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Can stress cause skin issues?

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Stress can have a significant impact on the body, both physically and mentally. Managing stress effectively is important to avoid potential skin issues and other problems. this means looking at the larger picture. considering the dog's whole lifestyle,

but first, let's understand the science behind how stress can affect the skin



The science behind stress

Stress is part of everybody's daily lives. When dogs are stressed, they release a hormone called cortisol. Initially, this hormone is a good thing, it helps the dogs focus, stay calm, and be in control. For example, athletes take advantage of this hormone when competing for high performance. So in small short-term doses, this is a good thing. However, when cortisol floods the body for a long period of time, it begins to have a bad effect, it will affect bowel movements, heightened muscle tension, sleep disruption, weakened immune system, mood changes, it can cause urine infections, create allergies like intolerances to foods and pollens and of course has an effect on the skin. In my salon, I can often tell if something is going on at home when I see a stressed coat, I mention it to the owner and they will say,’ Oh, we are in the middle of moving house’ or ‘I've just started a new job with a different shift pattern’


Cortisol is also released when the dog is excited, So if you’ve had a weekend of lots of agility training or have been looking after a friend's dog and they have both had a bit too much full-on play time, you may notice a change in your dogs eating habits or bowel movements, again if this extreme excitement lasts over a long period of time it will ultimately come out in the skin.


If your dog has food allergies but is easily stressed, just buying hypoallergenic food isn't enough. Consider changing your management in a way that will reduce stress and strengthen his digestive system helping him cope with the allergies.


Injury is another cause of skin issues

We all know a pulled muscle can be painful, it can cause swelling and heat in the skin. This will stretch the fibres in the dermis adding strain to the hair follicles and sebaceous glands and ultimately can show a visible result in the dog's coat. Often the hair is standing up taller and straighter than usual, you may notice a greasy patch in the affected area, if this is a chronic injury, then the hair may start to grow more coarse in that area than others. An injury such as a burn or deep cut can severely damage the hair follicles and sometimes the follicles can't recover from this and die, leaving a permanent scar where no hair can grow, sometimes it affects melanin production and the hair will change colour.


Solution

consider what adjustments you can make yourself to help your dog feel calmer and less stressed, and speak to a qualified behaviourist who works in a positive reinforcement ethos.

Ultimately if stress is the only cause of the skin issue, the issue won't go away until the stress does. However, in the meantime, check what skin type your pet may have and use the top-quality natural products here at Berries and Leaves to support your dog's skin from the outside in until the stress or injury issues are resolved





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