Dogs are perhaps one of the most emotional pets. They always actively rejoice at the arrival of the owners, even if they were absent for five minutes, show enthusiasm for each walk, react violently to the arrival of strangers, and in many situations show a storm of emotions. Most owners are attracted to these character traits in dogs. However, this coin also has a downside - a pet can worry, be upset, and experience a serious emotional shock. How is stress manifested in dogs and how can you deal with it?
Dog stress management
Any dog owner will confirm that their pet is not only an animal driven by instincts, but also a member of the family, able to show various feelings, emotions and even empathize. Naturally, having such qualities is not surprising that pets often suffer from stress. The dog can react to anything - to objects, actions, smells, noises and so on.
The owner is able to help the dog cope with this difficult situation. There are two options here:
- remove the irritant causing the pet’s reaction (it is not always possible to do this);
- help the animal to adapt to the existing stimulus, and teach to coexist with it.
Since stress is, first of all, a physical state, it negatively affects many body systems. During this period, the pet's immunity is significantly reduced, there is a decrease in the goiter gland and an increase in the adrenal cortex. In the organs of the gastrointestinal tract, capillaries burst and mucous membranes are damaged. The consequences of stress become a deterioration in the general condition, a decrease in the body's defensive reactions to various infections, and an exacerbation of chronic ailments.
Signs of stress in a dog
It may be a short-term stressful situation, for example, when a pet has visited a crowded place, undergone unpleasant or painful medical procedures, etc. In this case, the main signs are refusal of food, low activity, lethargy, the pet looks away and refuses to follow commands or does it reluctantly.
The chronic form of stress arises as a result of prolonged exposure to the stimulus or when the animal is in unusual conditions. This may be a change of residence, new owners, the appearance of another pet in the house, etc. The signs of this condition are more obvious.
The dog eats little, without hunting, most of the time lies or moves along the same trajectory. Often with frenzy licks one part of the body, more often it turns out to be a paw or tail at the base, bald spots form at the places of licking.
A pet can show disobedience and harm - start shitting in the wrong places, gnawing things and furniture. This is not an animal’s whim, but a way of attracting attention, a kind of cry for help. Sometimes, under stress, the dog can be overly aggressive.
Stress is accompanied by two conditions - excitement and apathy, which replace each other. The dog can run, jump for some time, bark loudly, for no reason, scrape the claws of the floors, there is land on the walk, and without reacting to the owner. At the time of apathy, the animal changes its behavior to the opposite - for a long time it can lie in the same position without sleep, plaintively whimper, tremble. Some pets try to hide from a person at this moment, others, on the contrary, cuddle at their feet, lay their heads on their knees, ears and tail are pressed to the body at that moment.
There is no single standard for the clinical symptoms of stress in dogs; each animal experiences it in its own way. But the owner may notice that the pet began to behave differently, this is the main sign of stress. If it is not possible to determine what caused the reaction in the dog, it is better to consult a specialist on this issue.
Common stressful situations
Most irritants are more or less understood. But often the dog reacts strangely to quite ordinary things - the sound of rain on the glass or the roof, a trip to the forest, replacing the leash, etc. If the fact that in normal life the dog is happy or does not cause any emotions of the pet excites the pet, then most likely it is a negative experience that provoked the development of fear - phobia. A zoopsychologist can help with this problem.
But most often stressful situations are more commonplace:
- Stress after visiting a groomer or home haircut. In this case, you can accustom your pet to the procedure, periodically turning on the machine, learn how to do a haircut on your own with scissors or give the pet a sedative of plant origin before the procedure.
- The dog experiences stress while riding in vehicles. Before the event, you can encourage your pet to create positive emotions associated with the trip. Take some time exclusively for entertainment purposes - to nature, the playground, to visit people whom the pet loves.
- Deep shock after the change of owner. A difficult situation requiring a "sea" of patience and boundless love. In such a situation, one cannot show pity. It’s best to behave as if the dog got into the house from the street. A good attitude, many walks, communication with other friendly dogs can bring the animal out of the spleen and restore joy to life. In some, the situation can last several days, in others - months. But with an adequate approach, the pet will cease to worry, and life will return to normal.
- The pet was stressed due to relocation. Dogs are keenly worried when they are pulled out of the usual conditions. Nevertheless, joint relocation is better than accommodation in connection with the relocation. As in the previous case, attention, positive emotions will help to survive the changes. It is worth making sure that things familiar to the pet get into a new place - toys, bedding, cups. Also, it is not worth introducing innovations during this period - putting on new ammunition, changing the routine, diet. At first, the pet can be confused and scared, mark territory, spoil things. But you can’t punish your pet, as this will only aggravate the situation. It will be enough for the dog if the owner expresses dissatisfaction with gestures and eyes. If you walk a lot, play with the animal, and encourage its activity, then its behavior will soon return to normal.
- Visiting a veterinarian is an ordinary stressful situation. It is rare that a dog calmly tolerates this event, most of them show different kinds of emotions - they do not want to go in the door, start rushing around in the lobby, can bark loudly and break off the leash. It is worth considering that all feelings are aggravated in dogs, and from any hospital, including a veterinary, it blows with fear and pain. In this situation, it is important for the owner to be absolutely calm and behave as if nothing had happened. The dog will take pity, lamentations, empathy as a direct confirmation of all fears. In most cases, treatment is associated with unpleasant moments, so it is important to choose a veterinarian with experience and high responsibility. Such a specialist will not rush and use force in order to finish the procedure as soon as possible and accept the following patients. He will show tact and try to establish contact with the animal. Entering confidence, the doctor will be able to easily carry out all the manipulations without causing additional stress to the pet. If possible, it is best to begin acquaintance of the dog with the doctor at home by making a home call. Subsequently, the animal, even in the clinic, will perceive the veterinarian as an old acquaintance.
How to eliminate a chronic form of stress in a dog
There are three main methods to relieve a pet of stress. You can apply them all, and looking at the reaction of the pet, give preference to the most effective. The reaction of the dog will let you know what works best:
- Occupational therapy. Increased physical activity - long walks, sports, training, active jogging, all this can bring the animal out of a protracted crisis. Actions should occur solely with the approval of the pet, accompanied by communication and compulsory encouragement.
- Adding novelty. Any positive emotions - new friends, toys, goodies, will affect the state of the pet, cause a response and help you get distracted. The dog will gradually begin to forget about worries.
- Taking drugs with a mild sedative effect. Some situations do not allow long-term therapy, when you need to calm the animal here and now. There is an urgent trip, the conclusion "to the people", the New Year's fireworks are about to begin, or the injury requires an urgent visit to the veterinary clinic. Situations are different and it is important to help the dog survive the coming excitement in a timely manner. Before using the drugs, it is better to consult a veterinarian and in no case give a sedative from your own first-aid kit, as some substances can give the opposite effect.
Doctors warn that pills or drops will not solve the problem, but only delay it, so long-term therapy will still be required. The main thing is to love your pet, then any stress will pass quickly and not noticeably.