The Effect Of Stress On The Canine And Feline Immune System
Ask anyone if he understands the concept. You may get some quizzical looks, because we all have it.
Today I was treating Spring Gale for a urinary tract infection (UTI). Her owner had mentioned that she had company at her house. We also discussed the fact that on June 17, 2008, Spring had a UTI. I inquired about whether Spring had been under any stresses during that time.
“Sure,” she said. “That was when I was going back and forth to the hospital as my husband was dying of cancer. Why are you asking questions about stress?”
Stress, I explained, has the same diminishing effect on immune systems of all mammals. When we are stressed physically or psychologically our immune systems don’t operate at full capacity.
Let’s look at some scenarios.
In the first scenario, let’s use Spring’s owner’s experience. Driving back and forth to New Orleans every day, watching her husband suffer and wither away, then get up and do it all the next day, seven days a week for months. If, during that time someone with a cold had hugged her, she would have been very susceptible to coming down with that person’s cold.
In the second scenario let’s look at this same couple a few years ago, as newlyweds. They were both working in jobs they enjoyed, their marriage was happy and life was good. If someone with a cold had hugged her under those circumstances, chances are good that her immune system would have shrugged off the cold virus and she would have remained healthy.
Physical stress can be as hard on the immune system as emotional stress. Say this couple was honeymooning at Disney World. They’re happy, healthy and having the time of their lives. But, there was that twenty-hour drive they made all in one leg to get there sooner, the poor nutrition in the fast food they ate along the way, the sleep they missed on the trip, and the sixteen-hour sessions they were cramming in to make the most of each vacation day. All that loss of sleep and go-go-go adds up to stress. If someone with a cold hugs one of them now, chances of getting that cold are near 100%.
Spring Gale had the stress of her daddy’s absence and her mom’s worry and travel last year, and she became susceptible to UTI. This year she had a crowd of visitors at her house and an upset schedule. It all adds up to stress and an increased susceptibility.
Any time you can decrease your pet’s physical and psychological stress you allow him to be as healthy as he can be.
Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day, see you Tuesday, Dr. Randolph.