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Never Underestimate the Effects of Stress

Stress is a bad thing. My poor pal Buster found this out the hard way two weeks ago. We moved. Our new place is great....

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Sep 29th 2009


Stress is a bad thing. My poor pal Buster found this out the hard way two weeks ago. We moved.

Our new place is great. It even has off-street parking, which is a very big deal in San Francisco. But I hate moving. And apparently so does Buster.

Buster developed diarrhea two days before the move. It lasted until three days after, when I finally gave up on a mild protocol of easily digestible food and resorted to antidiarrheal medications.

During the move Buster also developed severe itching. He constantly scratched his abdomen. He engaged in excessive licking of areas that only dogs (and cats) can reach. At first I suspected that the itching was related to switching from Advantage to Frontline (which happened shortly before the move), or from an allergy to some chemical, contaminant, plant or mold in the new house. But now that we’re settled in, Buster is no longer itchy.

I suspect that both of these problems were caused by stress. Although Buster didn’t show any obvious outward signs of stress during the move, rehousing is famously and predictably stressful in dogs, cats, and humans.

Stress is a well known cause of diarrhea in all three species mentioned above. Stress is also known for causing skin issues in cats and humans. I now believe that it contributes to skin problems in dogs as well.

Stress also weakens the immune system, predisposing animals of all species to disease. In humans it has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In cats there is a well documented link between stress and severe gum disease as well as certain potentially life-threatening urinary conditions.

Moving, unfortunately, is a fact of life. But if you have to move, try to settle in quickly. And once you’re in your new home, take time to pet the cat and walk the dog.

Photo: Buster settles in to his new digs.

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