We live in an anxious world… It seems like anxiety is a daily occurrence. And this is true for dogs too. But, should you be worried about the ramifications of your dog’s anxiety on their health? While it might be tempting to shrug off your dog’s anxiety as ‘no big deal,’ the truth is anxiety can have lasting as well as immediate effects on both the mental and physical health of your canine.

Do you know the signs of anxiety in dogs? Read this to learn!

Here Are The Clinical Ramifications of Anxiety In Dogs

Shortened Lifespan

Just like with humans, chronic stress from anxiety in dogs has detrimental effects on their overall health. A recent study conducted by animal science researcher Nancy Dreschel found that dogs with anxiety made to interact with strangers were likely to have a shorter lifespan (averaging about 6 months) than dogs without anxiety.

Stressed Immune System

The immune system’s health is crucial for a dog’s continually good health. Anxiety in dogs, especially chronic anxiety, negatively affects the immune system due to the overproduction of stress hormones. Cortisol, a major stress hormone, lowers the amount of white blood cells produced. White blood cells are what is needed to protect your dog’s body to fight off bacteria and infections. 

At the World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings in 2014, experts noted: 

If stress is persistent or chronic, there is continued stimulation of the HPA axis and an increase in cortisol with depression of the catecholamine system, leading to alterations in the immune system and possible development of stress-related diseases.

More anxiety means more stress hormones which means fewer white blood cells, and that increases the canine’s risk of developing major illness.  

Self-Harm

Dogs with anxiety exhibit a number of symptoms that point to their mental distress. One of these symptoms can sadly be self-harming behavior. This includes overt behaviors like biting, chewing, and excessively licking themselves. Or it could be more subtle behavior such as refusing to eat, or eating very minimally.

Skin Conditions

Due to your furry family member’s overlicking or even pulling out their hair with their teeth, they may develop skin conditions such as infections or lesions. The stress of anxiety could even cause patches of your dog’s hair to simply fall out. If your dog scratches or bites themselves they can develop secondary skin infections.

Digestive Problems

You’ve probably experienced it yourself when you’re nervous or anxious: nausea or an upset stomach. Dogs may experience the same unpleasant issues with their own anxiety. This can lead to a decrease in appetite as well as extra stress on the digestive system. It’s also possible that anxiety can be a contributing factor in conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Heart Problems

Anxiety causes stress, and stress is bad for the heart. A rapid heart rate can interfere with normal heart activities. This can lead to high blood pressure, weakening of the heart muscle, and even coronary disease. 

Behavior Changes

In addition to the physical harm anxiety in dogs can create, it also impacts their behavior. For example, self-harm falls into both of these categories because the dog experiences physical pain due to their behavioral change that leads to them hurting themselves. 

Here are a couple of other mental health ramifications anxiety can cause in your pet:

Self-Isolating 

Dogs are social creatures as well as pack animals – they love being with people, as well as other household critters. That’s why it’s important to notice if your dog begins to limit their time with their family members. This can also show itself if your dog needs to be found at meal time versus their typical running toward the sound of food.

Depression 

Anxiety is burdensome. If your fur baby isn’t finding any relief, they can become depressed. Wouldn’t constantly struggling with something so overwhelming take a toll on your emotional well-being too?

Tips To Help Soothe Your Dog’s Anxiety And Noise Anxiety

The most important thing is to know the signs of anxiety and noise anxiety in your dog. If your dog develops more anxiety due to noise, you have a clue to what triggers your dog’s anxiety. Noise anxiety has met its match with CrittEar ear plugs for dogs! Veterinarians recommend minimizing noises to help manage dog’s anxiety:.

Animals boarding or staying in kennels are not psychologically calm when they are surrounded by noise, and their circadian rhythm is disrupted.

Wayne Usiak, AIA, CEO of BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M. 

That’s why it’s important to keep your anxious dog buffered from noise as much as possible. 

Resources

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223596811_The_effects_of_fear_and_anxiety_on_health_and_lifespan_in_pet_dogs (Nancy Dreschel)

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/fear-and-anxiety-may-shorten-dogs-lifespan/ (Nancy Dreschel)

https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/effects-on-body#Excretory-and-digestive-systems

https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=12886&catId=57087&id=7054740&ind=16&objTypeID=17&print=1 (World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings in 2014)

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