Even the most loving pet owners can unwittingly put stress on their precious pets, area veterinarians say.

“I had a case not too long ago with a dog that was having severe diarrhea and losing weight,” said Garner veterinarian Dr. Bruce Schupanitz. “But the tests were all coming back normal.”

Further investigation revealed the dog was part of a busy family that included children. The family had recently introduced a new dog of a similar breed into the family.

 “This dog just wasn’t faring well,” said Schupanitz, who determined the problem was competition. 

 “We ended up finding the dog another home. Now the dog is doing fine. I think it was just a matter of the amount of attention the dog wasn’t getting at this point.”

Even cats can get stressed by changes in the home, but most typically stress occurs in dogs.

“Dogs really are dependent upon their master,” said Mason City veterinarian Jeff Cornick. “The more they realize they have a leader taking care of them, the more comfortable they are.”

Dogs exhibit a pack mentality. They need the dominant dog to be dominant to the submissive one, Belmond veterinarian Dr. Joseph Griffioen said.

“To expect otherwise places stress on both of them.”

Dogs also need to know that the people are dominant over the dog.

Pets that are stressed exhibit a variety of behaviors.

Some become more aggressive or behave inappropriately, others will act fearful and timid.

Some dogs may not eat at all or may overeat. Others may languish and become sick. Barking excessively, adopting destructive behaviors or running away can also be indications of stress.

Causes of stress are many. They may include a lack of exercise, lack of companionship or a lack of  stimulation. New scents in the house and changes in the owners’ work schedules can be stressful, too.

“Some dogs can handle change, others can’t,” Cornick said.

Changing our expectations or having unreasonable expectations are very, very stressful for a pet, Griffioen said.

For example, don’t allow a behavior one day that you will chastise the dog for the next.

“The dog is happy if he knows what he’s supposed to do all the time.”

“We have to remember that a dog and a cat are going to behave and react to their environment like a dog or a cat and not like a human.”

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