How Stress Affects Your Dog

Updated: May 24, 2022

They say the only constant thing in this world (aside from change) is stress. Well, it might be true, especially when we don't know how to handle it properly. If we let it take over us, it can make us anxious, and it can contribute to a lot of health problems.

But have you ever wondered how stress can affect your dog? Yes, stress in dogs is possible, too, and has always been a reality. And if not managed as soon as possible, stress can affect your dogs as much as it affects us, and sometimes they have it much worse!

In this article, we’ll talk about the signs of stress in dogs, the effects of stress in your dog, and how to relieve stress in dogs.

critical signs of stress in a dog

The effects of stress on dogs

Dogs primarily communicate what’s wrong with them through body languages, according to the American Kennel Club. It can also be through their actions that our dogs communicate their health conditions. This is why it’s very important to learn what every situation means, critical signs of stress in a dog, and how to tell if a dog is stressed.

A weakened system of body defense. One of the most negative effects of stress in your dog is a weakened immune system. When your dog is stressed, their body will actually release cortisol, a hormone that helps the body respond to a stressor or to certain stressful events. Cortisol directs the blood flow to the muscles, but when stress becomes too much to handle for your dog, it causes the immune system to deteriorate. The end result? Your stressed dog will be unable to fight off diseases and infections properly, leading them to become more at risk.

Yawning, licking, and panting. Do dogs yawn when stressed? Yes, as it is an attempt to calm themselves down. Stressed dog body language will often include lots of yawning and licking. You might have heard of a dog stress yawn. However, yawning can also be a result of a tired dog, so context is important to observe. A stressed dog may also lick their paws or a toy excessively to help calm themselves. Excessive panting without exercise or cause is also a good indication that your dog is feeling stressed.

Loss of appetite. Stress can decrease your dog’s appetite and too much of it will cause weight loss and unhealthy weight problems. This can be a problem especially when your dog is underweight, still young, or eats an unhealthy & poor diet.

However, in some dogs, loss of appetite is not the problem. Stress may also increase a dog’s appetite and will increase their urge to eat more, resulting to dog obesity and poor weight management.

Diarrhea. Can stress cause diarrhea in dogs? Yes. Aside from cortisol, your dog's body also releases adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your fur-baby's blood pressure and heart rate. Adrenaline also comes with some unpleasant thing as it causes a decreased blood flow to your stressed dog's digestive system, resulting in dog stress diarrhea. You may think it’s just a normal case of loose, watery stools but diarrhea can be life-threatening as it can eventually lead to dehydration. Observe your fur-baby’s diarrhea, if it lasts for more than 24 hours already, take them to your vet asap.

Behavioral changes. Your dog will try to avoid or run away from whatever makes them scared, nervous, or anxious. If they don't feel secure, stress can trigger aggressive behavior. They will also tend to fidget - this is your dog’s way of showing their excess energy without having to attack something or run away from it.

Stress can also cause your dog to forget the things they are not supposed to do inside your home - like pee or poop in inappropriate places, bite off or chew objects, and a whole lot more!

"One of the most negative effects of stress in your dog is a weakened immune system."

Slow recovery process. If your dog has a disease and is in the process of recovering, stress can slow down the healing process. As cortisol is released in the body (as mentioned above), it will have an anti-healing effect on your dog. This slows down recovery and takes over your dog's ability to heal & fight off the illness.

Urinary problems. As stress creates an anxious dog, peeing is your dog's way of saying they are scared and not comfortable with how things are. The sudden release of what we call the stress hormones relaxes the bladder sphincter and incontinence will occur (where your dog loses partial or full control of their bladder) and accidents happen.

How to relieve your dog's stress

Once you know the signs of stress in dogs and know how to tell if a dog is stressed, the next step is learning how to relieve stress in dogs. Here are some things you can do for your stressed dog.

Create a safe place. If your stressed dog rushes into a particular area in your house to try to hide, let them stay there. They are considering that to be their safe place. It can also be good for them if you can provide them their favorite bed placed inside a closet, under the table, or in a small room. It is also a good idea to provide your dog with Pawtect® Blankets.

Pawtect® Blankets are blankets made with the softest and comfiest faux fur fabric that can serve as a comfort blanket for your stressed dog, keeping them warm, safe, and secured.

Offer physical contact. For your fur-baby, there is nothing more comfortable than your touch, according to Central California SPCA. You can help reduce your fur-baby's stress by picking them up, cuddling them, and even by just giving them some petting sessions. Note that this should not be done in reaction to a stressful situation as it can reinforce the feeling that your dog should be afraid. Instead, offer affection on a regular basis to help your dog feel more confident and relaxed in everyday life.

Keep your dog distracted. Distractions are good for your dog when you see they are stressed out. You can give them their favorite treat or their favorite toys for dogs with anxiety. You can also play nice dog anxiety music and get them involved with something else that they might like, to get their mind off whatever is causing them stress.

You can give your dog Gnawtlers® for them to chew on. Gnawtlers® are premium deer and elk antler chews meant to keep your fur-baby mentally and physically stimulated. These are great alternatives to toys for dogs with anxiety. These antler chews are safe, all-natural, do not splinter so easily, and filled with nutrients, giving your dog a different kind of gnawing experience.

Provide diapers and pee pads. Too much stress can make your dog pee or poop in places they shouldn't be. To avoid having to face the scary clean-up of a crazy mess, have them wear Pet Parents® Washable Dog or you can leave Pawtect® Pads in their confinement area or crate.

Offer supplements. Supplements can be very helpful for your dog to be able to manage stress. You can offer Pet Parents® Multivitamins SoftSupps® to keep their immune system on top, and Pet Parents® Calming SoftSupps® that contain Suntheanine®, a pure form of L-Theanine that is clinically studied for promoting a sense of relaxation & mental alertness without drowsiness. These calming chews will help soothe your fur-baby's body and relieve tension during stress by triggering specific receptors to communicate between body systems. These supplements also assist in easing an upset stomach, providing comfort during stressful & high-anxiety situations, and regulating responses to stress & anxiety.

You know your dog and you know what causes him stress. The signs of stress in dogs and signs of anxiety in dogs can be triggered by stressful or unfamiliar situations. Let your dog know that you are right beside him in a stressful situation and offer helpful alternatives like toys for dogs with anxiety. Know the critical signs of stress in a dog, stressed dog body language, and how to relieve stress in dogs.

"Pawtect® Blankets are blankets made with the softest and comfiest faux fur fabric that can serve as a comfort blanket for your stressed dog, keeping them warm, safe, and secured."