Stress can affect your dog, very much like it affects you. When dogs are exposed to various stress factors, for an extended period of time, they might begin to present both physical and behavioral changes.
It is important to recognize these on the spot and take the necessary measures to reduce the amount of stress your dog experiences. Keep on reading and discover some of the most common indicators of stress in dogs, so that you know what you are up against.
How does stress affect your dog & in which situations?
Whether the stress is acute or chronic, it can play a definite influence on how your dog feels and behaves. It can modify basal parameters, such as the respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure. Moreover, it has been determined that female dogs are more likely to respond to stress, as opposed to male dogs. Car transportation and the introduction to new environments can cause the dog to become stressed as well.
Chronic stress is commonly seen in dogs that have been kenneled for prolonged periods of time (as in rescue dogs). Dogs who have been adopted from shelters present physiological symptoms as a result of chronic stress, including coughing, sneezing, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as skin problems. This is the result of the immunosuppression induced by the prolonged exposure to stress.
Common indicators of stress in dogs
According to Simply for Dogs, in response to stress, a dog can present either a normal or an abnormal behavior.
When a dog suffers from acute stress, he might exhibit an avoidant behavior or try to hide. He might react aggressively but in a defensive manner, as well as avoid contact with humans or other animals (the opposite can occur, with the dog actually seeking contact).
A stressed dog will try to draw attention to himself, for example, through pawing. He might be more active than usual – pacing, digging, scanning everything around him - or, on the contrary, say perfectly still. Due to the agitation, he might experience panting and excess salivation, but you have to be sure that these are not due to the heat.
From a physical point of view, you might notice that your dog has dilated pupils, as well as a lowered posture (weight-bearing on the rear legs), tail between the legs and ears behind the back. These are all signs that your dog is stressed, so you need to pay attention to them. The refusal to eat can also be a sign of stress.
Chronic stress, as it happens with dogs that are restricted to a confined space for prolonged periods of time – social isolation being a secondary factor – can lead to abnormal behaviors in dogs. Apart from pacing, paw lifting or yawning, the dog can experience shaking, excessive grooming or even eat feces.
The dog can present stereotypical behaviors, such as eating more than usual or drinking increased quantities of water, chasing his tail or barking loudly. Circling, flank sucking and excessive licking have also been described. Additionally, the dog might present a blank stare or chase imaginary insects (appears to be chasing flies).
Specific situations in which the dogs are stressed
Upon visiting the vet, most dogs are stressed. They will pace all around the waiting room and, after they will get down from the examination table, they will try to shake their body.
A dog that is stressed, perhaps for being left for too long in a confined space, will begin to whine or bark. This behavior does not appear just because your dog is afraid or tense, he might also try to soothe himself or get your attention.
You will often see a stressed dog yawning, as it happens when dogs are introduced to new environments. This behavior is also encountered in dogs that are bored, so it is your job to make the difference. Pay attention to his pupils, ears and overall posture.
Did you know that dogs can shed more fur when anxious or stressed? This type of change has been noticed in dogs that visit a new park, as well as those that have to the vet on a regular basis. They might also present changes in bodily functions, urinating more frequently than normal.