Find out about stress and behavior issues in pets and treatment advice with the 1st episode of LacTalk Pet!
Dr. Lisa Radosta is a Board certified veterinary behaviorist, who practices at the Florida Veterinary Behavior Service clinic.
The right information and products can reduce stress and improve our pets’ quality of life. To discover the kinds of research and other information that may provide a healthier and longer life, just contact us today!
As it turns out, gastro health or the health of the gut microbiome is “inextricably linked to pet health and disease,” according to the study.
A healthy gut equals healthy behaviors for cats and dogs. So if your pet struggles with anxiety or other behavioral problems, read on. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about stress and pet gut health.
What Exactly Is the Gut Microbiome?
Microbiome refers to microorganisms. Tiny things, like bacteria, fungus, and viruses. A whole host of which live in the digestive tracts of people and animals.
What we refer to as the gut is made up of three components:
the small intestine
the colon (also called the large intestine)
The gut is a microsystem unto itself. Scientists estimate 38 trillion different bacteria, viruses, and fungi, call it home.
The conglomeration of those bacteria is a living organism, the microbiome!
The microbiome is the biggest immune organ of the body. And it is responsible for way more than just digesting food.
The gut microbiome communicates directly with the brain.
Think about all those times you’ve had a gut instinct or a gut feeling about something. That’s your microbiome talking.
The same is true in animals. This internal communications phenomenon is known as the Gut-Brain Axis.
You may be thinking, Hold on now, my brain and my stomach talk to each other?? How?!?
The gut bacteria create chemicals; these chemicals then communicate with the brain via the nervous and hormonal systems.
The effect of this communication on the mood of the host depends on who’s at home. That is to say, what specific bacteria are in the gut making the chemicals.
Some bacteria make chemicals that are calming. In contrast, others provoke anxiety and depression.
Therefore, an imbalance or disturbance in the gut biome could lead to increased expression of anxiety and aggression. As well as a slew of other problems.
What Causes Dog and Cat Anxiety?
Dogs and cats are very empathic. If you are neurotic and anxious, studies show that your pets may develop those characteristics too.
Aside from human influence, there are a few other common causes of dog/cat anxiety:
the wrong type of food
the incorrect quantity of food
any type of discomfort
significant pain and disease
not getting appropriate exercise
As mentioned, dogs and cats are empathetic. Which means they are very sensitive to their environments.
They appreciate routine and thrive when there is consistency in the home, much like we humans do.
How to Manage Your Pet’s Gastro Stress
Stress has a negative impact on many systems of your pet’s body. But perhaps most influential is the effect on gastro health.
It is impossible to have a healthy individual when gastro health is lacking. So it is crucial to keep the gut microbiome in tip-top shape.
Fortunately, studies show that the right nutritional interventions can cause rapid, positive changes to the microbiome.
For example, varying the number of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the animal’s diet significantly impacted the gut microbiome in one such study.
The degree of digestibility of your pet’s food is also essential. Unfortunately, many pet food brands contain high levels of fillers.
Fillers can be products like:
Sounds delicious right? No. You wouldn’t want to find that stuff in your food either.
These substances don’t have much nutritional value at all. They are included because they are inexpensive and have some fiber content. But, in the long term, they could disturb the gut biome and leave your pet malnourished.
There’s no way around it. If you want to support your pet’s gastro health, you’ve got to support their microbiome. However, if you are concerned about your pet’s gastro health, there are kits you can order online to test it.
They will be replete with recommendations for how to balance your pet’s gut biome.
In short, tending gastro health is easier than you think. You can support your pet’s gastro health by making sure they get:
proper diet, including bioactive food
supplements as needed
And make sure to address any serious concerns to your family veterinarian. They can help guide you in making the best choices for your furry friends.
Are you still looking for more health information? Then, make sure to check out the rest of our blog!
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Your pet’s largest organ is actually their skin and coat! In fact, their skin and coat comprise 10 to 15% of their total body weight. A lustrous coat could indicate your pet is in the best possible health.
Otherwise, a dry, unkempt, or flaky coat could indicate a serious health condition. In some cases, thyroid disease, Cushing’s, or nutritional disorders could cause issues. In many cases, however, pet stress is the root cause of skin issues.
In fact, their stress could cause yours to rise!
How can pet anxiety impact your pet’s skin? Keep reading to find out!
After reading this guide, you can determine if your pet needs a little extra help. Read on to learn more today.
Your Pet’s Coat
First, it helps to understand a little more about your pet’s skin and coat.
Their skin is made up of the hypodermis, which contains:
The dermis is made up of collagen. Collagen is an essential protein that can impact hair, skin, and bone health. The dermis is the largest portion of the skin.
It’s metabolically active. The dermis also contains sebaceous glands and hair follicles.
The sebaceous glands secrete sebum, an oily substance that keeps skin and hair lubricated. It coats your pet’s hair to prevent friction when they move.
The epidermis, on the other hand, contains keratinocytes. These specialized skin cells contain keratin. Keratin is a waxy substance that coats the epidermis.
It’s responsible for preventing water loss through the skin.
A pet’s coat is composed of thousands of hairs. Their hair is constantly under environmental stress, which can cause shedding.
How a Pet’s Skin and Coat Impact Their Health
Pet stress can impact your pet’s coat and skin. Changes to their coat and skin can impact your pet’s overall health.
In fact, their skin and coat play vital roles. They work as part of your pet’s immune system. They’re crucial for proper hydration, too.
Your pet’s skin and coat also protect them from:
Chemicals and chemical damage
This barrier protects their internal organs from external threats.
Their skin and coat play a part in their immune system, too. If the skin becomes compromised, disease or infection could cause harmful bacteria to spread.
Maintaining a healthy coat can help your pet regulate their temperature, too. A strong layer of fur will insulate them as needed. Meanwhile, hair follicles can bring hairs closer together.
This allows insulation or makes it easier for air to get under loose furs to keep your pet cool.
Skin plays a part in your pet’s hydration as well.
If they lose water through their skin, it could impact their overall health. Pets don’t have sweat glands. Excess water loss could impact the energy they need to maintain a healthy metabolism as a result.
Your pet’s skin also stores nutrients like protein and amino acids. Collagen fibers and enzymes are present in the skin, too. Fatty acids help protect your pet from inflammation.
Other nutrients include:
Precursors to vitamin D
These vitamins and minerals protect your pet.
If pet anxiety or stress impacts their coat, they’ll no longer have this layer of protection.
Know How to Recognize Normal Shedding
Is pet stress impacting your pet’s skin and coat? First, you’ll need to recognize how much they usually shed.
Normal shedding is healthy. Damaged and old hair can fall away, making way for new hair. Shedding also ensures natural oils are disbursed to keep your pet’s coat healthy.
Normal shedding can vary based on:
The time of year
Your pet’s breed
Your pet’s existing health
For example, older pets can develop hypothyroidism and nutritional deficiencies. They might shed more as a result. Allergies can cause them to scratch, causing additional shedding, too.
Meanwhile, sunlight can trigger hair growth.
Try to keep an eye out for how much your pet usually sheds. If you notice any changes, you might want to consider your pet’s mental health.
Anxiety and Hair Loss
Anxiety can cause many health problems in humans and pets. For example, your pet might experience hair loss if they experience pet anxiety.
When they’re stressed, your pet’s epinephrine levels will increase. Epinephrine is also known as adrenaline. Excess adrenaline can cause hair loss.
Some studies indicate that pet stress could impact their skin health and longevity.
Dogs with extreme non-social fear and separation anxiety had an increased severity and frequency of skin disorders. A fear of strangers could cause a significantly shortened lifespan, too. According to the study, stress and anxiety could have a negative impact on your dog’s health and lifespan.
Factors That Can Increase Stress
Certain environmental factors can increase pet stress.
For example, you might notice your cat or dog experiences pet separation anxiety. The fear of being left alone could impact their skin health.
A lack of exercise could cause unnecessary stress, too. This is especially common for dogs born from high energy breeds. Your dog might require more daily exercise.
Noises might trigger your pet’s anxiety as well. For example, maybe there’s construction next door or dogs barking in the neighbor’s yard. Increased noise levels can further trigger their anxiety.
Change is a major anxiety trigger, too.
Changes to your pet’s routine or environment might cause them excessive stress. Try to maintain a normal routine. Otherwise, you might notice changes in your pet’s anxiety.
Their hair could start to fall out as a result.
Excess stress for an extended period of time can cause other changes to your pet’s health, too.
For example, they might develop a loss of appetite. They could start chewing on non-food items instead.
Meanwhile, stress can cause the cortisol hormone to rise. Cortisol can also cause skin issues.
Cortisol can weaken your pet’s immune system, leading to demodectic mange (a skin disease).
Your pet might also develop behavioral issues, diarrhea, or issues urinating.
If these symptoms sound familiar, you might want to consider pet anxiety meds or another solution.
Pet Stress: Understanding How Anxiety and Stress Can Impact Your Pet
Small changes in your pet’s life can have a big impact on their stress levels. Pet stress can lead to skin issues and other health concerns.
Don’t let pet anxiety and stress impact your cat or dog’s overall health. Instead, keep an eye out for these symptoms.
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When your dog or cat is sick or seems somehow unwell, it can be very distressing. Since they aren’t able to tell you what’s wrong, it’s easy to feel helpless in the face of their problem.
If your pet has been experiencing digestive issues, there are a number of potential causes. However, many pet owners don’t realize the connection between stress and the cat and dog digestive system.
How can stress impact the gastrointestinal tract of your pets? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.
How Stress Affects the Cat and Dog Digestive System
When a dog or a cat is anxious or stressed, their body responds by increasing stress hormones in their body. This has an impact on their brain but also their gastrointestinal system because of the large number of nerves present in that system.
When stressed out, a pet’s intestines can have increased nerve activity and blood can move away from the intestines. This can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
A large part of your dog’s immune system is housed in his or her intestinal tract. This means that when they are stressed, it can wreak havoc on both their GI tract and their body’s ability to ward off viruses and diseases.
How Stress Can Impact Pet Eating Habits
If you find that your dog or cat is suddenly no longer interested in food or significantly less interested than before, you’ll want to talk to your vet. It is possible that this is caused by an underlying health condition, but it could also be because of stress.
Are you wondering how stress can impact your pet’s overall health and well-being? Check out this article.
How Stress Can Affect Pet Weight Management
If stress is leading your pet to eat less, you might notice that they are losing weight.
In dogs, weight loss is considered to be significant clinically if the loss isn’t associated with dehydration or fluid loss and they lose more than 10% of their normal body weight. While there are a number of things that can lead to your dog losing weight, such as changes in their diet and environment, stress and anxiety can also lead to drastic weight loss.
If a cat experiences drastic weight loss, it could also be because of anxiety, stress, or depression. Cats might be upset by things like other animals in the feeding area, excessive noise, the food dish being too close to the litter box, or dirty food dishes.
Dog Stress Symptoms
Dogs can become stressed much like humans can. Unfortunately, though, they can’t speak up to express how they feel. There are a number of signs and symptoms you can look out for, though, if you’re concerned that your dog is feeling stressed.
Whining or barking: While this can be a form of normal self-expression, it could also indicate stress or tension
Drooling, licking, and yawning: Dogs can also yawn when they’re bored or tired, but a stressed yawn is typically more intense and longer than a tired yawn
Changes in ears and eyes: Their pupils might be dilated, they might blink rapidly, and their ears might be pinned back against their head
Changes in body posture: A dog that cowers, tucks their tail, becomes rigid, or shifts his weight to his rear legs might be stressed
Shedding: When dogs are anxious, the amount that they shed increases
Panting: If you notice that your dog is panting when he or she hasn’t exercised recently, it might be a sign of stress
Bodily function changes: Nervous dogs might feel the need to urgently go to the bathroom, lose their bowel function, or refuse food
Displacement or avoidance behavior: Stressed dogs might “escape” by shifting their attention to something else
Escape or hiding behavior: A dog that is stressed also might hide or engage in diversion activities
Many of these signs of stress in dogs aren’t necessarily only indicative of stress. In order to be able to tell the difference between stress symptoms and other behavior, it’s important to be familiar with the regular demeanor of your dog.
Relaxed dogs tend to have forward-facing or semi-erect ears, round eyes, and a soft mouth. Additionally, their weight is evenly distributed on their paws.
Signs of Stress in Cats
While stress can impact the gut health of both dogs and cats, they don’t necessarily display stress in the same way. Some signs you’ll want to look out for include:
Hiding or extra clinginess
Over-grooming, sometimes even creating patches without fur
Much like with dogs, you will want to become familiar with the normal behavior of your cat in order to notice if they are acting unusual. The personality of cats can vary greatly between individual animals, so one cat being skittish might be more normal while it might be quite odd for another.
Digestive Issues Might Just Be a Sign Your Dog or Cat Is Stressed Out
If you notice that your pet is having digestive problems, it’s entirely possible that it is being caused by stress. In humans, dogs, and cats, the hormones released when we are stressed out can wreak havoc on our gastrointestinal system.
Gaining a greater understanding of the relationship between stress and the cat and dog digestive system is helpful when you own a pet. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet so you can rule out other underlying health conditions if your pet is exhibiting strange behavior or experiencing gastrointestinal distress.
If you found this article useful, click here to learn about the impact that stress has on elderly individuals.
When your pet suddenly begins going to the bathroom indoors, it can be alarming, to say the least.
There are two main causes of improper elimination: pet health and stress. Just like people get stressed out, our pets can too. We’ll be looking at how you can figure out whether it’s stress causing improper elimination and why it happens in this article.
Start with Pet Health
As we said in the introduction, if your pet has been fine in general, it can be very worrying when that changes overnight.
Improper elimination can be related to a variety of medical issues. You’re best off investigating this as a potential cause first. You should schedule a consultation with your vet as soon as you’re aware of the problem.
There are a variety of possible medical causes for improper elimination. But some of the most common causes of more frequent urination include:
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Bladder stones and crystals
Any medical issues which cause neurological deterioration or decrease mobility may also contribute to more frequent issues with elimination indoors. This could include conditions such as arthritis and dementia.
Both of the latter conditions are linked with aging so this should also be ruled out as a root cause of improper elimination by your vet.
All this said, if you’ve ruled out medical causes then the root cause is behavioral. In these instances, the most common cause is stress and anxiety-related.
Stress in pets presents differently for cats and dogs, so we’ll examine them each in more depth.
Stress in Cats
For cats, improper elimination will look a little different depending on whether you have an indoor or an outdoor cat.
For cats who have access to the outdoors, improper elimination would involve starting to go to the bathroom indoors instead. While for indoor cats, improper elimination would involve them going to the bathroom places other than their litter box.
We make this distinction because litter boxes can actually be a cause of stress in cats. It’s a common issue too, with an estimated 10% of cats developing litter box elimination problems.
Litter Box Stress
Almost all cats like using a clean, litter box. So a sudden avoidance is a clear indicator that the litter box is stressing out your cat. There are a few common causes of stress relating to litter boxes.
The first, and most common, stress factor is a dirty litter box. Cats will be stressed out having to stand in their own mess and will understandably avoid it. So start by making sure you’re cleaning out your cat’s litter box as often as you need to.
A good rule of thumb here is to spot clean the litter box every day by picking out clumps or waste. You should also be changing the entire litter box and washing it out every few days as a minimum.
Another common cause is size. Some cats are simply too big for their litter box and getting into a small cramped space stresses them out.
This is even more true if your cat’s litter box is hooded. So it may be worth investing in a new litter box that’s a better size or shape for your cat’s needs to see if it stresses them out less.
If you’re a multi-cat household, you need to provide enough litter boxes. Sharing litter boxes stresses cats out to the point they’ll often outright refuse. To avoid this, you should have a litter box for each cat and one extra.
Cats are oddballs, they can even be stressed out by particular types of litter or the litter being too deep. So you might want to try changing litter substances and only having around two inches of litter maximum.
Other Stress Causes in Cats
Cats are also affected by environmental factors, often more so than their owners give them credit for.
As we hinted at above, one of the most common environmental stress factors for cats is from living with other cats. While domesticated cats can create bonds with people and other pets, they are solitary animals by nature. So sharing a household with one, or many other pets, can be a huge cause of stress for many cats.
Similar to this, people can be a cause of stress for cats. A very busy household, loud guests, or a new baby can all create a stressed cat.
Even the layout of your house may stress your cat out. Moving furniture around or new furniture smells can all upset your cat.
For outdoor cats, the causes are more often external environmental factors than internal. Things like a new neighborhood cat, a cat in heat, or a new neighborhood dog can all stress your cat out.
Stress in Dogs
For dogs, litter boxes obviously aren’t a stress factor, but many of the other environmental causes above that we mentioned could be. This includes busy households, loud guests, new arrivals, and multi-pet households all being common stress factors for dogs.
Dogs are also affected by changes in routine. This should come as no surprise to pet owners whose four-legged friends seem to have an internal alarm clock when it comes to dinner and walks! But even minor changes in your routine that you don’t think would affect your dog can stress them out.
Moving is another huge cause of stress for dogs. This is often even more true for rescue dogs who may have abandonment issues or other insecurities.
Similar to this, separation anxiety is a huge stress factor for dogs. This occurs when your pet is left alone for too long a period of time. Dogs with separation anxiety often have issues with improper elimination.
Multi-pet households may also lead to a stressed dog marking. This is when a dog urinates on upright objects. It’s most often male dogs, but females may mark too. Marking is a common symptom of both stress and anxiety, often linked to environmental changes.
Stress in pets has many causes, but improper elimination is one of the most common symptoms. Examining your environment and any life changes may help you get to the root of what’s stressing your pet. It might also help to learn more about how stress impacts pet health.
Many pet owners wish their dogs could just tell them when they’re stressed, but most don’t realize that they already do.
It’s common for pet anxiety to affect pet behavior. However, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between pet stress and normal pet behavior. This is because some signs of stress are at times normal and at other times not normal.
So many pets remain stressed while their owners have no idea. In this article, you will learn all about pet behavior explained. Continue reading to find out more about your dog’s unspoken signs of stress.
Signs of Pet Anxiety
Dogs become stressed when they see other dogs, when they see strangers, at the vet’s office, and when their environment is changing. However, stress is unique to each dog.
One dog that is fearful of strangers may show signs of stress while another dog doesn’t. Likewise, just because you’ve seen your pet respond to a stressful situation one way doesn’t mean that’s their only stress response.
Being aware of your surroundings and the below signs will help make you aware of your dog’s stress levels. It will also help you understand what situations to avoid or alter in the future.
Panting is common in hot temperatures, but it’s also a behavior related to pet stress. Because of this, it’s sometimes difficult for owners to tell the difference between normal pet behavior and stress.
The easiest way to tell if your dog is stressed is to consider the situation. Is it unusually hot or has your dog been exercising?
If the answer is yes, then they may just be cooling down. However, if the answer is no, consider what else might be going on to cause this stress response.
Licking, Yawning, and Drooling
Some of the most common dog behavior changes related to stress involve the mouth. Dogs will lick their lips, yawn, and drool when stressed. Some pet owners wrongfully assume this is because they’re hungry or thirsty.
However, keep in mind that there are other reasons for your dog to behave like this. For example, nausea can make dogs lick their lips and drool. So, consider their surroundings and decide which makes the most sense.
Expression and Posture
Your dog’s expression might change when anxious. Dogs should have relaxed ears and almond-shaped eyes when calm.
Pet anxiety causes their ears to tense and stands alert. The inner flap of the ear may turn red. Their eyes widen and dilate while their mouth becomes tense at the sides.
Likewise, their posture may change. Your dog may crouch low to the ground with a hunched back. They may also tuck their tail between their legs and become rigid.
Hiding or Avoidance
In uncomfortable situations, your dog may choose to hide. Hiding and avoidance can mean literally hiding beneath a bed, table, or person. It can also mean looking or walking away (sometimes even pacing).
If your dog is hiding or avoiding a situation, it’s worth removing them from the situation. If your dog is generally anxious, it’s a great way to identify some positive reinforcement training opportunities.
Trembling is one of those pet behavior changes that seem to occur suddenly. It’s also one of the most common stress signs noticed by owners because it occurs so quickly and is so out of the ordinary.
Shedding is common in many breeds, especially at certain times of the year, but it can also result due to severe stress. However, this can also be a sign of other health conditions. If you notice sudden and severe shedding in your dog, talk with your dog’s veterinarian.
Whining or Barking
Most dogs don’t bark or whine for no reason. Even when it may seem like there is no obvious cause of stress. However, whining or barking is common among dog behavior issues.
Some dogs bark to scare away what is causing them stress such as strangers. It can also result from separation anxiety, fear of other dogs, or unknown sounds.
If your dog is whining or barking, there is almost always a reason. To correct the issue, it’s important to try to locate the source of the anxiety.
One of the most surprising dog behavior changes for pet owners is the one that affects potty habits. Pet parents are often shocked when bringing their pet to the vet only to have them urinate or defecate all over the floor. It’s especially surprising if it’s an uncommon issue.
However, this is a dog behavior issue that results from stress. Dogs can also develop sudden diarrhea as a result of stress. This reaction causes owners to worry that their dog is sick instead of stressed.
To differentiate the two, it’s worth talking with your dog’s vet. They can provide treatments necessary to relieve your dog’s stress or treat other issues resulting in accidents or diarrhea.
How to Help These Dog Behavior Issues
If you want to avoid or correct these common signs of pet stress, start by learning your dog’s normal demeanor. To do this, watch them when they are relaxing at home on a normal day.
Then, see how their behavior changes in different situations. Even minor changes in behavior can signify stress.
Once you’ve determined the difference between your dog when they’re relaxed vs when they’re stressed, you can start to help them. Use positive reinforcement training techniques to change their association with their stressors. You can also talk with your dog’s vet about calming aids made with quality ingredients.
Help Ease Pet Anxiety
Help ease pet anxiety by learning about what it looks like. Pay attention to how your dog acts at home when they are most relaxed. Then, pay attention to any changes and what might cause those changes.
Don’t forget that some signs of stress might seem completely normal. So, it’s important to pay attention to the situation to see if the behavior is normal or stress-related. The more attention you give, the more prepared you are to help them.
To learn more about how stress affects our daily lives, head to our blog.
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