Stress, it’s an unavoidable part of life

Stress is what our body goes through when we perceive our environment as changing. Stress can be “good stress” or “bad stress.” We all understand bad stress, everyone has experienced it and has had to deal with its negative effects. However, did you know that good stress, e.g., going on vacation, finally getting that promotion or bringing a new member into the family, can also be quite hard on our bodies?

When our brains perceive that something is about to happen it triggers several chemical reactions. First, the pituitary gland releases the hormone ACTH into the bloodstream. Once the adrenal glands detect the ACTH, they secrete hormones and natural cortisone into the bloodstream. These chemicals combine to create steroids. These steroids then do their best Paul Revere impersonation by racing through the body announcing “Be ready! Something is about to happen! Change is coming! Change is coming!”

The body responds to this stimulus by preparing itself for “fight or flight.” The liver releases glucose in the case that extra energy may be needed; amino acids are released to aid in tissue repair; breathing becomes more shallow and rapid as the heart beats faster; the kidneys slow down their function making the body retain water and raising the blood pressure; the release of infection fighting white blood cells is slowed or comes to a complete halt, virtually shutting down the immune system and making it easier for disease to invade the body. Once the stressful situation is over, the body flushes the extra hormones and steroids. Everything returns to normal levels. Short term stress does not usually affect the body in a lasting way.

Our dogs and stress

Most dogs are pattern-oriented and experience stress much like people with similar chemical and physical reactions.  Dogs love schedules and knowing what to expect next. Therefore, our dogs feel stressed when their environment changes, e.g., a boarding stay, a house guest arriving, going to a new place with you (i.e., going on vacation with you), or a any shakeup in their regular schedule. Some dogs will even become upset if you do something as simple as rearrange the furniture or change your hours at work. Unfortunately, we can’t explain to our pets what to expect, how long this change will last or why the change is necessary.

Many dogs respond well to change but all do feel at least a small amount of stress. It’s one of life’s unavoidable issues.When you board your pet, regardless of how nice the facility is, how much fun your pet has at the facility, or how well cared for they are, some dogs can become quite stressed simply because their environment and routine have changed.

Since stress suppresses the immune system, environmental bacteria that normally wouldn’t cause illness in an otherwise healthy pet may make them sick, resulting in respiratory illness, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, etc. Any underlying or undiagnosed illness a dog may have could also manifest itself during this time.

De-stressing at Hoosier Doggy

The staff at Hoosier Doggy understands the effects stress has on your dog’s health, well-being and state of mind. All personnel are trained to watch for signs of stress and illness. Any concerns are noted and reported to managers and then relayed to you. When dogs are showing signs of stress we do whatever is in our power to make them more comfortable.

 Just a few examples of how we can help your doggy if he/she experiences stress:

  • We move overly stressed dogs to the quietest and calmest areas of the facility.
  • We adjust their playtime to meet their specific needs.
  • We make sure they receive extra attention to help comfort them.
  • If stress induced diarrhea occurs, we switch them to a bland diet (for those without dietary restrictions) to help alleviate this problem.

Keeping a calm, clean and safe facility is important to lessening the effects of stress. The extra love and attention we give each dog goes a long way in creating bonds and forming friendships with all our charges. Once the doggies know us and the routine at Hoosier Doggy, they feel like they are visiting another part of their pack, not just simply boarding.

There are ways you can help to reduce any stress your pet may feel before and after their stay:

  • Be sure to pack enough of their own food to last the entire stay, this will keep them from having to adjust to a new diet. If you have a specific scoop you use to determine the amount of food your dog eats (other than a standard measuring cup) include that with their food. Let us know if you use a level scoop, a heaping scoop or ¾ of a scoop, etc. You can also use small baggies to portion out the food per meal if you want to make sure your dog gets an exact amount of food each day. If some bags are returned, don’t worry, your dog was fed, they just may have chosen not to eat well the first couple of days of their stay. This is a perfectly normal reaction.
  • Send something that smells like home – a t-shirt, pillow case, blanket, toy, etc. Having something familiar is always comforting.
  • If your dog becomes anxious while watching you prepare for your trip, consider dropping them off a day early and then using that day to pack so your dog doesn’t become stressed even before they leave your house.
  • Try to keep their routine the same immediately before and after your trip. I know, there’s a million things to do before you leave and another million things to catchup on once you return. Keeping the household in a regular routine at these times is a Herculean task but it will go a long way in helping your dog maintain his/her equilibrium.
  • If your dog returns tired, out of sorts, not eating well or with a mild medical issue (such as loose stool) don’t become alarmed. Many pets wait to “unwind” when they return to their den. It’s like us having a wild exciting vacation, it was great fun but sometimes we need a day or two to recover once we get back home. Becoming alarmed over a natural recovery reaction will stress your dog out again and retard any chance he/she had of relaxing back into a regular routine quickly. If your dog shows acute signs of health issues, if the problem continues for more than 2 or 3 days, or if they get worse instead of better, then it is time to call the veterinarian.
  • Keep calm when dropping your dog off. If you are overly rushed or upset your dog will sense this and respond in kind. He/she won’t understand why you are upset, only that you are, and will associate bad feelings with the facility. This above all other things will stress your dog out the most when it comes to a boarding stay.

Most dogs enjoy their stay and show little or no signs that they are experiencing stress. Some dogs, just like some people, are “home-bodies” and become quite upset when anything changes their routine or surroundings. No matter how your dog reacts to boarding, our staff is prepared to help them have the best experience possible.