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Vet Talk: Stress and Triggers That Lead to Illness in Dogs

Posted December 30, 2016


Everyone knows what stress feels like in ourselves, and we all know that too much stress can make us ill—ulcers, high blood pressure and even cancer can result from excessive stress. Our dogs can also be, and often are, stressed by numerous factors in their lives too.  The more we understand the external contributing factors that lead to stress and recognizing signs of stress, the better equipped we will be to help our dogs relax into a long and healthy life.  

I often see dogs so stressed out in my veterinary clinic. Sometimes the stress is from the ride to the office (some dogs’ thrill of the day and some dogs’ nightmare), or the sense that their owners are stressed. This all contributes to signs of stress in dogs like panting, drooling, sweaty paws, dilated eyes, pacing, excessively shedding or just shutting down. Some dogs become so stressed that it leads to fear and aggression. I’ve even had dogs that excessively smile when they are stressed! Going slow, talking soft and keeping my clinic as quiet as possible along with essential oil diffusers helps take the edge off of my patients. Calming herbal formulations such as NHV Lesstress and NHV Matricalm are helpful when given prior to the visit. It might be a good idea to use the remedies a few days before a visit to the vet.

Other forms of stress in a dog’s life include working dogs that are working too hard, flying on a plane, staying in a shelter or going to a new home, moving, and loss of an owner or playmate.  

Stress can also cause gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea or vomiting in addition to panting, excessive barking and whining, dandruff, chewing on self, shivering (when it’s not cold), excessive tail wagging or tense muscles.

The key to a happy healthy dog is balance. Too much or too little exercise can be harmful, as well as too much or too little socialization. A balanced, clean diet also helps maintain balance within the body.  If your dog (or cat) is prone to stress, being proactive with calming herbs like those found in NHV Matricalm or NHV Lesstress is extremely helpful.  

Is your dog suffering from stress? Feel free to contact me for an online veterinary consultation.

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for fifteen years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

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