Through the past months of social isolation and COVID-19 news, it’s safe to say most of us are under stress. That stress could be due to financial or job loss, loneliness, or fear about getting sick, but the stress is palpable. This level of emotion can affect your pet in numerous ways, including their own behavior. Uncontrolled stress in a pet owner has negative repercussions for everyone, including four-legged family members.

The team at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital is here to explain how anxiety affects your dog and ways you can reduce your own stress as well as your pet’s.

How Your Anxiety Affects Your Dog

According to a recent study by Scientific Reports, dog owners can transfer the feelings of anxiety and stress to their pets. After researchers looked at a selection of more than 58 border collies and sheepdogs, they found the stress hormone, cortisol, in their fur strands. Each of the dogs belonged to people who struggle with anxiety or chronic stress.

The study concluded that after marked stress, depression, or a significant loss by the pet owners, there was an increase in cortisol in the hair follicles of their dogs. There is also a strong correlation between the dog breeds and their response to the owners. For example, competitive dogs rely on a stronger bond with their owners and seem to respond more to their emotions than the average pup.

But our moods can affect all dogs, as well as some cats.

Signs that Your Emotions Are Affecting Your Dog

Dogs communicate their emotions through body language and behavior changes. By responding to their cues, you can help reduce their stress. Some ways that your pet will tell you they are stressed include:

  • Hiding/isolating
  • Growling
  • Whining/yowling
  • Excessive barking
  • Destructive behavior, like chewing, scratching, etc.
  • Marking or increased accidents
  • Tail tucked
  • Yawning
  • Licking lips
  • Cowering
  • Pacing

If your dog’s behavior is chronic or is causing them to have health or daily living problems, please reach out to us. We have Quirky K9 training and behavior modification training, as well as behavioral counseling. Ongoing stress in pets, like in people, can have negative impacts on health and quality of life.

Stress-Reducing Tips

There are times in life where stress is a normal response to a situation, such as a pandemic, but there are good ways to manage stress for you and your pet. Here are a few suggestions that will help you both stay active and relaxed.

  • Go for a few walks during the day, breathing in the cool air and feeling the sun on your skin (and fur).
  • Choose activities to play with your pet that are interactive, meaning that they involve your participation, like fetch or laser pointer, tandem jogging, swimming, etc. (With activities such as laser pointer, be sure to limit the play and end on a positive to avoid leaving your dog frustrated.) 
  • Participate in calming activities, such as yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi.
  • Watch comedies with your pet.
  • Speak with your veterinarian about your dog’s anxiety, so they can offer their support and recommendations.
  • Manage your own anxiety and stress by following up with your health provider.

If you would like more information on why your anxiety affects your dog, or to schedule an appointment, please phone us