Keep calm and carry on

Has Rover been increasingly listless, disobedient and prone to illness? Chances are that he’s not afflicted with a mysterious disease but simply stressed out.
By Pets Team
Published on Wednesday, 09 April 2014

The science of stress affecting humans has long been documented, but have you ever considered how it affects your dog’s or cat’s health?

When people are stressed, there is increased irritability, and sometimes a tendency towards aggressive behaviour. This behaviour can be accidentally imposed onto the pets in the family. It can also send very mixed messages to the furkids. 

Stress in people increases adrenaline and corticosteroid hormones, there are certain beliefs that animals can smell the changes in people with altered levels of these hormones, and therefore detect stress in their owners. On the flipside, pets in this situation can actually provide a calming outlet for the human. Stroking an animal has been shown to significantly reduce human stress. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true and animals may take on higher levels of stress in their environment and potentially become strained or ill themselves.


In a recent study conducted by Yale University, researchers proved that stress can cause cancer in humans. While there aren’t any such studies for animals, it’s not a big leap to accept that these sentient creatures are likely to be just as susceptible to the same stress-induced diseases as us.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Lip licking
  • Salivating
  • Hiding in dark corners
  • Howling or excessive vocalising
  • Sudden display of destructive behaviours (chewing or scratching on furniture and floor)
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting

But the best way to tell if your pet is suffering from stress is to observe him or her. When you notice Fido doing anything that differs from his normal behaviour, it is likely to be stress.  These symptoms can develop into illnesses such as urinary tract diseases in cats and Cushing’s Disease in dogs as their immune systems are affected.


Techniques to managing stress in animals include using natural products such as Bach flower remedies, herbs, and natural supplements. Bach flower remedies have been available for managing human emotions and their uses have been extrapolated to assist pets as well. Western drugs for stress are also available and these include Valium and antidepressants that can be used in extreme cases.

To reduce stress levels, strive to compartmentalise your day. Make it a point to leave the burden of work at the workplace and return home to your pets with your emotions in check. Keeping to a routine that Fido is familiar with also helps to minimise elements of tension. 


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