Is your dog acting unusual? Perhaps he or she seems overly anxious or depressed. Stress is more common in dogs than you may think. Even worse, stress can negatively impact your dog's health. Here are five common signs of stress and anxiety in dogs to help you identify it and seek help quickly.
1. Diarrhea, Constipation, or other Digestive Issue
Although they are more commonly attributed to disease or food intolerance, gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and constipation can also be brought on by anxiety. Speak to your veterinarian if the diarrhea, constipation, or other digestive issue is abnormally severe, especially if it has lasted longer than 24 hours or if the diarrhea is bloody. Blood in the vomit and/or stool can be an indicator of a food borne illness.
2. Decrease in Appetite
Dogs don't go on fasts or diets like we do, so it's important to consult a veterinarian if your pet suddenly loses interest in food or stops eating altogether. It could be due to stress or to an underlying health condition, including anorexia, which can cause your dog to refuse to eat totally and its food intake to decrease so much that it leads to drastic weight loss.
Some dogs like some alone time now and then. However, a dog that is constantly isolating him or herself from other pets or people may be suffering from anxiety or a sickness. Your veterinarian can help you identify the cause of this strange behavior.
4. Increased Sleeping
By now you will have become accustomed to your dog's sleeping schedule. Speak with your veterinarian if your dog is sleeping more than usual or seems overly lethargic. Lethargy is often the first symptom that a dog is sick, injured or traumatized. It can also be a symptom of conditions including diabetes, heart and liver problems, tumors, diarrhea and severe dehydration, hypothyroidism, anaemia and poisoning, among others.
5. Aggression Toward People or Other Animals
Aggressive actions toward animals or people can be a sign of a stressed or sick dog. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before the problem gets worse. Many aggressive signs are accompanied by a fearful body posture and facial expression, and with submissive behavior. Treatment for aggresion focuses behavior management techniques to assist the dog with its anxiety and anger. Devices such as muzzles can also be effective when the dog is away from home, with all treatment being focused on preventing injury to humans, other animals, and to the dog.
How to Help a Stressed Out Dog?
If your dog’s behavior changes suddenly in any way, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. He or she can rule out any underlying medical issues as well as make recommendations to help lower your dog's stress level. Here are some tips for helping to alleviate anxiety in your dog:
Play/exercise with your dog regularly – Physical activities like a game of fetch or a walk around the block are a great stress reducer for dogs.
Create a safe zone – Set apart an area in your home for your dog to escape high-stress events like thunderstorms and parties. Provide your dog with a favorite "security blanket" such as a toy and visit your dog often. If possible, stay with him until the high-stress event has passed. Your presence is a great reassurance to him or her.
Choose a high quality dog food – Your dog's diet is an integral part of his health and wellbeing. Providing your dog with a diet that is not properly balanced for his or her life stage and lifestyle may cause unforeseen repercussions that may lead to anxiety and stress.