Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fight or Flight

In my last post, I wrote about my experience with Canine Separation Anxiety. It is believed that when a dog perceives a threat, a part of the brain, the hypothalamus, signals the increase of hormones that prepare the dog for flight or fight. This is a good thing when there is a real threat, but most dogs living in domesticity today, rarely face dangers of life threatening proportions.

In fact, for dogs like Maaco with chronic anxiety, the anxiety itself is life threatening in several ways. It can cause problems like depression. The constant production of hormones can weaken the immune system and lead to heart disease. And the reason most dogs are surrendered to shelters, and eventually euthanized, is anxiety. I understand this, I really do. It's hard to live with the constant whining, pacing, incessant barking and destructive behavior.

The same thing that would have made them successful at surviving harsh environments a century or two ago, is the same thing that is killing them now. The same thing that is making them sick. As a society, we've changed how we live. The stressors are different now. Canines no longer, for the most part, have to provide for their own food and protection. They don't have to fight for their place in the pack. A dog who could have survived adverse conditions is now put down because it is no longer a desirable trait.

It's sad really. We've changed the rules. It's the passing of an age. These dogs are being bred out of existence as much as possible. I understand how and why they no longer fit. Maaco has been neutered. The world no longer needs creatures like him.

And what about humans who have the same type of anxiety and depression? Could the problem be as simple (and as difficult) as they are simply wired with a different set of fight or flight calibrations than the majority of us? We put these people on medications and behavioral regimes. We make them feel different and isolated. They may well have been the heroes and heroines; champions and warriors; kings and queens at another time in history.

Gaia, Mother Earth is always changing. It's not out of the realm of possibilites that the day may come again when those traits are needed and desired.


Baino said...

I never thought of anxiety as a flight or fight response. Interesting, my brother in law has anxiety attacks but has little to be anxious about, weird, maybe it is hard wired.

Brian Miller said...

hmmm...and interesting thought. nothing is random so you might be onto something....

Elisabeth said...

This fight and flight response goes way back into infancy, both for dogs and humans.

Sometimes people and dogs who might appear to have nothing to worry about now, have a deeper sensitivity, not only because of their hormones and genes but because of past experience, particularly in infancy when they were helpless and could do little, if anything, to protect themselves.

It helps when people can respond to an anxious dog or person with sensitivity.

Dorraine said...

It seems we're all required to fit into the norm, whatever that is. I've never been able to quite figure it out, thankfully. :-)

TechnoBabe said...

Very well written post, Ronda. Hooray to you for giving us something to think about. Hubby and I have discussed this very thing as it applies to his bipolar disorder. Thank you for being a wonder writer and giving people a glimpse into another way of viewing things.

Jai Joshi said...

You touched on some very deep questions, Ronda. I often think of how we and this world are evolving and how we may be spelling our own doom in the way we are pushing out all of our instincts in favour of lethargy and ease.


Reya Mellicker said...

Oh sister. How I wish I could come give you some kind of break from having to deal with your poor dog. It's not the dog's fault, but it takes a lot of energy. Yikes.

Have you seen Temple Grandin's book, Animals in Translation? I keep thinking I'm going to pick it up. She writes extensively about how dogs' lives have changed in the last thirty years.

Sending you energy, and much much love.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

Thanks for the second thoughts. I wonder how many traits we are trying to pull down and, really, it is a part of evolution. -j

DUTA said...

Most cases of anxiety and depression are not triggered by danger or by loss. They stem from a chemical imbalance that exists in the brain. So the change of rules is not so relevant.

I think dogs are less helped by medications than humans because their immune system is weaker. Sad, very sad.

Felicitas said...

It's so true. We take these poor animals out of their natural environment and then are surprised to discover that they have difficulties.

Christina said...

I think it's disgusting that animals are being put down because they turn out to not be all that convenient. I think there is so much a responsible owner can do. Lots of people don't understand that it takes time, money and commitment to really care for a pet.
I agree with you, Ronda, as times change, we, animals and people, have a hard time keeping up and doing the necessary genetic changes in ourselves.
Things would be so much easier if everybody understood that.

Ronda Laveen said...

Baino: It was just a thought. Anxiety as to come from somewhere. There are intersting thoughts below.

Brian: keep thinking about it and see what you come up with.

Elisabeth: Oh, that's a nice bit of info.

Dorraine: You don't need to:-)

TechnoBabe: Thank you. I would love to read your thoughts on this subject since you deal with bipolar issuse regularly.

Jai: Exactly. There are times when lethargy and ease are just dandy but, keener skills are being lost.

Reya: Thanks. It does require a lot of energy. We are getting much better at managing Maaco, but we always have to consider him when planning our schedule. I have read part of Temple's book and have it. I'm about 1/3 of the way through. She is a fascinating woman.

Jayne: Our entire existence is always changing and evolving isn't it? Some for better, some for the worse.

DUTA: You are probably right about canines systems being smaller and the medication working differently. I wish more people would seek information and help for their animals other than the needle.

Felicitas: Exactly! You said in few words what it took me a post to say.

Christina: Yep, I'm trying to get this out there so people start talking and sharing about such problems. Your Cat Fight blog will help a lot too. We don't always have to have all the answers to start bringing awareness and attention to a problem.

Sam Liu said...

Indeed, such is the eternal process of evolution, and under Nature's will, we are all truly defenceless.

Ronda Laveen said...

Sam: So well put! Perfect!

little hat said...

"It's sad really. We've changed the rules."
I agree Ronda, we fit in and then ..... things change. Which is fine as long as we have the opportunity to understand and adjust in response.
In fact i love feeling that I have not entirely become a product of 'the rules'. But I'm lucky. I have options. I am not locked into a life beyond my control. I am not a dog stuck in a role I have not been bred for.

TechnoBabe said...

Dear Ronda, I am sharing an award with you on my blog today if you choose to accept it. It won't self destruct if you choose not to. Smile.

Jingle said...

very interesting observations.
have fun,
Happy Wednesday!

Christina said...

Haha! I really haven't thought about the fact that the Cat Fight Blog could raise awareness! I think you're right! :-O
I started for catalytic purposes - the current situation is kind of stressful - and poking fun at the whole thing keeps things in perspective. Blogging's so therapeutic.

Thank you so much for your comments! You actually inspired the Blog with this post of yours.

Ronda Laveen said...

Little Hat: I, too, like being outside the rules. I found your view point of looking from the dog's perspective enlightening. People and animals who are stuck in situations beyond their genetic control must be frightening experience.

TechnoBabe: Thanks for the award!

Jingle: Happy day to you too!

Christina: these posts inspired your new blog? Wow! I like how you are posting as you work out the problem of the contenders.

otin said...

I have always maintained that we are really just animals with a lot of the same violent and natural instincts as other animals. Over time, we have suppressed many of these traits!

Mrsupole said...

I was just checking and I think my comment had gotten eaten up by blogger. I hate when that happens and I am not sure why it does it every so often.

Anyway, I wrote about how sad it is that people just toss their pets away and get rid of them. Pets cost lots of money and need a lot of time and energy and if you are not willing to give of yourself then you should not get one. We are lucky to have found a vet that does not charge us an arm and a leg. But then we give him a lot of business.

I will say again that Maaco is very blessed to have you and WH as his owners. Very blessed indeed.

God bless.

Jen said...

Have you ever watched It's Me or the Dog? I think her name is Victoria Stilwell. She does amazing things with anxious dogs.

Ronda Laveen said...

Otin: I agree TOTALLY!

Sherry: I know what you mean about Blogger eating comments AND the disposable pet syndrome AND finding a good vet. We have a wonderful office a few miles away. They are almost like family. The vet calls personally and prices are reasonable. Thank you for your blessings.

Jen: No! I've not seen me or the dog but will certainly check the program and for a website. Thanks.

T. Anne said...

My world feels a bit manic as of late. I'm hoping summer weather will arrive this weekend so I can stop huddling in sweaters! Nice to know you!

Dave King said...

Truth takes us by surprise sometimes - probably because we'd rather not acknowledge it. A reall good post.

Ronda Laveen said...

T. Anne: Welcome to the Wonderland! Things do seem to be in flux right now, don't they?

Dave: Well said, sir!

Kathy M. said...

Hi. I found my way here via Technobabe. I'm very glad I did. I found this post fascinating. I kept thinking: Hmmm. Sounds like what happened to people. Who knew dogs suffered in the same ways. Thanks for helping me see this from a different perspective.