New research conducted in part by Northern Illinois University, shows that stress in dogs can indeed turn them prematurely grey too. The research, published in the December issue of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, concluded that "Specifically, dogs presenting a greater extent of anxiety and impulsivity were more likely to present premature muzzle greyness than dogs showing less anxiety and impulsivity."
The report's authors also found that dogs' "fear responses" to loud noises, unfamiliar animals and new people were "significantly associated with increased muzzle greyness."
Of course aging also causes greyness, just as it does in humans, and some breeds are predisposed to go grey earlier than other breeds .
If you believe your dog has premature greyness, check for signs of anxiety. Some signs of anxiety may include:
An intense stare; avoiding eye contact; ears pulled back; barking and whimpering; cowering; slinking movements.
Here are a few tips to deal with your anxious pets:
- ThunderShirt. Pressure wraps — known as ThunderShirts — markedly decreased heart rates in anxious dogs. These are shirts that offer constant pressure around your dogs torso, similar to swaddling an infant.
- Calming Chews. These chews contain L-theanine, or L- tryptophan which are amino acids that can have relaxing effects.
- Rescue Remedy. This is a blend of five different Bach Flower Remedies, created by Dr Bach to deal with stressful situations. Rescue Remedy helps dogs to relax, and feel calm.
- Exercise. Regular exercise and play sessions can also help alleviate some nervous energy.
- Day Care. If you notice your dog is anxious when you are not home, consider doggie day-care or perhaps ask a neighbour or relative if you can leave the dog with them when you go to work.
There are also many other ways to deal with separation anxiety, but that’s a topic for another day!
Temple Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University, and one of the authors of the study, said the "original, unique study" gives owners of prematurely grey dogs an opportunity to look more closely at their dog’s behaviour and a consider a different approach in their animal's care.