Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dog Longevity Survey Part II. How Important is Stress Reduction to Longevity?

This subject naturally follows whether or not socialization has any impact on longevity.

Btw, socialization is not socializing; some people seem to have the two confused. Social contact is indeed very important but socialization is about teaching your dog that the things they will encounter in our world are okay and nothing to be afraid of. Socialization is one of the main means of reducing stress.

Most people who took the survey understand that stress reduction is important to longevity.



Extremely important63.33%
Important26.67%
Somewhat important  6.67%
Not important  0.00%
I don't know  3.33%
Other  0.00%


So what makes stress detrimental to health and longevity?


I think that everybody is familiar with the fight or flight response to a danger. Such response is important for survival. It's a physiological response allowing the body to pull all reserves in its self-defense. Every resource is put toward immediate survival and every other function gets temporarily suspended. That means digestion, immune function, self-repair ... everything gets put on hold because there isn't much sense worrying about a cold when you're being chased by a lion.

This is a problem on two levels. First, the body is flooded with hormones in order to run or fight. But in the modern life, none of that is usually involved. It is more like spinning your tires while having the breaks on at the same time. You're gonna do some damage to your car.

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But with chronic stress, the damage goes further with all other functions being suspended long-term. Nutrients don't get properly digested and absorbed. The immune system fails to function properly. And the body will not get a chance to repair itself.

Eventually, the whole system breaks down.


Sticking with the above metaphor, what do you think would happen if you were spinning your tires like that indefinitely if you did manage to keep adding fuel. The tires would wear down to nothing or burst into flames. There would be no oil changes, no tire changes, no repairs ... eventually, the engine would seize. In other words, do this long enough, you'll destroy the car.

A living body can take a lot of beating but it is not invulnerable.


Related articles:
Dog Longevity Survey Part I
Dog Longevity Survey Part II
Dog Longevity Survey Part I Results
How Important Is Weight Management for Longevity?

22 comments

  1. This is such a great analogy. It really drives home what it must feel like for dogs who are constantly in stress mode.

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    1. Thank you; I was really trying to drive the point home.

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  2. Stress is such a scary thing, for people and dogs. Ringo came to us with a lot of fears and anxiety and we work all the time to show him that the world is not that scary of a place, at least not anymore. He's made such great progress with strangers, both outside and in the house. Now we're working on strange dogs. He likes them, but starts out so unsure and stressed out. We're getting there though!

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    1. I'm glad Ringo is learning that the world isn't such a scary place. He's so lucky to be with you.

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  3. Your car analogy is a really good one. Yes, chronic stress really wreaks havoc on physical and emotional health for both dogs and humans.

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    1. What people often forget is how much scarier world is for dogs. We can learn things in other ways, reason them out. For dogs, proper socialization is the only way they can learn about things not being scary. Many things don't make any sense to them at all instinctualy.

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  4. I wish more people understood that mammals are mammals and, in so many ways, human, dogs, cats and other mammals have similar experiences to stress. It's not good for us and it' not good for our pets either!

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    1. I think the question is whether people don't understand that dogs can feel anxiety or they don't understand how everyday things can be source of it.

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  5. Great post and it took me time to get Layla to feel comfortable to go on walks or dog parks but today have no problems. With her aging I am having a problem of her going out at nights like we used to for long walks so now it is just around the block which she is ok with unless it is raining. I try to keep her walks as stress free as possible and one thing that works for us is I let her lead the way she wants to go and the off we go

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    1. Layla is lucky to have you. You're right, sometimes things that weren't scary initially can become scary.

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  6. This makes perfect sense to me. Stress kills people so I would only assume the same for our four legged family members too. Keeping stress to a minimum is essential.

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  7. Stress kills people, so I can believe it does a lot of damage to the average dog.

    Anxiety is a real blight in our modern times. We do so much damage to ourselves and our pets due to it :-(

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  8. I know stress is bad for everyone, including pets. I admit that I misread socialization and thought it meant something different.

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    1. Yeah, there is a difference between socialization (not the most accurate term IMO) and social contact.

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  9. Yes, I think dogs respond to stress. I usually try to give my dogs long walks to help reduce stress - which is good for both of us.

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    1. Exercise certainly helps with draining stress.

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  10. When I lived in a house on a corner lot, my dog was always "on duty" following activity from the back of the lot to the side of the lot and finally to the front of the house. Environment can play a major role in the stress level and health of our pets.

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    1. Yes, environment is the main source of stress. Teaching dogs that things they encounter are okay can go a long way, though.

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  11. Stress is super bad for everyone, I think: Dogs, peeps, cats, etc... It's so very important for all of us to find ways to DE-stress. purrs

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    1. Yes, it is bad for all critters big or small.

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