Stress And Emotional Upset Factors In Dog Health

heart murmur in dogs

I have a 7 1/2 year old Gordon Setter named CJ. At 3 years old he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. We also learned he had many food allergies, some that we are sure of are chicken (cooked), beef (cooked), rice, peanut butter, wheat and corn.

Currently he is STRICTLY on Taste of the Wild Venison and Bison, and bananas for his pills; we will be switching him to a raw based diet soon. Last Oct my parents and I were injured in 2 separate car accidents, and none of us are back to work yet.

Since the accidents, CJ has gotten worse. We thought maybe it could be stress related due to a new baby in the house, all of us injured and me (their adopter’s best friend) moving out (my parents and their other dog have a great bond with them as well and I couldn’t separate them all).

At first he had hotspots on his body and an anal gland infection. A round of antibiotics cleared the anal glands and the skin started to look better. We switched him to a lower dose of antibiotics because the last ones started to make him nauseous. His skin got worse. It is now all over his body from his nose to his toes. 4 days ago we put him on Baytril.

He seems to look worse and worse everytime I visit him. He isn’t the same happy go lucky dog anymore. We have done 2 blood tests, one through Hemopet.

~ Thank you, Carrie

Dr Jeff Feinman

Hi Carrie-

Emotional stress can absolutely exacerbate physical issues including hypothyroidism and skin allergies. The many manifestations of stress on people have been well recognized for over twenty years. The harmful effects of stress are also being studied in animals and can be very harmful to overall health and even antidote the curative effects of homeopathic medicines. Reducing both physical and emotional stressors is key to both a happy life and successful holistic treatment.

There are unavoidable changes happening in CJ’s environment that may be creating problems for him. In addition, some dogs just get stressed by any environmental change or transition. As an aside, this mal-adaptation to change is in and of itself a sign of less than optimal health. The stressor need not be an emotional trigger. In general, anything that “pushes” on the body’s ability to cope is considered a stress. Vaccines, drugs, poor diet, infectious diseases, traumas, etc. are all stressors which can cause a resultant response. Reactions to stress can include fever, elevated white blood cell count, other biochemical changes and of course physical signs and symptoms like diarrhea, skin problems, etc.

The best way to counteract the negative effects from CJ’s emotional stressors is to add as much fun into his day to day life. Physical and emotional stimulation are key. Adding happiness may be as simple as an extra walk or two a day, a game of fetch in the morning, taking a hike, etc. Outdoor activities in nature with exposure to sunlight and fresh air are the best.

Many dogs thrive on activity. Some just can’t get enough and it’s hard for them to overdo it. However, insufficient energy expenditure can be stressful and trigger other problems. It’s sometimes said that “a tired dog is a happy dog”. However, CJ’s years of hypothyroidism and recent antibiotic treatments may have contributed to his instead being a couch potato. If this is the case, then you and your parents should mindfully and gradually start increasing his daily activities. If CJ is food motivated, adding delicious fresh and wholesome foods and treats can help even more. Especially if these are used throughout the day as training treats.

Almost any training, agility and field work can bring him even more happiness. Most pups benefit greatly from having a job – of any kind. Unfortunately these are more hands-on and time-consuming so may not be too feasible with a new baby in the house. However, even a few minutes a few times a day can provide much needed emotional enrichment and help combat the untoward effects of stress. Perhaps you can just teach him little tasks which your parents can reinforce during the day. Special treats can be given CJ as rewards and help these short periods of training work even better.

How quickly you add new training treats and foods depend on how sensitive he is to dietary changes. Many dogs can eat almost anything without getting sick. However if CJ has a history of developing vomiting or diarrhea then introduce fresh foods and treats slowly. The rate you do so should be based on the nature of his stool or signs of nausea. If he has a rock solid stomach it might be easiest to just use whatever is around the house. Carrots, broccoli, cream cheese stuffed Kongs, etc. all work well. If you really want to see his face light up, give him a nice juicy raw meaty lamb bone. In fact, his entire diet can be meaty bones. Most dogs get lots of joy from their food and especially fresh foods. Allergy and skin improvements are a frequently seen effect of feeding a meat-based fresh food diet. Even in otherwise food sensitive dogs.

Regarding his allergies and recent antibiotic treatment, he should also be on a few weeks of a high quality probiotic. They will help both his intestinal dysbiosis from the antibiotics, as well as acting as great immune stimulants. Intestinal bacteria are our friends and should not be killed. CJ’s immune system definitely needs some help. My personal favorite probiotics are Rx Biotics from Rx Vitamins for Pets and ProBio Defense from Xymogen. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to help both the skin and immune system. Both liquid and gel cap form fish oil supplements work well and there are many good ones on the market.

In addition to the harmful effects of stress, the repeated drug use could be lowering CJ’s vitality and result in his no longer being the fun-loving Gordon that you knew. Fortunately, this change in his emotional happiness level can be treated directly. You’re already doing so if you make some of the changes mentioned above. The very best way, in my clinical experience, to improve his vitality is through homeopathic treatment. In fact, one of the ways that some of us measure the success of our treatments is through quantitative happiness levels. For example, a dog who scores a 10/10 is as happy as they ever get whereas a 1/10 pup just lies around all day and doesn’t even interact with his environment.

Homeopathic treatment addresses all of the internal factors that are causing his external signs and symptoms. Although rarely quantitated, it does this by balancing the energetic equilibrium that governs all physiologic processes. So far, this internal vital force can only be assessed directly in a few areas. The heart and brain are two notable examples. Homeopathic medicines have been shown to have a direct effect on EEG activity in the brain. Modern medicine is just now catching up to what homeopaths have known, through clinical observation, for hundreds of years.

In addition to raising his happiness, another lovely beneficial effect of improving his vitality is helping reduce continued auto-antibody production. Auto-antibodies could be further destroying his thyroid and worsening his clinical signs. Early homeopathic intervention can even help prevent the need for synthetic thyroid replacement. Unfortunately, after four years of hypothyroidism and drug treatment it cannot be expected that his thyroid hormone production will normalize. However, homeopathic treatment can help him retain whatever thyroid function remains and minimize the need for increases in thyroid medication. This same effect can be seen in other immune-mediated and endocrine diseases.

Despite the duration of his dis-ease, CJ’s happiness level and skin problems should still be eminently treatable. Your local vets can work with you, your parents and a veterinary homeopath to improve CJ’s quality of life.

Be well.

Dr Jeff

Related Posts

Popular Posts