Study Finds Dogs Also Get Gray Hair from Stress

February 25, 2017

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. prematurely /ˌpri məˈtʃʊər li / (adv.) – too soon
Example: Nobody expected the announcement because it was done prematurely.

2. pigment / ˈpɪg mənt / (n.) – a substance that gives color to plants or animals
Example: People who have lighter skin have fewer brown pigments.

3. behavior / bɪˈheɪv yər / (n.) – the way someone or something acts
Example: The class was praised for their good behavior.  

4. impulsivity / ɪmˈpʌl sɪv ɪ ti / (n.) – the trait of doing things without thought
Example: Children are known for their impulsivity.

5. cope / koʊp / (v.) – to deal with something difficult in a calm manner
Example: Adults use different methods to cope with responsibilities.


Read the text below.
A new study suggests that dogs, like humans, prematurely develop gray hair because of stress.

For humans, gray hair results from the loss of a pigment called melanin in the hair. This loss happens naturally at different ages for men and women. Women usually start losing melanin at 35, while it usually happens to men at 30.

However, melanin loss may start happening earlier, even as early as a person’s teenage years, because of stress. According to a new study, this phenomenon can also happen to dogs for the same reason.

In the study, scientists from the Northern Illinois /ˌɪl əˈnɔɪ / University, with the help of a researcher and an animal behavior expert, examined over 400 dogs that were between one and four years old. The researchers wanted to find out what caused the dogs hair to turn gray.

The team asked the dog’s owners 21 questions about the behavior of their pets. The questionnaire was about behavior showing anxiety, like barking, and impulsivity, such as jumping on people. The team also took pictures of the dogs and rated the grayness of each one on a scale of zero to three, with the former indicating no gray hair, while the latter describing a dog that has gray hair all over its body. The results revealed that dogs that were more impulsive and anxious had more gray hair than calmer dogs.

According to one of the researchers, one common cause of stress for dogs is being left home alone. According to her, dogs are supposedly raised to be their owners' companions, yet these pets are left home alone most of the time. Therefore, she recommends dog owners to leave their pets with a friend when they go away. Another researcher recommends a special training program that helps dogs cope with stress as another possible solution to prevent graying.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What are other possible causes of stress for dogs?
·         Why is it important to study about stress in animals?

Discussion B

·         In what ways can pet owners take good care of their pets?
·         Why do you think some people like having pets? Discuss. 

February 25, 2017