Addressing Corticosteroid Demands in Your Dog: Stress and Anxiety

Whether your pup gets shivers during a thunderstorm or retreats to the bedroom when company comes, their body is reacting to fear, releasing a physical and emotional response. Stress and anxiety in dogs can increase their corticosteroid production. For a dog with Cushing’s, the fight or flight mechanism at work in them will complicate corticosteroid production even more. Keeping your dog calm and as stress-free as possible is a big part of treating this condition.

Cushing’s disease in dogs is caused by an overproduction of Corticosteroids. The more your dog is under the constant stimulus of anxiety, the more their body will produce these steroids, creating a vicious cycle for a Cushing’s pet. Identifying the symptoms of an anxious dog is the first step. You know your pooch best, so watch for any unusual actions then address what seems to trigger symptoms of anxiety. Then, you can help your dog overcome and treat their stress, leading to better overall health for your pet.

Types of Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety and stress are a response caused by fear. Vets have identified three major types of anxiety in dogs. The first is separation anxiety. A common condition for pets whose owner has switched routines, the stress of being alone can be difficult for social creatures like dogs. Depending on the severity of the reaction, conditioning and rewards can be used to overcome this stressor.

Another stimulus that causes dogs anxiety is noise. Many dogs get anxious during thunderstorms or are triggered by loud noises in the home. Dogs with this kind of anxiety will seek to feel safe and release this tension when this stimulus occurs.

Social anxiety can also plague dogs. For some pets that were not properly socialized from 6-12 weeks old, being around other dogs or people can cause symptoms of aggression or withdrawal.

Separation Anxiety

Several factors can contribute to a dog suffering from separation anxiety. Dogs with a past of neglect or abuse that come from shelters have the highest likelihood of this stress. However, certain breeds are also more susceptible to this condition. Organic Pet Digest lists the following breeds from Valerie O’Farrell’s Manual of Canine Behavior: Poodles, Cocker spaniels, Yorkshire terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Rottweilers, Alsatians, Scottish Cairn terriers, West Highland white terriers, Chihuahuas, and Pekingese.

Dogs with separation anxiety can show extreme behaviors when their owner leaves the house. These may include excessive barking, chewing, self-mutilation like biting and licking, urinary or bowel accidents, and even aggression towards their pet parent. In some cases, a behavioral specialist must get involved with the help of your vet to break these destructive behaviors. However, many dogs can benefit from a few changes that help them associate separation with pleasant feelings. Toys that can be stuffed with food give a dog the reward of a treat while stimulating play. Special crates or beds prepared when an owner leaves the house can also help. Many vets suggest employing special toys or treats only when you leave so they are seen as a reward.

Noise Anxiety in Dogs

It’s not certain exactly why loud noises cause fear in dogs, however, this anxiety can be triggered by a vacuum, fireworks, thunderstorms, or other sudden and piercing noises. A dog suddenly cowering, urinating, shaking, or even self-mutilation at the onset of a noise is likely showing symptoms of noise-induced anxiety.

While this may seem like an easy problem to fix, it is crucial to identify and resolve this stress once noted, as it can become worse over time if not addressed. Experts suggest you remain calm but not rush to a dog’s side. They also recommend not subjecting an animal to their feared noise if it can be helped. A doggy who doesn’t like noise probably shouldn’t be at the park on the 4th of July, no matter how badly you want to show off their red white and blue necktie.

Holistic treatments for noise anxiety consist of music created specifically for dogs, clothing that helps insulate their bodies, and even herbal therapies. Extreme cases may require anti-anxiety medication as a last resort.

Social Anxiety in Dogs

If a dog has not had proper time to be socialized as a puppy, chances are they will have trouble as mature adults. Socially anxious dogs tend to react with either aggression or timidity in social situations. If faced with another pet or people besides the owner, the dog may cower or withdraw, or they may begin to growl and gnash their teeth.

To treat this anxiety, vets recommend desensitizing the dog to other company slowly and on their terms. If the problem is with other dogs, introduce your pet to one new dog at a time. With humans, allow the dog to become curious and meet the visitors on their own terms, again, one at a time if possible.

Other Reasons for Anxiety in Your Dog

There are certainly other stimuli that may lead to an anxious dog. Medical conditions can contribute to anxiety as well as diet. Pet MD says, “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.” Keeping your pooch fed with whole food additions to kibble can lead to a dog that’s more healthy and happy. Research suggests that the gut acts as a second brain, strongly affecting mood. Dogs may also benefit from probiotics that increase the good bacteria needed for healthy digestion.

Reducing anxiety in your dog will lead to a higher quality of life for your pet. Know what causes your pet stress and make a plan to treat it.