Thursday, April 1, 2010

Do Pets Get Stressed?

April is National Stress Awareness Month. I believe stress has always been around but it is somehow different now than it was years ago. Life moves at a faster pace. Adults and children are more aware. Many diseases are linked to "stress" and stress has been shown to shorten life expectancy.

So what about our pets? Do pets get stressed out, too?

YES! Stress affects pets, too.

Some pets are more stressed out than others - sort of like people. Different pets have different stress levels and, like us, they all handle stress in different ways. You can put two people in a similar situation - say a fender bender - the accident may send one of them over the edge while the other takes it as just another bump in the road.

Dogs are like that, too.

Some dogs are just innately "wound up" and very vulnerable to stress. Some are very in tune with their people. For these pets, our stress also stresses them out. Our pets pick up on our emotions and react to the chaos in our lives. When we're tense, they're tense.

So, how can we help our pets "distress"?

Interestingly, research shows that some music can actually soothe pets (just like music soothes people). Studies prove that music helps relax our pets and researchers have even pinpointed some very specific characteristics in the music that work best.

Some pet owners feel guilty about leaving their dog home alone so they leave the TV or radio on to keep the dog company. But studies show that this actually does more harm than good. Leaving the TV or radio on will certainly create "noise," but it won't necessarily create a relaxed environment for your dog. It can actually CREATE stress for our pets due to the drastic changes in programming content, volume level and the random mix of musical styles.

Dogs prefer classical music. Dogs will actually bark less - especially when they listen to the music of Bach. Classical harp music has been shown to help alleviate stress and heal sickness in cats, dogs, chimpanzees and other animals.

In recent pet anxiety studies, house pets responded favorably to classical music under stress-inducing situations, often slipping into a very serene and peaceful state of mind after only a few minutes of listening. Certain instruments and sounds were more effective than others. For the music to actually calm our pets, it must create a consistently smooth, soothing dynamic from start to finish. That means there should be no abrupt changes in tempo, volume or rhythm. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case with radio broadcasts.

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