How change can affect your dog

We’re living in a fast-paced world where continuous changes are happening in our lives to the point where we don’t even realise it anymore. During busy periods, we may not notice that our dogs are affected by change too.

Change can happen in various aspects of a pet’s life, and it can upset him or cause him stress and anxiety. Because your dog cannot verbally express how he is feeling, you need to know and recognise the signs that indicate that he is not coping well and, more importantly, how to support him.

Examples of change

Not everyone experiences change to the same degree. For some people, big changes in their lives are something important, like starting a new job, moving to a new house, bringing home a baby or perhaps getting a new pet. For others, starting a new diet could be a big change or moving to a new department within the same company may be distressing.

Now think about how small changes can upset a child – perhaps getting a new teacher or when routines change. For adults, these changes may seem small, but for a child, they are significant.

The same goes for our pets. Keep in mind that the average dog’s intelligence is equivalent to that of a two-year-old child. Situations like being introduced to a new food, a new routine or moving to a new house can be very upsetting for a dog. Even a new neighbour with an active dog or aeroplanes using a new flight path directly over your house can be disconcerting. Whenever anything changes in your dog’s life, keep a close watch on him to see if it causes him to react.

Physical signs

Here are a few signs that your dog may be struggling with stress and possibly not coping with a recent change. We provide some advice on how you can help him.

  1. Excessive panting Your dog may start to pant excessively, even if it isn’t a hot day. Try to keep him cool and calm. Provide plenty of water and ensure that he has access to a cool, shaded area. If he continues to pant, consult your vet.


  1. Shaking or trembling He may shake or tremble, especially if he is feeling anxious or scared, and you shouldn’t take this lightly. Comfort him and provide a secure and safe environment by eliminating the source of stress or fear, such as loud noises, unfamiliar people or animals.


  1. Dilated pupils When dogs are stressed, their pupils may dilate, making their eyes appear larger than normal. This is called ‘whale eye’ – when you can see the whites of your dog’s eyes. Dim the lights or take him out of bright light. Provide a quiet, calm environment. Again, try to eliminate the source of his discomfort.


  1. Excessive licking or chewing He may start to lick, bite or chew on parts of his body he can reach, especially his paws. Ensure your dog has plenty of toys and chew items available. Consider using calming supplements or pheromone sprays, but consult your vet first before using them. Be sure to check your dog’s body for any possible causes of the behaviour, as something on his skin or in his coat may be causing him discomfort.


  1. Loss of appetite He may stop eating or eat significantly less than usual when he is feeling stressed. Offer your dog small, frequent meals and ensure that he has access to clean, fresh water. If the loss of appetite persists, consult your veterinarian.

Would you like to read the rest of this interesting article? Get the May 2023 edition of Animaltalk from retailers now, or order a printed or digital copy from



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