It’s not big secret that our hair turns gray when we’re stressed out, apart from aging. A recent study has found that dogs may suffer the same results. Not only do our dogs’ faces and toes start turning gray as they age, they also gray from anxiety and emotional stress. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, given how similar dogs and humans are in so many ways. But it’s still a very interesting find.
The study was performed at Northern Illinois University and published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science. The study sampled 400 dogs from veterinary clinics, dog parks and other popular dog-related places. Every dog had its photograph taken and was rated on a scale of grayness from 0 to 3. The owners of these dogs were then asked to answer a questionnaire about their dog’s fearfulness, whining and barking, nervousness at veterinary exams, hyperactivity, leash pulling and more.
Higher scores of muzzle grayness were in sync with higher scores of anxiety and nervousness. It also lead to the accurate prediction that dogs with traits such as fear of loud noises and shyness around strange people and animals were going to have more graying than the more stable individuals. In more scientific terms, “Essentially, the results indicate that for each standard deviation increase in the measured trait, either anxiety or impulsiveness, the odds of being in a higher rating category of muzzle grayness increase 40% to 65%,” co-author Thomas Smith told CNN.
These same researchers are the group that solidified the evidence that Thundershirts, the tight-fitting compression shirts made for dogs to wear during thunderstorms, significantly reduce the heart rate (therefore, the stress) of dogs while wearing them. This group includes Temple Grandin, renowned animal behavior researcher and autism advocate. Needless to say, the study has been very informative in helping decide whether or not our dogs’ lives directly effect the grayness we see on their faces. If your dog is graying prematurely, there might be things we can do to help ease their anxieties and stressors. We think this is a great step towards the happiness and well-being of dogs everywhere!