German Shepherd - Stress/upset stomach

Posted by Kathy-Purvis
Jul 31, 2009
We have a 2 year old German Shepherd called Clara. She can be very excitable but is also a very nervous dog. We have had her since she was 7 weeks old and have attended training and socialisation classes. She does get on well with other dogs but her recall is suspect as she has had a tendency to ignore us. She is extremely nervous and the slightest sound sets her off barking.

She has just come back from her stay for a week in kennels. It is not the first time for her as we have periodically left her for a day and also weekends so that she became accustomed to the kennels.

When we picked Clara up from the kennels we were told that during her stay she developed a very bad upset stomach, so much so that the kennels starved her for 24 hours before resuming feeding her. They said she picked at her food which we had provided. When we collected her she was very lively and none the worse for the week away except for the fact that it was obvious she has lost some weight. Now that she has been back home for 2 days her system is now getting back to normal. As soon as she was home her appetite returned and we had extremely clean bowls at meal times.

My question is this. Clara always seems to get an upset stomach when she is stressed or very nervous about a situation. This can last for 48 to 56 hrs and then her system settles down. I have been told that this very common with German Shepherds but as she will have to go into kennels from time to time, I would like this not to happen again. Heaven help us on Bonfire Night in November with all the fireworks which usually last for a fortnight. Last year she was in a terrible state.

Any advice would be appreciated.
Posted by KOPsarah
Aug 7, 2009
Hi Kathy and thanks for your post,
Stress is commonly associated with stomach and digestive upset because it causes the body to switch from the parasympathetic nervous system which prioritizes basic day to day functions like digestion, to the sympathetic nervous system which is the 'emergency system' that shuts down non-essential systems such as digestion to reserve energy for running or fighting (fight or flight). When your dog becomes distressed and the body interprets this as an emergency situation it's digestion will be slowed which can cause it to go off its food or even vomit.

To remedy this situation it is necessary to both reduce the stress and reduce the work that the stomach must do. There are several things you can do to reduce your dogs stress when it goes into a kennel situation.
-take some of its favorite but safe items, check with the kennels to see which items they allow
-ask your kennels if your dog can be in a quieter area a little away from the louder, more excited dogs.
-get some calming spray or drops such as rescue remedy or DAP (dog appeasing pheromone). If you choose rescue remedy give some to the dog before you drop it off and then ask the kennel attendant to add a little to her water each day. If you choose the DAP spray ask the attendant to spray some in his run twice a day. This should help you dog settle in with less stress.
-provide the kennels with some bland food such as plain cooked chicken and white rice for your dog for the first few days. This will reduce the work that your dog's digestive system needs to do during the initial stress phase.
-also provide the kennels with a enough of your dogs normal food for the kennel staff to feed your dog larger than normal meals once she is past the worse of the stress. You may also want to leave some slightly fatty/high calorie treats as well to help keep her weight up.

In regards to fire works night you can use the calming sprays or drops to help in this situation too. Keep the windows covered so she can not see too much of the lights and consider playing some calm music to off set the noise. Give your dog somewhere safe to hide but do not give her any attention when she is showing nervous behavior because this will only reinforce in her mind that a danger does exist. If you are very concerned about her behavior you could also ask your vet to provide her with a sedative for the evening when the majority of the fireworks will be set off.

I hope this helps and let me know how you get on.