual lip and nose licking is one of them. Another is known as the stress yawn, which is done repeatedly with more intensity than a sleepy yawn. If your dog is panting and your dog is not overheated, nor has he been exercising, he may be stressed. If they pin their ears back, this is another sign. A dog may shake off after experiencing something unpleasant, such as a veterinary exam. If the dog won’t look at you and keeps looking away, this could be another indicator.
Medical Signals of Stress
There are a number of medical problems that when in combination with behavior that may mean your dog is stressed.
- Excessive shedding or dandruff
- Red eyes
- Foam drool
- Tense muscles
- Shivering when it is not cold
- Dilated pupils
- Tense muscles
Helping Your Pet Cope
Sometimes the best thing you can do to manage your dog’s stress is to check your own. According to Dr. William Fortney, Director of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, animals are able to sense and react to stress in others. If you know the specific cause of your dog’s stress, try to eliminate that. Be sure to introduce your dog to any change gradually.
It is helpful to establish boundaries and a routine for your dog, letting him know just how he fits into your family. Teaching your dog to obey you and providing them a stable routine helps your dog to feel more secure and confident and more tolerant of stressful situations.
Acupressure is one great way to get your dog feeling better. To learn how to perform acupressure on your dog, follow this link from The Whole Dog Journal.
Aromatherapy is another way to help your stressed out dog. Aromatherapy utilizes the power of scent through naturally extracted aromatic essences of plants. In recent years, its positive effect on pet health has been to gain attention. When you use essential oils, they should be properly diluted within a carrier oil such as almond oil. Lavender oil is a great place to start with dog aromatherapy. Just rub a few drops into the dog’s fur for him to receive the benefits.
As with humans, the use of herbs can also be very helpful for dogs. Chamomile and valerian are two herbs which may be particularly beneficial. Herbs are a great way to go natural when it comes to healing your pet. However, in order to ensure your pet’s safety, it is best to visit a veterinarian who specializes in herbal medicine.