by Robo Hendrickson

Stress is the #1 Threat to Your Dog’s Gut Health

Stress is the #1 Threat to Your Dog’s Gut Health

Published: February 2020 | Updated: October 2022

Our client Donna will never forget the day she came home and couldn’t get inside her apartment because something was blocking the door. Through the mail slot she could see that somehow her very heavy bookcase had been dragged roughly 6 inches to the right and was now blocking her from entering. Luckily she had a second door into the kitchen, and when she finally entered her apartment she found it in shambles.

Not only had her bookcase been moved, her sofa was completely destroyed and some of the wood molding around one of her doors was completely chewed away.

The culprit of this devastation? Her newly adopted dog, Francis.

Mind you she had only been gone for about three hours, but to a dog with separation anxiety, 3 hours is a devastating eternity.

Francis is a beautiful Boxer/Pitty mix that had lived on the mean streets of Cleveland for some time. When Donna adopted him, he was a skeleton with cuts and visible bite marks all over his body. His vet was quite certain he had been used as a bait dog for dog fighting, and he warned Donna that Francis may experience anxiety attacks for the rest of his life.

Our client worked very hard to get Francis to feel safe and secure and to trust that he would be loved and his needs would be taken care of with boatloads of care and compassion. He slowly became a happy dog, but despite the love and affection he got and continues to get, his separation anxiety symptoms never fully went away.

Facing the Reality of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs experience stress just like we do. And they don’t have to necessarily experience the violent and harsh reality Francis did to feel this stress. They can feel it even if brought up in an entirely safe and loving home.

And, just as stress can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing, it can also negatively affect your canine pal’s health.

As pet owners, we try to shelter our furry friends from stressful situations, but many common stressors often can’t be avoided.

Maybe your job requires you to work a lot of overtime, which means your dog is home alone for many hours. Or maybe your family likes having friends over to watch football games and it gets a little too loud and raucous. Life happens.

Before we get to the solution (because there is a solution!), let's learn a little more about stress and anxiety in dogs. 

Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Certain types and levels of stress are normal in your dog’s life, and some stress can even be beneficial. For instance, positive stress, called eustress, or stimulation, allows your dog to use energy in an efficient way and helps them develop new capabilities.

But bad stress, a lot of bad stress, is called distress, and when your dog is distressed their immune system (and digestive system!) takes a big hit and various health issues can arise such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive gas
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Loose stools
  • Lethargy

Common Causes of Stress in Dogs

There are certain types of stress in your dog’s life that are obvious.

If you recently brought your new friend home from a shelter where they felt insecure – especially if they spent time on the mean streets beforehand fending for themselves – they are likely stressed.

Or, maybe you’ve had your dog since puppyhood but your family recently moved into a new home; This can also be quite stressful.

Or, if your dog recently spent any time at the vet’s because of a major illness or operation, th

But beyond these obvious stressors, there are other not-so-obvious ones that can cause distress and subsequent illness. 

Some lesser known, but still common causes of stress and anxiety in dogs are:

  • The Wrong Type of Dog Food in the Wrong Amounts

You no doubt make sure to feed your dog every day and believe you are providing quality food. 

But often, if our pets don’t eat wholesome foods that include ingredients and nutrients that would be found in their natural diet (called a Species Appropriate Diet), this can cause stress on their bodies.

Also, are they eating too much food? This is equally stressful as obesity hinders your pet’s quality of life. 

  • Discomfort of Any Kind

You must ensure your dog has proper shelter from weather and temperature extremes. Often people think their pooch is happy to be outside all day, but not if it is too cold, too hot or too wet.

It is also incredibly important that you provide your dog with a quiet and comfortable resting place where they feel safe and undisturbed. Imagine if you had to eat, sleep and live in the middle of Times Square every day – you’d feel stressed and irritable (unless you’re a glutton for punishment). What may seem calm to you may not to your dog, so be aware.    

Finally, the type of breed you own will also govern what they require to not feel any kind of discomfort. Keep their nails trimmed and make sure they are groomed. Some longhaired dogs will require regular grooming so their hair does not become tangled and matted.

  • Major Pain and Disease

It’s important your dog receives vaccinations every year and gets a quality health checkup to ensure there’s no issues that may cause pain and disease.

Depending on where you live, you’ll want to check them for fleas & ticks. Ticks can carry several diseases specific to dogs, and fleas can cause skin disease, allergies and even tapeworms.

And finally, you should check your dog’s body on a weekly basis to see if you notice any changes that could cause them pain or may be an indicator of an underlying disease. For instance, check for lumps. Even benign fatty lumps, if they are allowed to become large (and depending where on the body they are), can cause your dog pain and hinder their ability to move easily.

Remember, by nature your dog is designed not to show pain because in the wild this is seen as a sign of weakness, so they will be stoic and hide their pain. It’s up to you to pay close attention.

  • Not Being Allowed to Do Typical Dog Stuff

This is a big one and many dog owners don’t realize they are often the ones causing their dogs the most stress. First, a lot of people are unaware of the entire repertoire of normal dog behaviors and second - many dog owners simply do not approve of these behaviors (like “butt sniffing”) and try to curb their dog.

But dogs have to be allowed to be dogs. If they are constantly reprimanded for their typical and healthy behavior, they will become stressed. Imagine if every time you met someone and shook their hand, your dog growled and snapped at you. You’d become confused and agitated.

Your dog also requires plenty of exercise and space to run around to keep his body fit and mind stimulated. It’s not enough to just let him out in the tiny backyard once or twice a day; he needs to go for walks.

And, though your dog loves your company, if he is your only dog it’s important he be allowed to interact with his own kind, so consider a doggy day care or a get together with other dog owners at a local park. Just be sure the other dogs are of a suitable and similar temperament and are around the same size and age.

  • They’re Experiencing Fear of Any Kind

You love your dog and would never intentionally cause him or her to feel fear or distress, but sometimes they can feel this even under your loving care. For instance, bringing another dog into your family can cause your first dog to feel fear and stress because they don’t know where in the pack they now belong.

Bringing a new dog home is a big change so it’s important that you take the time to introduce them to each other slowly. Take them both for a walk a few times before you bring your new dog home for good, and once they are both under the same roof, pay close attention to their interactions to make sure there is no aggression between them.

Some Other Common Causes of Stress in Dogs:

  • Grief – this can be due to the loss of a human or animal companion. Dogs grieve very deeply just as we do.
  • Yelling and arguments between family members.
  • Too much stimulation without any quiet downtime (sports, doggie daycare, too much play).
  • Not enough stimulation – no walks or interaction with other dogs.
  • Any changes in their environment including a change in feeding or walking schedule or an increase in people, other animals and noise.
  • Negative training using shock collars or yelling.
  • Scary events such as parades, fireworks, big loud parties in your home (remember, your dog feels responsible for you and your property – if there are suddenly 50 people in your home and your dog doesn’t know most of them, this can cause great stress).

How to Identify Critical Signs of Stress in a Dog

We expect dogs to learn English yet few dog owners ever take the time to learn their dog’s language. 

Dogs communicate with body language, vocalizations and behavior, so it’s important you get to know how your pet normally communicates with you so you can become aware of any signs of stress.

Here are some telltale signs your dog may be experiencing stress:

  • Their pupils are dilated and/or they have a tightness around their eyes
  • They pant excessively even when there has been no major activity
  • They yawn frequently
  • They constantly lick their lips and nose
  • They begin producing excessive saliva
  • They “smile” and show their teeth
  • Their muzzle is wrinkled
  • Their ears are either upright and alert or pinned back to the sides of their head
  • They shed excessively
  • They become tense and jumpy
  • They produce sweaty paws
  • They tremble and shake
  • They start producing a high-pitched bark which signals fear or stress as opposed to low-pitch growling which is sending a signal to another person or animal to back off
  • They whine
  • They become restless and unable to lay still for any long periods of time
  • They begin destructive behavior
  • They begin grooming excessively
  • They have a loss of appetite (which can also be a sign of serious illness and if you notice this get them to your vet as soon as possible)
  • Increased urination and defecation
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

How Stress Can Cause Digestive Problems in Dogs

Your dog's intestinal tract contains a large portion of their immune system, and it’s here that specialized cells help protect their body against invading organisms, such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses, while recognizing beneficial bacteria.  

The bottom line is, stress wreaks havoc on your dog’s GI tract and since 80% of their immunity is in their gut, this can cause the development of chronic illness and disease. Many people ask if stress can cause diarrhea in dogs and the short answer is: Yes, absolutely. 

If your dog’s gut bacteria becomes imbalanced, your pet will experience major digestive upset and you will notice:

  • Loose stools (i.e. diarrhea)
  • A decrease in their energy levels
  • Dehydration and weight loss
  • Excessive gas
  • Vomiting
  • Skin issues – itching and a dull coat

How to Help a Dog With Separation Anxiety 

Probiotics for Dogs: The Gut’s Best Friend

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that provide a positive effect on the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal disturbances.1 

They are incredibly important to your dog’s gut health because these friendly strains of bacteria help maintain a healthy balance of “good bugs” in your dog’s GI tract while keeping the harmful bacteria in check. This healthy gut balance keeps your dog’s immune system functioning normally. Without this critical balance, your dog is at a much higher risk for developing disease.

The right probiotics can:

  • Establish a friendly GI environment for healthy digestion
  • Help control skin problems due to yeast
  • Support the immune system
  • Prevent diarrhea, loose stool, and constipation
  • Help reduce stinky breath
  • Help eliminate smelly stool and gas (this benefit alone makes probiotics a no brainer)
  • Help regain system balance after taking antibiotics

Not all Probiotics are Equal: What Can I Give My Dog for Digestive Problems?

You’ve taken the time to research and read this article so you obviously love your dog(s) very much. And because you love them so much you want to be sure you supplement their diet with the most beneficial probiotic designed to optimize gut health for dogs. Not all are made with the absolute best ingredients in the right amounts or the right combination. Make sure you purchase from companies that have done their homework and are willing to share their resources and information with you.

Why FullBucket is Different: The Best Probiotic for Dogs

Fullbucket starts with the research and then validates the ingredients with real world testing. We trial our products in animal clinics throughout the country to make our evaluations before we bring a product to market. We also use the most clinically proven, peer reviewed ingredients available to make our probiotics for dogs.

Fullbucket’s formula starts with Saccharomyces boulardii, which is the most peer-reviewed and clinically researched probiotic in the world, and for good reason: this particular strain fights pathogens and bad bacteria and is hands-down the safest and most effective form of probiotic because it does not colonize (or take over) in your dog’s gut.

Our formula also contains prebiotics. These guys are what feed the good bacteria and help them repopulate. So, while the probiotic is kicking the bad bacteria to the curb, the prebiotics, which use a unique combination of Mannan-Oligosaccharides feed the good gut bacteria and help them do their job more efficiently.

And finally, we include the digestive enzymes protease, amylase, lipase and cellulase in the right concentrations to ensure your dog can properly digest the food he eats and absorb all of those nutrients.

In other words, the FullBucket dog formulas are a complete recipe for a healthy, happy pet, all through the dog’s gut. 

Read More:

1 The Lactic Acid Bacteria in Health and Disease


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