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Animals communicate in very different ways than we do, making it hard to always know what they are thinking and feeling. It is good to know what kinds of signs to watch out for. This way, you can be more in tune with how your dog is feeling and be able to tell if they are feeling distressed or anxious.
Signs That Your Dog is in Distress
There are many instances where your dog may be in distress, anxious, or fearful. Dogs are sensitive creatures and can be affected by things we might not even notice. If you think that your dog may be in distress, here are the most common signs to look for.
1. Change in Bowel Habits
Like humans, dogs can develop an upset stomach when they are feeling distressed. This will often happen in the form of diarrhea or constipation. Your dog might even have blood or mucus in their feces if they feel very stressed and overwhelmed. If it continues, you should see a vet as soon as possible.
2. Walking in Circles and Pacing
Walking in circles and pacing is a very common sign of distress in dogs, especially if this is something abnormal for them to do. Many dogs in distress will walk in circles because they do not know what else to do. It is a clear sign that your dog is feeling very unwell and needs some extra attention. This could also be a sign of a more serious neurological issue, so make sure to take them to the vet if it does not stop soon.
3. Head Pressing
Head pressing is something that dogs will do by pressing their forehead to a wall or other solid object. Though this may look cute at first, it is actually a sign that something is seriously wrong with your dog. Some dogs may do this if they are experiencing severe psychological distress, but it is often a sign of something even worse. This could indicate that your dog suffers from a neurological condition, tumor, metabolic disorder, head trauma, or exposure to toxins.
4. Wining or Barking
Some dogs generally make a lot of noises for no real reason other than to communicate with you. This is only cause for concern if this is very unusual for your dog. If you notice your dog whining or barking without cause, this might indicate that they are in distress or feeling overwhelmed.
5. Excessive Shedding
If you notice your dog shedding excessively when they don’t typically shed, this could mean that they are in distress. Like how our hair falls out when we are very stressed, the same thing can happen to dogs.
6. Change in Eating or Drinking Habits
If you start to notice a change in your dog’s eating and drinking habits, this could be another sign that they aren’t feeling well. Either overeating or undereating could be a sign of distress, as well as not drinking enough or drinking excessively. These could also indicate a health condition, which is why it is a good idea to take them to the vet.
7. Change in Body Posture
Dogs that are scared or in distress will often change their normal body posture. This could mean they are very rigid and stiff or tucking their tail between their legs. Dogs that are very stressed or scared might also shift their weight to their rear legs instead of bearing it on all fours. They might even start to creep around or cower at unusual times. This is a clear sign that something is wrong with your dog and something is greatly distressing them.
8. Excessive Licking
Most animals tend to over-groom when they are distressed or feel overwhelmed and scared. This is something dogs do as well and might be doing if they are not feeling happy or at ease. This is a self-soothing habit to calm their nerves and make them feel safe. Dogs do not typically groom themselves, which is why this is particularly obvious when they are stressed. Even if you don’t see them licking, you may see the signs of excessive grooming, such as wet patches of fur or even balding patches. This can become more serious if they lick to the point of causing sores or rashes on their skin.
9. Antisocial Behavior
Sometimes dogs will do what humans like to do when they feel overwhelmed and stressed and isolate themselves. They may do this by avoiding other pets and humans, hiding away in areas by themselves. If you repeatedly find yourself looking for your dog and find them hiding alone, this could signify distress. This sometimes happens if they are sick, so it is a good idea to take them to the vet.
Sometimes, distressed dogs will start to show that by becoming somewhat aggressive. This is very noticeable in rescue dogs or dogs that are terrified. This protective mechanism turns on in their brain, causing them to lash out to protect themselves. Be very careful with a dog showing this sign as it is clear that they are in severe distress.
Source: Upstate Canine Academy/Youtube
Always keep an eye on your dog to see if they are exhibiting these signs of anxiety and stress and take the necessary steps to make sure they’re ok. They can’t communicate so it’s our job to try to figure out what they need and help in any way that we can.
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