The impact we have on our dog’s stress levels goes both ways – positive and negative. Pets experiencing regularly negative emotions, such as anxiety, can lead to poor animal welfare. If you think your dog looks stressed out, it might be your own stress levels that are affecting your pet. More than just being our favorite furry family member, it appears our pet dogs mirror our mental state, and that can be bad for their mental as well as physical health.
Results of one research study have shown a significant correlation between human and dog cortisol levels across a year of extensive study. Dog cortisol levels rose and fell in unison with their human owners. We know cortisol as the stress hormone because of its role in the body’s stress response. But cortisol is about more than just stress. This steroid hormone is made in the adrenal glands. Most of the cells in the human and our dogs’ bodies have cortisol receptors that use cortisol for a variety of functions, including inflammation reduction, blood sugar regulation, metabolism regulation and memory formulation. While the body may learn to ‘cope’, if there is not sufficient time to recover from the stressful encounter at a certain point, too much cortisol can wreak havoc on the body and cause a number of symptoms, and even spark disease. A dog that faces prolonged periods of stress is likely to encounter various physiological and psychological problems.
Dogs evolved alongside us beginning over 15,00 years ago and consequently, dogs are in tune with our emotions and bond with us via eye contact, which is unique in the animal world. There are some drawbacks to this close relationship we have with our dogs, although many aspects of this inter-species relationship are positive. We know not providing basic care like food and shelter is cruel. We often overlook how disregarding the mental state of our pets can also negatively affect their welfare.
There is no doubt dogs are sentient animals. Meaning they can experience both negative and positive emotions alike, such as fear and anxiety, as well as pleasure and comfort. If we can reduce our own stress levels, it’s more likely we will also reduce our dog’s stress levels. Stress is a fact of life but being stressed out is not. We don’t always have control over what happens to us, yet that doesn’t mean we have to react to a difficult situation by becoming frazzled or feeling overwhelmed or distraught, which will indeed be felt by our dogs. Being overly anxious is not just a mental hazard; it’s a physical one too, with damaging effects on your brain and the rest of the body, which is often mirrored to our furry friends.
There are great resources out there to help reduce our stress levels, and if we do so, will assist our furry friend in reducing theirs. Remember… your stress is your dog’s stress… finding resources to help your stress are plentiful without having to find expensive avenues to help your dog. In reducing our stress and anxiety also does the same for our dogs, allowing the beauty and pleasure of life to shine, protecting man and his best friend from mental and physical illnesses.