For humans, grey hairs due to stress is a common and natural part of life, but new research proves that dogs suffer the same thing. A survey of over 400 dogs was taken, and it clearly showed that going grey was not only a sign of getting older.
People who work in high stress jobs, or have suffered stress and anxiety over their lives, acquire grey hairs at a younger age as those without. Camille King, the lead researcher, states that in the same way, she had long suspected that dogs with high levels of impulsiveness and anxiety show more greyness earlier than calm dogs, but that finding evidence to prove it had been difficult.
The research was taken by asking dog owners 42 questions about the behaviour, lifestyle, heath and importantly the appearance of their animals, by visiting dogs homes and veterinary clinics across Colarado. These questions also included whether the dog destroyed things when left alone, if they shows signs of stress in groups of people, how often they jumped on people, and if they suffered hair loss. Afterwards, mug shots of every dog was taken and graded on a scale to try to define the relationship between behaviour, stress and greying hair. Furthermore, the research excluded light coloured dogs in order to remain accurate, as light colours were more difficult to tell apart from grey.
The results clearly show that impulsive and anxious dogs were more grey than calm ones, and that greyness did not have any correlation with size, whether it had been spayed or neutered or any medical issues the pet had been through. Dogs who were skittish, scared of loud noises and animals they did not know were shown to be more likely to have grey hair, as they appeared to have a nervous disposition. Camille King adds that there is hope for anxiety prone animals in the form of training courses to help them cope with stress.
For humans, depletion of melanin, responsible for the pigment in hair, skin and eyes, is the cause for grey hair, and that our genes and health play a big role in when our hair colour begins to change. The average age for women to start going grey is 35, and 30 for men. However, it is shown that greyness can first appear in teenage years, or as late as 50. The gene responsible for grey hairs has been identified and scientists say that due to this discovery, there is a strong possibility that a drug could be invented that would stop grey hairs developing.