There are many possible triggers for fear or anxiety in pets. Some can be resolved within a matter of minutes, others take more time to understand and correct. In the case of chronic stress in dogs, symptoms can vary widely between fairly subtle to overwhelmingly disruptive. In response to ongoing triggers in their environment, dogs may turn to harming themselves. To prevent chronic stress in dogs it is critical to recognize what provokes certain behavioral patterns, and how to improve them.
For Their Health
Chronic stress in dogs is characterized by behavioral changes in response to profound fears or phobias in their surroundings. There are three different types of stress:
- Fear (an instinct that responds to perceived external threat)
- Phobias (external stimuli like loud noises, including fireworks, traffic, thunderstorms, etc.)
- Anxiety, or anticipating possible danger (such as solitude or isolation)
It is common in pets that lack proper, thorough, early socialization to develop one or more types of stress. These can definitely be worked on in order to provide a dog with more confidence and trust.
Being able to address stressful triggers for dogs requires an understanding of what’s normal behavior. Any slight deviations from normal behaviors in individual canines can lead to early intervention and positive changes.
What Are the Signs?
The most common symptoms of stress include:
- Tail tucking
- Hunched over
- Licking the lips or nose
- Pinned-back ears
- Shaking or trembling
- Whining, yapping, howling, or barking
- Social withdrawal
- Dilated pupils, visible whites of the eyes
Depending on the external source, fear, anxiety, or phobias will present different behavioral responses. If triggers continue to upset them without treatment or resolution, chronic stress in dogs will naturally result.
Extreme symptoms are relied on by dogs to soothe themselves. You might see excessive licking of their fur to the extent that they lick certain spots down to the skin. Compulsive licking may also extend to the floor, walls, furniture, and can also include chewing. Digging and destruction of property are also seen in severe cases of chronic stress in dogs.
Treating Chronic Stress in Dogs
Scheduling a behavioral consultation is a great place to start to understand your dog’s emotional responses to their environment. We work closely with owners to develop the right techniques that serve your individual dog’s needs. If we find that a dog’s symptoms are either caused or exacerbated by internal systemic issues, our plan for treatment will also include these.
Treatment for chronic stress in dogs may involve any of the following strategies:
- Increased exercise
- Dietary changes, with or without supplements to balance metabolism
- Positive reinforcement training
- Adjustments to the living arrangements
- Prescription anxiety medication
- Dog daycare (if your dog struggles with separation anxiety)
Our team is ready to help you and your dog through to the other side. With patience, consistency, and compassion, chronic stress in dogs can be treated with success.
If you have additional questions about canine health, wellness, nutrition, or behavior, please call us at (732) 531-1212. Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is always here to help.