Vet's Advice: November 2017

November 03 2017

There are a number of situations when dogs can experience stress and anxiety.

How can I help my stressed dog?

There are a number of situations when dogs can experience stress and anxiety. For example, dogs can develop fear towards loud noises such as fireworks, or they may find travelling, stays at kennels, moving house, visits to the vet or groomer stressful. It can also be something a dog experiences regularly, e.g. being left alone during the day, meeting unfamiliar dogs/people on walks.

Thinking about how a dog is coping with a situation is important, alongside providing the support they need to cope. In all situations the dog will display signs of trying to escape from whatever they are finding stressful. These signs may see include:

• Looking away

• Muzzle licking or yawning

• Low body posture

• Restlessness 

• Trembling

• Elimination

• Vocalisation – barking, whining

• Salivation

• Panting

If the stressful situation is not resolved using these tactics the dog may either continue the behaviour or adopt different coping behaviours, for example:

• Hiding away

• Decreased appetite

• Increased sleep or disturbance of sleep patterns

• Overgrooming

Identifying what a dog finds stressful is an important first step. This may be obvious (for example going into a vet practice) but it may be less obvious (for example when out on a walk), therefore it may be necessary to seek the advice of a qualified behaviourist in order to understand what is going on. 

A stress prevention and treatment program should focus on gradual change, consistency and reward. This can be achieved in some situations by slowly exposing the dog to the stressful stimulus.  For example, a dog that finds travelling in the car stressful may be helped by starting off by rewarding the dog for remaining calm around the car, progressing to sitting in a car with the doors open and the engine off, having the engine on before even thinking about travelling anywhere. This way the dog is exposed slowly to the elements of travelling in a car. The same can be considered for sound sensitivities, a CD can be played quietly in the background whilst a dog is rewarded for calm behaviour, and over time the volume of the sounds are increased.

Dog Appeasing Pheromones (like ADAPTIL by Ceva Animal Health) have been shown to help dogs cope with situations they find challenging. They mimic the natural pheromone that is released by a mother dog a few days after giving birth to her puppies, giving them a sense of comfort and security when they are near to her. It can also be used alongside behaviour training, as it lowers the dog’s anxiety allowing them to concentrate on what they are learning. 

For more information on Dog Appeasing Pheromones, please feel free to contact us at Longwell Green Veterinary Centre 0117 932 3660.