Your pets are just like you – if they are bored or frustrated they will become highly stressed and will start showing physical effects more readily.
Thomas Fisher, the president of Animal and Human Stress and Research Associates of Horseheads, New York, conducted research on dog stress in 1981, revealing that dogs can decide their reactions to the stress in their lives. Fisher used the Dektor Counterintelligence and Security Psychological Stress Evaluator (PSE) to measure stress levels. This instrument measures stress-induced microconstrictions of the voice box (while barking, whining, etc., for dogs) and the resultant fluctuations in the inaudible (to humans) FM radio band. The PSE instrument plots the FM sounds on printouts, which reveal the degree of stress experienced by animal or person. Fisher’s research using the PSE reveals that dogs can induce dissociation reactions to escape from stressful situations. These reactions are similar to your mentally projecting yourself out of the dentist’s chair to a Florida beach.
Fisher also cites evidence that dogs can select aggression or nonaggression as a reaction to stress.
To reinforce good behavior, you must provide the initial clue that grooming or veterinary procedures are No Big Deal. I suggest that owners initiate a walk or a game of fetch as an alternative for pets preoccupied with the stress of a bandage or a skin irritation, such as dogs suffering from flea-allergy dermatitis. Any activity that will break the itch-scratch cycle is medically beneficial.
Reaction to sound can also reveal the stress level in your pet’s life. One study of the effects of social environment on canine behavior found that fear of noise was most common in dogs from households with three or more adults or children. (Such households tend to be noisier than households with few people.) Published studies reveal that dogs and cats relax when soothing music is played softly but appear agitated when exposed to hard-rock music. Your teenager’s stereo may be raising tension and blood pressure in your new budgie as well as in your neighbors.
Solitary confinement for such highly social birds as lovebirds can result in such stress that the birds just pine away; the treatment is a heavy dose of human companionship. Stress, especially boredom, can cause feather picking in birds. The therapy includes a cage large enough for activity, toys, and attention. A change of environment and new animals or people in the household can cause a cat to lick and chew at its hair until parts of its body are bald; this disorder is seen most commonly in high-strung and emotional cat breeds. In some cases, resolving the cause solves the problem, but often the cat must be placed on “anti-anxiety” drugs, such as tranquilizers. Disrupting the cat’s comfortable routine can cause other inappropriate behavior, such as urinating outside the litter box. Chronic tail biting, flank sucking, and foot licking in dogs are psychogenic.
Robert Leeds, the owner of a pet motel, says, “Stress was responsible for more illnesses and deaths among boarded pets than any other single factor. With young animals, it led to enteritis [intestinal upsets] and dehydration. With older animals, it contributed to kidney failure.” Leeds suggests that pet owners run a reconnaissance before leaving pets. He also says that little special treats help relieve stress in both owners and pets. Leaving a familiar toy or blanket or a piece of an absent owner’s cltohing with the pet is appropriate.
We must actively work to control the effects of harmful stress on the lives of those around us, including our pets. PEts need play, exercise, proper care, attention, and love. Love begets love and feat begets fear.