Ways Your Pet Can Help Relieve Your Stress
Sometimes finding time to walk the dog or clean the litterbox seems like one more task to cram into your busy day. But it’s worth it. Heres why: There are many ways our pets actually help decrease the stress we feel in our daily lives.
To learn more about how and why animals help reduce stress, we talk with Dr. Alan M. Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.
1. Just being around an animal decreases your blood pressure, which is one physical measure of stress. Ever since work by Dr. Beck and colleagues first showed that petting a dog or cat lowers a person’s blood pressure reading, this has been found to be true with other animals as well. In fact, you don’t even need to touch them. Just looking is enough: Watching fish in an aquarium has the same effect.
2. Our pets decrease our reactions to stressful situations.One study showed that subjects asked to do a mental arithmetic task in front of their pets showed smaller increases in blood pressure and heart rate in contrast to doing it in front of their spouse, which made it more stressful. So if your dentist has a fish tank in his waiting room, this effect may be exactly why Dr. Beck’s research showed that watching fish beforehand reduces the stress of undergoing dental procedures.
Any Pet Can Improve Your Health
While its true that people with pets often experience greater health benefits than those without, a pet doesnt necessarily have to be a dog or a cat. A rabbit could be ideal if youre allergic to other animals or have limited space but still want a furry friend to snuggle with. Birds can encourage social interaction and help keep your mind sharp if youre an older adult. Snakes, lizards, and other reptiles can make for exotic companions. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and lower your pulse rate.
Studies have shown that:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
- Playing with a dog, cat, or other pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than those without pets.
- Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
- Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
Affordable Online Therapy for Help and Support
Get professional help from BetterHelps network of licensed therapists.
Need urgent help? .
Questions To Ask Your Boarding Kennel
Boarding staff have the best intentions, but dont always know how to deal with anxiety in dogs. Very often they will have so many dogs to look after, that the one dog with kennel stress could be missed and not get the attention and help they need.
Please dont take it for granted that your dog will be in good hands.
To put your mind at ease that your chosen kennel not only recognizes and deals with stress, but also has the systems in place to reduce the risk, ask the following questions of them .
Handy Hint: Ive put together an extensive guide on what you need to check and look out for in kennels before you book your dogs stay.
You May Like: Can Stress Cause Eczema Breakouts
Stress Relief Animals: The Pawsome Health Benefits Of Pet Ownership
Pet stress relief. Is this really a thing? Yes! As a source of companionship and unconditional love, pets give us an abundance of opportunities to laugh, connect with others, and create funny YouTube videos. While regular trips to the vet are vital for keeping your pet healthy and happy, did you ever stop to thank your pet for the health benefits they provide for you?
Chronic stress is a gateway to all sorts of health problems. Without a doubt, having pets has a strong correlation to stress relief. OK, maybe not so much during the puppy and kitten stage when they can be like miniature weapons of mass destruction, but with a little patience and training, its well worth the effort.
Numerous studies show that pets are not only good for our minds but also good for our bodies. Here are just a few of the ways that animals and pets help reduce stress and improve our health.
Pets have an uncanny ability to make us laugh. Doctors always say that laughter is the best medicine, and in many ways, its true! According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing activates and relieves the bodys stress response, soothes tension, relaxes tense muscles, and stimulates circulation. In addition:
Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Mayo Clinic
Ways To Help Stressed Dogs Calm Down Naturally
I live with an older dog that has dementia. Similar to dementia in people, he gets anxious and confused later in the day. Because of this, I’ve been looking into ways to help dogs destress naturally, and as it turns out, there are quite a few options. From CBD oil to compression wraps, you can help your four-legged friend feel less anxious by using things you likely already have at home.
In the late afternoon and evenings, my canine roommate whines excessively, paces, and sometimes barks for no reason. Other signs your dog is experiencing stress include shaking, yawning, drooling, excessive licking and shedding, panting, hiding, and changes in bodily functions, according to Dr. Lynn Buzhardt on the VCA animal hospital blog. While dogs can absorb stress from humans, sometimes other factors are at play.
The American Kennel Club cited things like separation anxiety, fear, and aging as the most common causes of stress in dogs. And while dealing with a stressed-out pup can make you feel stressed and anxious too, once you understand what’s making Fido freak out, you can work toward removing the stressor and doing some simple things to ease your dog’s discomfort. Because a happy dog equals a happy human.
Read Also: What Are The Symptoms Of Post Traumatic Stress
Start Sleep And Crate Training
If your dog has not slept in a crate before then now is a great time to do so. They will have more room in kennels compared to a crate, but crate training in a different room of your house can help prepare them for the stress of a smaller living environment.
Dogs that sleep with their owners will find it a lot tougher acclimatizing to boarding kennels, so start this this process a couple of weeks before boarding.
If you dont do this, you might find that your dog is very sleepy and lethargic after boarding.
Recognizing Anxiety In Your Pet Dog
There are many tell tale signs that your dog may be anxious or stressed.
Here are some of the indicators you should make sure to watch for when trying to diagnose your dog’s strange behavior.
If the symptoms are severe and your dog seems disturbed, either physically or mentally, seek medical advice from your veterinarian as soon as possible.
What may seem like stress can be something much more dangerous for your pets.
Knowing when to seek professional help is vital to the long-term health of your furry friend.
You May Like: How To Help Hair Loss Due To Stress
How To Help Your Stressed Dog
Dogs live in the present, therefore they are able to easily overcome problems of their past if their owners are capable of using effective training methods. A dog behaviorist should be consulted in deep rooted problems where dogs are stressed because of abuse or lack of socialization. A veterinarian is also a good place to start so to exclude any possible health problems.
Many times with a good desensitation program stress responses can be extinguished with time. For instance, dogs that get stressed by thunder storms benefit from listening to recordings of thunder. Such recordings are first played on a very low volume for brief periods watching for possible signs of stress. After some time, when stress responses are low, the volume will be increased gradually until the dog no longer pays attention to the noise. With lots of practice, eventually the fear will wean off thanks to this desensitization behavior modification technique.To master this technique, please read my article on dog desensitization.
Engaging in Contrasting Behaviors
Providing Ample Exercise
Chewing Stress Away
Pheromone Plug Ins
Best Practices For Stress Relief In Dogs
Beyond medication, there are some additional things you can try with your dog as part of a more holistic stress-relief program. Consider trying any of the following:
- Scheduling regular exercise and playtime with them. Note: Daily walks may not be enough.
- Avoiding situations and places that are known to trigger stress whenever possible. Taking your dog to a crowded place such as an outdoor festival or farmers market, while well-intentioned, may end up stressing them out.
- Providing a safe zone. This can be wherever they feel comfortable, from a bed to doghouse. Giving them a sweatshirt or blanket that smells like you can go a long way toward easing anxieties when you’re out of the house.
- Setting consistent rules and not changing them. Your dog must know what you expect from them. And don’t forget to reward positive behavior and ignore bad behavior. If you always run to your dog’s rescue when they seem stressed, they will pick up on this and use it to their advantage. Part of being a pet parent is learning when you need to consul them versus when it’s only reinforcing a bad behavior.
- Providing them with a complete and balanced food to promote their well-being body and mind.
You May Like: Why Am I Feeling Stressed
First Recognise The Signs
1. Your dog will try to avoid eye contact by turning his head away. He may also lick his lips repeatedly.
2. Look out for yawning – it isn’t a sign that your dog is tired, but is one way he might show stress. Some dogs give a subtle yawn, while others give a huge, toothy one.
3. To make himself feel less visible, your dog will lower his body and appear to hunch. He’ll also tuck his tail tightly between his legs, and lay his ears flat against his head.
Increased Levels Of Oxytocin
The hormone oxytocin, also known as the feel-good hormone, can make you feel happier and reduce stress levels. It is naturally produced when something makes you feel happy. Research has shown that when people are petting an animal, their body produces more oxytocin, thus making them feel happier and reducing stress. This shows that dog owners can feel better by petting their dog during stressful times.
Also Check: How To Get Rid Of Stress And Worry
Changes In Attitude And Demeanor
If your once friendly dog is suddenly acting cold or hostile toward you, this may indicate they are stressed or in pain.
Refusing food or being picky is also an obvious sign of anxiety or some other issue, primarily if your pet is usually motivated by food.
Doing their business in the house, ignoring you when you call out to them, and refusing play/cuddle time is also cause for concern.
How To Reduce Stress In Dogs
Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course “Brain Training for Dogs.”
How to help stressed dogs, alexadry
When stress affects man’s best friend a variety of physical changes will take place. Recognizing the cue signs of stress is very important for dog owners so they can intervene and take action in order to reduce such state of mind. Dogs can get stressed for a variety of reasons, the most common being moving to a new home, going to the vet, meeting new people and other dogs, being left alone, fearing thunder or loud noises, and so forth.
Dogs are ultimately instinctual animals, they will react to stress in a fight or flight mode. What this means is that when under stress their endocrine system will release adrenaline from the adrenal gland causing bodily changes to take place such as increased heart beat, increased breathing, high blood pressure, dilated pupils and an over all alert state of mind. Over time, the effects of prolonged stress in dogs may lower the immune system and cause disease.
There is no doubt therefore that stressed dogs need to be helped overcome their stress and fear. There are a variety of methods to help a stressed dog ranging from behavior modification techniques to medications in the most severe cases. Following are some tips on how to help a stressed dog lead a less stressful life.
Read Also: How To Fight Stress Acne
Both Men And Women Benefit From Dog De
The study also revealed an equally positive effect for both male and female students from the therapy dog sessions. Though previous research had indicated that women experience more positive effects from therapy dog sessions then men, the UBC study found the positive results to be evenly distributed across genders.
RELATED: Why You Want to Elicit the Relaxation Response
So might there be wider ranging implications for this research? Could therapy dogs benefit people other people in stressful situations?
Weve started to see therapy dogs at hospitals, and Ive heard of a few instances of therapy dogs in the workplace, Chen says. I would have every reason to expect that these effects would generalize past student populations. Any population that has some reason to need a de-stressed kind of setting would likely experience similar benefits.
Drop Your Dog Off Earlier In The Day
Try to drop your dog or puppy off at the kennels early in the morning. This will let them have the whole day to get used to the new surroundings and become familiar with the new noises, smells, and strange people or dogs.
If you drop your dog off on your way to get a late evening flight, its unlikely the dog will sleep properly, and their anxiety levels could be off the scale.
If they have a day to acclimatize, it could help reduce any kennel stress they have.
Read Also: How Do You Get Rid Of Hives Caused By Stress
Changes In Eye And Ear Positions
If you can see the whites in your dogs eyes, then its a worrying sign. Looking startled is a key indicator for stress, as well as the eyes appearing to be dilated with a rapid blinking motion.
Kennel stress can also manifest itself with changes in how your dogs ears are positioned. Canine anxiety will often show with ears flattened to the head versus their normal appearance.
Walking Your Dog Could Relieve Stress Scientists Say
Gabriel Pevide / Getty
You already know that our canine friends benefit from a good stretch of the legs each day. Now a recent study from Japan suggests that when we walk with our dogs, there’s a chance we alleviate our stress more effectively than if we saunter out alone. Study authors Junko Akiyama at the Yamazaki University of Animal Health Technology and Mitsuaki Ohta at Tokyo University of Agriculture provide the science behind this theory.
In two small sample experiments, they examined 34 pairs of owners and their dogs, evaluating cortisol, oxytocin, and neurological levels:
Before dog walking.
15 minutes into a 30-minute walk.
At the immediate end of that walk, and again 10 minutes later.
Cortisol is often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’, and oxytocin is one of our ‘feel good hormones’, similar to dopamine and endorphins. According to Akiyama and Ohta, previous studies indicated that “dog walking sometimes increases the owners’ oxytocin levels and may reduce cortisol levels.”
RELATED:Study Uses Science to Confirm Cuddling a Dog Is Good for Your Health
But the two-footed and four-pawed participants in this trial didn’t really experience any significant hormonal changes.
In the study findings, Akiyama and Ohta conclude that “dog walking did not boost the owners’ salivary oxytocin or cortisol but did inhibit brain noradrenergic nerves via GABA activity, suggesting stress relief.”
Also Check: What Does Stress Do To Your Body
How To Help A Stressed Out Dog
If your dogs behavior changes suddenly in any way, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. He or she can rule out any underlying medical issues as well as make recommendations to help lower your dog’s stress level. Here are some tips for helping to alleviate anxiety in your dog:
Play/exercise with your dog regularly Physical activities like a game of fetch or a walk around the block are a great stress reducer for dogs.
Create a safe zone Set apart an area in your home for your dog to escape high-stress events like thunderstorms and parties. Provide your dog with a favorite “security blanket” such as a toy and visit your dog often. If possible, stay with him until the high-stress event has passed. Your presence is a great reassurance to him or her.
Choose a high quality dog food Your dog’s diet is an integral part of his health and wellbeing. Providing your dog with a diet that is not properly balanced for his or her life stage and lifestyle may cause unforeseen repercussions that may lead to anxiety and stress.
Help us make PetMD better
Was this article helpful?
What did you find helpful?
- This article had helpful info and advice that I trust.
- Article was somewhat helpful, but could be improved.
What was not helpful?
- Article wasn’t very helpful and needs improvement.