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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

News & Views November 2019 Issue

Their Stress Levels Mirror Ours

© Kamira | Bigstock

Chances are if you’re stressed, she will be.

It’s no secret that dogs are intensely aware of our moods. Now it’s clear that our stress levels literally course through their veins. Investigators reporting in Scientific Reports found the connection upon examining hair from more than 50 people and their dogs. Hair follicles absorb cortisol, a stress hormone released into the bloodstream.

It turned out the cortisol levels in both species’ hair were similar when measured two times, several months apart. It’s believed that we influence dogs’ stress levels rather than vice versa because we are much more a central part of dogs’ lives than they are of ours; we have a much richer interactive social life with significantly more people than they do.

It was already known that there’s a correlation between the stress level of children and their mothers. As our dogs’ proxy parents, we are apparently recreating that stress-modulated connection. It pays to try to keep things calm and positive by paying attention to them, playing with them, and not overreacting, just like you would try to do for any youngsters in your household.

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