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The effects of fear and anxiety on health and lifespan in pet dogs

By N. A. Dreschel

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Fear and anxiety-related behaviors are common in pet dogs and are likely to cause a physiological stress response in individuals that are exposed to those things they find fear or anxiety-inducing. Stress responses are related to a number of changes in hormonal and immune modulation and have been shown in many species to be related to disease processes and shortened lifespan. It was predicted that dogs with fear and anxiety disorders would have decreased lifespan and increased disease frequency and severity. In this retrospective study, owners of 721 deceased dogs completed a 99 question on-line survey that asked about the demographics, training, behavioral characteristics, health history, age at and cause of death in their pets. Correlational and regression analyses were performed to explore relationships between behavior; fear and anxiety subscales; lifespan; and specific diseases and causes of death. Results show that how "well-behaved" an owner felt their dog was positively correlated with lifespan (R2=0.18, P<0.001). Dogs with extreme non-social fear and separation anxiety were found to have an increased severity and frequency of skin disorders (R2=0.03, P<0.001). While neither stranger-directed fear nor any other fear or anxiety scales were related to specific causes of death, fear of strangers was found to be related to a significantly shortened lifespan (R2=0.16, P<0.001). There is evidence to suggest that the stress of living with a fear or anxiety disorder can have negative effects on health and lifespan in the domestic dog.

Date 2010
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 125
Issue 3/4
Pages 157-162
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Department of Dairy and Animal Science, Pennsylvania State University, 324 Henning Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Causality
  5. Dermatitis
  6. Dogs
  7. Education
  8. Health
  9. Lifespan
  10. Mammals
  11. modulation
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Pets and companion animals
  14. skin diseases
  15. Stress
  16. training
  1. peer-reviewed