The pandemic has inflicted untold stress on the human population, but chances are our pets are picking up on our signals and feeling stressed, too. By understanding the mental health effects the pandemic is having and how they may be affecting your dog, you can take steps to reduce any mental malaise you may both be experiencing.
How the Pandemic Has Impacted Pets
Pets have always played an important role in our lives, but that importance increased during the pandemic, according to an article published by National Geographic. The article mentions an April 2020 survey of dog and cat owners in Spain, which revealed that most owners felt that their pets offered them substantial support during the pandemic. However, 62% of respondents noted that they felt that their pet’s quality of life had decreased, while 41% of respondents stated that they had seen behavioral changes in their pets during this time.
Many studies have confirmed that dogs can experience chronic stress as a result of their owner’s chronic stress. One study in Sweden examined the long-term presence of cortisol, a stress hormone, in both dogs and their owners. The study found that increased cortisol levels in a dog’s fur corresponded with high cortisol levels in their owner’s hair. In other words, when owners experienced higher levels of chronic stress, dogs experienced that same stress.
...Many studies have confirmed that dogs can experience chronic stress as a result of their owner’s chronic stress.
So while your dog might be helping to relieve your stress during the pandemic, he may be feeling more stressed himself. Is there anything that can be done to help him cope? You bet.
Learn to Recognize Signs of Stress in Your Dog
Dogs can exhibit stress in many different ways. Some common signs of stress in dogs include:
- decreased appetite
- tense muscles
- yawning and licking lips
- gas and diarrhea
- increased barking
You may also notice your dog avoids interaction with people or other dogs, or tries to escape an uncomfortable situation.
Find Ways to Relieve Your Dog’s Stress
Establishing a daily schedule can give your dog a reassuring routine, so he knows what to expect each day. Focus on giving your dog plenty of exercise and time outside, and try to work in plenty of activities that he enjoys, like games of fetch.
Large lifestyle changes, like the addition of a new pet or a baby, can contribute to your dog’s stress. Changes like these should be made as gradually as possible. Be sure to give your dog plenty of reassurance and attention during the transition process.
You can also support your dog with canine CBD products. Products like Zebra CBD Canine Stress & Calming Chews can support balanced mood and ease stress. These chews contain 10 mg of broad spectrum hemp extract to support your best friend through stressful times. Each beef-flavored chew contains 10 mg of broad spectrum hemp extract, and is easy to give your dog when he’s out of sorts.
Focus on Relieving Your Stress
While spending time with your dog can help to relieve your stress, it’s important not to rely on your dog as your primary stress-reliever — especially when it comes to the significant stress generated by the pandemic. Look for other ways that you can relieve stress. Consider these common options:
- Shut off your work phone and log out of your work email at the end of your workday.
- Focus on getting out and exercising every day.
- Make time for activities that you enjoy each day.
- Practice meditation and yoga.
- Establish and maintain connections with friends and family, even if those conversations occur only via phone or video chat.
- Consider trying CBD products to help calm your mind and alleviate stress.
If you’re struggling with stress, consider talking to a professional counselor. Many mental health professionals are offering telehealth sessions. A counselor may also be able to give you specialized stress-reduction techniques that can help you cope.
Your stress and your dog’s stress are intertwined. Addressing them both can help you and your best friend to feel calmer and enjoy your time together more, both during and after the pandemic.