Emotional contagion

A new study reveals that if you’re suffering from chronic stress, your pet could be feeling it too. 

We now have evidence that the human-animal bond runs deeper than we initially thought! One such study has shown that dogs (and cats) mirror their owners when experiencing long bouts of stress. Let’s take a deep, relaxing breath and delve into this. 

As you would probably know, when a human or pet is stressed, cortisol is released into the blood stream and is absorbed by hair follicles. Cortisol is stored in hair as it grows in proportion to the amount in the blood, enabling a measurement of how stressed someone has been over the months before the sample is taken.  In one specific study, dogs (being either Border Collie or Shetland Sheepdog breed) and their female owners had their hair cortisol concentrations examined. According to the study a significant correlation was found between dogs and humans with regard to long term stress. Results showed that the personality of the owner was significantly related to the hair cortisol concentrations of their dogs, suggesting that dogs mirror the stress levels of their owners rather than the owner responding to the stress in their dogs. The most interesting result was that owners with higher stress levels had dogs with higher stress levels. 

We urge you to take particular note of this study and consider how your own lifestyle and relationship with your pet may affect the mental wellbeing of you both. When going through a particularly stressful life event, we may need to try find ways to reduce the impact on our faithful companions. Some ideas could include; calming pheromone sprays such as ‘Adaptil’ which can be used as a continuous diffuser in your home, paying close attention to behavioural changes in your pet and adjusting your approach to him/her respectively or looking into natural products such as ‘Zylkene’ tablets which promote relaxation and help your pet overcome short or long term distress.

 

Sian Kruger Veterinary Nurse Certificate IV

At the end of the day, if you’re feeling stressed, your pet probably is too. So, after a particularly rough week, be sure to give your pet lots of cuddles – and perhaps give yourself one too.