Several times annually we receive reports from the pet insurance companies listing the most common diseases reported for felines and canines. Even though we deal with many of these conditions daily they are rarely easy to cure. For example one of the most common diseases in cats is feline lower urinary tract disease. Although dogs suffer from this condition far less frequently, for them, their struggle with gastro intestinal diseases such as vomiting and diarrhea can be just as elusive. Coincidentally both of these disease conditions have one thing in common. There can be a myriad of causes for lower urinary diseases such as bacteria, insufficient fluid intake and obesity. Likewise, digestive tract disease in dogs may be the result of parasites, viruses, consuming inappropriate things and even cancer. So what do these conditions have in common? What makes them both difficult to treat? Can two broadly different diseases in any way be related? The short version answer to all of these questions is, in a word< STRESS.
Stress, a word we all use often to depict a state of mind is very much a causative or contributing factor to physical disease. Although difficult to quantitate by blood testing, x rays or other means, it is well known that a stressed patient (human or animal) is considerably more likely to get sick, recover more slowly from an illness or require much longer hospitalization and medication. It is precisely one reason that out patient medical care is often favored over in patient. Hospital food, lack of sufficient sleep and exercise, interruption of normal sleep/wake cycles can all be causative agents for upsetting the normal adaptive mechanisms of the body. Stress is indeed a state of mind, but one that affects the physical state. Changes in a pet’s environment, alteration in a pet’s normal schedule, even changing the brand of kitty litter is capable of raising the stress level and affecting normal bodily function and daily existence. House guests, change in an owner’s work schedule, home construction can all induce stress in our pets’ lives. Increased stress results is release of certain chemicals in the body that, though somewhat adaptive, can disrupt the body’s normal immune system leaving us susceptible to illness.
The take away message? Maintaining as stress free environment as possible for your pets (as well as ourselves) is one of the most important aspects of promoting good health. We all need our play time, sleep time and environmental enriched home life. Interference with any of these factors makes us and our pets considerably more susceptible to many types of illness. As one of my very wise friends use to always say “Happy mind……..Happy body”.