How do you reduce cortisol in dogs? Here’s the Answer

Not ready for a full-time furry friend in your home? Offer to walk a neighbor’s dog, cat-sit for a friend, or donate time at a local animal shelter—even short interactions provide enough pet exposure to reap some of these rewards.

The American Heart Association released a research report endorsing dog ownership as a way of warding off cardiovascular disease .

How many people are willing to go outside at the crack of dawn and exercise in the rain or snow? Dog owners often have no choice—they have to walk their pet, thus providing them with an excuse-proof daily dose of exercise.

Beyond simple companionship, dogs have long been wonderful helpers to those without sight or with mobility issues. Dogs are even being used to help detect conditions from seizures to cancer.

Adopting a pet may seem like a selfless act, but there are plenty of selfish reasons to embrace pet ownership. Research has shown that owning a pet provides an amazing array of health benefits, says Jeremy Barron, M.D., medical director of the Beacham Center for Geriatric Medicine at Johns Hopkins.

Usually, a dog can live an active, normal life with medication to treat the condition, though they’ll need it for the rest of their life. Drugs are best for dogs with Cushing’s syndrome caused by the pituitary gland or for those with a tumor on their adrenal gland that cant be removed with surgery.Â

Your vet will start by testing your dog’s blood and ttheir pee. These exams can detect diluted urine, urinary tract infections, or problems with a group of enzymes mostly found in the liver and bones called alkaline phosphatase. All of these are common in animals with Cushing’s. If the results show signs of the condition, your vet will follow up with hormone screening tests, such as:

If Cushing’s syndrome comes from a tumor on your pet’s adrenal glands, the vet might be able to remove it with surgery, which will cure him of the problem. But if the tumor has spread to other parts of their body or they have other health problems, surgery may not be an option. It  is often expensive and likely needs a specialty surgeon to perform it;

Changes to Sleep Pattern or Low Energy

Long-term stress may cause a dog to show similar symptoms to human depression. These include difficulty sleeping (or sleeping longer) and a lack of energy. The dog may also seem less enthusiastic about playing or food.

Some dogs suffering from chronic stress want to be alone more often than usual. If you notice your dog doesn’t want to spend time with people, it could be suffering from illness or anxiety.

Dogs under stress often shed more hair. This is commonly seen when visiting the vets, although any stressful situation can cause increased shedding. Chronic stress can lead to hair loss and bald patches.

As with many of the other stress signals on this list, hair loss and shedding can also be caused by various medical conditions. So, if you notice your dog losing more hair than usual, discuss it with a vet.

Cortisol can remain in the body for hours after it’s secreted. If a dog faces another stress trigger before cortisol levels have returned to normal, a much larger amount is potentially released. This is known as “trigger stacking.”

When trigger stacking occurs, a dog’s already stressed state can cause him to react to triggers he would usually ignore. The more stress triggers the dog experiences, the more elevated his stress hormones become. A dog that’s above his stress threshold also reacts in a more exaggerated way to triggers.

It can take several days for a dog’s cortisol levels to return to normal after a particularly stressful event. If he’s faced with another stress trigger during this time, he’s more likely to react, as it takes a smaller trigger for him to reach his threshold.

In practice, this is why a dog might hear cars drive by the house all day, but then suddenly start barking at cars after a guest arrives. Or why a dog may not seem to mind the first few dogs on a walk, but react aggressively to one later on.

Source: The Dog Clinic Blog

Here’s another (very) simplified example. Imagine a dog had a stress threshold of “100,” and above this threshold he couldn’t cope with additional stressors. If the stress trigger of “meet a dog” had a value of +50, then he would be unlikely to react when meeting a dog, although he may still show stressed body language, because it’s under his threshold.

But now imagine a sequence of events before meeting a dog:

  • The dog is anticipating a walk and getting frustrated by having to wait (+20)
  • When it’s time for a walk, he must travel in a car which he doesn’t enjoy (+30)
  • Upon arriving at the walk, he is scolded by his owner for pulling on the leash (this increase in stress is one of the reasons why negative training is a problem) (+20)
  • The dog now has an imaginary stress rating of +70. When he meets the dog, which is +50, he’s pushed over his 100 threshold and is much more likely to lunge or bark.

    That’s why it’s important to think about all the potential stress triggers leading up to stress-induced behaviour. If you only focus on the final trigger, you might be missing the rest of the stack.

    Cushings Disease in Dogs: Natural Treatment