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Is Your Dog Stressed? Know the Signs and What to Do

Updated on January 27, 2019
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Fredda Branyon has dedicated her life to the advancement of complementary medicine.

Did you know your adorable tail-wagging and nose-licking puppy is prone to stress? This state of mental or emotional strain causes an excessive release of norepinephrine in your dog, which is a chemical in the body that acts as a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. Norepinephrine also plays a role in altering and interfering with gastrointestinal functions, often causing diarrhea that can add to your loving pet’s stress.


Signs of a Stressed Dog

Unlike humans who can fake a smile despite going through tough times, dogs are more expressive, especially when they feel unhappy or stressed. The common signs of a stressed dog include:

  • Frequent yawning and nose or lip licking

  • Hunched body posture

  • A lowered or tucked tail

  • Lowered or pulled back ears

  • Unwillingness to walk or go outside

  • Loss of appetite

  • Panting for unknown reasons

  • Hiding and unnecessary trembling

  • Sleeping more than usual

  • Hostility toward people (even you) and other animals

  • Increased vocalization, such as wailing, whimpering or barking

  • Chronic diarrhea and other digestive issues

If your dog shows recurrent signs and symptoms of stress, do not jump to any conclusions. It is always a great idea to consult a veterinarian about the possible causes of his or her symptoms, which may be something antibiotics and vitamins can solve. Only a complete physical and medical exam can reveal if your pet’s sudden lack of enthusiasm is behavioral.


Stress Triggers in Dogs and How to Relieve Them

Some common stress triggers in puppies, adults, and senior dogs are:

  • Exposure to anything new, including other animals, people, or items
  • Loud and unfamiliar noises like fireworks and thunderstorms

  • Lack of exercise or restraint from playing outside

  • Invasion of personal space when sleeping

  • Separation anxiety from human companions

  • Being around animals or humans that have hurt them in the past

  • Going to unfamiliar locations, such as when moving houses or visiting the vet for the first time

  • Vindictive training methods, such as hitting, yelling, and using shock collars


Although stress triggers like moving houses and thunderstorms are inevitable, there are ways to relieve your dog from his or her worries. Some examples are:


  • Take your charming dog with you when you go for a walk (and make heads turn with his or her adorable paws and puppy eyes!)

  • Practice positive reinforcement instead of constant yelling

  • Don’t leave your agitated or uncomfortable dog with a stranger

  • Comfort your dog with small talks and constant petting when visiting new places

  • Ensure that your dog has a positive relationship with everyone in your home

  • Leave your dog a blanket with your scent before going to work

  • Feed him or her with quality dog food (a proper diet is important to dogs)


If you see no improvement in your dog’s stress, consider hiring a trained professional in self-healing techniques or a holistic vet specializing in homeopathy and other alternative medicines.


A Final Word

In 2017, almost 90 million dogs live in households across the United States. No matter the breed, each dog is a special addition to the family with most of us considering them as our children. Just be mindful of stress signals and consult your veterinarian about any unusual behaviors during regular appointments. Also, yoga with your dog? It’s a real thing.

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    • Ellison Hartley profile image

      Ellison Hartley 

      2 years ago from Maryland, USA

      This is really helpful. I think that a lot of times we overlook small signs that could have been a warning that something is wrong. I'm obsessed with my dogs, so any weird behavior they do I assume it is because they just want me to leave them alone

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