Things You Should Know: How to tell if your dog is stressed out.

 

Here’s one of my articles that bears repeating, and there’s no better time than on National Stress Awareness Day!

 

Do you know how to tell if your dog is under stress or feeling anxious?

 

When I ask this question, most pet owners will tell me that they see their dog:

 

  • Cower or hide under a chair
  • Pee or poop on the floor
  • Growl when afraid, but he would never bite!

 

These are certainly signs of fear, make no mistake.  However, the signs that the typical pet owner notices are usually the last in a series of attempts by your dog to avoid whatever is causing them fear or anxiety.  The signs leading up to these are much more subtle, but once you know what to look for, they will become apparent.

If you can recognize the early signs of anxiety and stress in your dog, not only can you help your pet relax before they go to the “dark side”, but you might just avoid a dangerous situation.  Dogs who are allowed to progress to the fear stages listed above are the ones who will either be permanently mentally damaged by that situation (leading to behavior problems), or they will bite. 

 

stressed dog

 

Allow me to tell you a story:

Once upon a time there was a cute little puppy who had never been to the big doggie park.  Her loving owners decided, when she was about 4 months old, to take her there so she could play and have fun!  When she arrived, there were so many smells and so much noise!  She stopped and sat down on the sidewalk, but her loving owners tugged on her leash and encouraged her to keep walking toward the park.

When they arrived at the gate, it made a really loud squeaking sound that hurt her ears! Her eyes widened, and she laid her ears back; she tried to avoid the big gate, but her loving owner picked her up and carried her through.  When they set her down in the grass, she was suddenly surrounded by big dogs!  They were sniffing her and running around in circles, panting and barking.  The puppy tried to find shelter between her loving owner’s feet, but her loving owner walked a few steps away.

The little puppy didn’t like the big doggie park after all.  And so she growled and snapped at the big doggies who wanted to meet her.  Her loving owner scooped her up – she was safe!  But then her loving owner scolded her, telling her she was a bad dog.  The little puppy was confused and scared, and from that day forward she hated the big doggie park.

Did you recognize the signs of anxiety and stress in the story?  The puppy in the story is a real dog, now an adult; she continues to have problems greeting other dogs, and she NEVER goes to the dog park.  Had her loving owner recognized her initial signs of stress, these permanent behavior problems might have been avoided.

 

Stressed bully breed dog

 

Here are the signs of anxiety that you NEED to recognize in your dog:

  1.  Ears laid back
  2.  Wide eyes (“fish eyes”)
  3.  Brows furrowed
  4.  Panting (without being hot or thirsty)
  5.  Licking lips
  6.  Acting sleepy or yawning
  7.  Moving in slow motion
  8.  Hypervigilant (looking in many directions)
  9.  Moving away
  10.  Pacing
  11.  Suddenly won’t eat, even if they were hungry earlier

Start watching your dog for these signs.  I guarantee that you will begin to see them, and maybe even in situations that you didn’t know were causing your pet stress.  Once you become attuned to your pet’s body language, you can intervene early to help your pet relax!  If your pet experiences the signs of fear listed at the top, the damage is already done.  It’s up to you to be your pet’s advocate!

And here’s a handy-dandy handout for you:

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

If you need help understanding your pet’s body language, or realize that your pet already has some fear issues, give Dr. D a call!

Things You Should Know: Xylitol can kill your dog.

 

Easter-Dog

 

With another candy-filled holiday approaching, I wanted to take the opportunity to educate you about XYLITOL.

Do you know about Xylitol?  Have you heard of this chemical before?

It’s not necessarily a new thing; in fact, veterinarians have been doing their best to educate their clients about the dangers associated with Xylitol.  However, I am still finding plenty of people who don’t know why it’s an issue.  Enough people to warrant a blog article.   😉

 

Products containing Xylitol

So what is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a type of artificial sweetener found in many food and health products.  Typically we think of things like gum and candy containing xylitol, however it can now be found in prescription and non-prescription medications, mouthwash, and even some types of peanut butter.

 

From the Pet Poison Hotline:

Some of the places we have seen xylitol include chewable vitamins, gummy vitamins, lozenges/cough drops, sublingual supplements and medications (over the counter and prescription), liquid medications (over the counter and prescription), breath sprays, medication/supplement sprays, toothpastes, nasal sprays, mouth rinses/washes, essential oil products, cosmetics, and many sugar-free foods and baking ingredients.

 

That’s a long list, and it’s getting longer!  Xylitol may be very safe for humans, but it can be deadly if ingested by your dog.

(The jury is still out on whether it affects cats the same way.  We think they may be sensitive to xylitol, but they are too smart to eat gum, so there’s not a lot of research.)

 

Why is Xylitol toxic for my dog?

Without going into a bunch of technical jargon regarding pharmacokinetics (big fancy word alert!), suffice it to say that even a very small amount of xylitol causes severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver damage in a very short period of time after ingestion.  In as little as 24 hours liver failure can occur.

It might be a little shocking, but I want you to check out this graphic depicting the significance of the small amount of xylitol it would take to kill a dog, compared to chocolate:

 

Xylitol Toxicity Image

 

Did you see that a dog the size of a Border Collie would die if they eat ONE pack of gum containing xylitol??

As you can see, the ingestion of anything containing xylitol is not something to overlook or “wait and see”.

 

What should I do if I think my dog has ingested something containing xylitol?

Initial signs of xylitol toxicity can occur in as little as 10 minutes.  Some of the signs you may see include:

  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • ataxia (incoordination)
  • seizures
  • vomiting
  • increased respiratory rate

If you see any of these signs, and you suspect your pet has chewed or ingested something containing xylitol, take the packaging, any remaining product, and your pet, and GET THEE TO THE VET.

 

Is there any good news?

The good news is that there is treatment available for your pet if they ingest xylitol!  It will likely involve hospitalization, but pets that are treated early typically recover well.  Yay!

 

I hope you feel educated and empowered by this information, rather than scared witless!  🙂

Prevention is key here.  Keep anything that is not dog food, treats, or toys far out of reach of your pooch.

If they can’t reach it, they can’t eat it. 

 

Did you know this information, or was it news to you?  I bet you have a friend with dogs who needs this… Will you share this and help me save more doggies?