Anxiety in Pets

Jun 4, 2020   Tracey Aston   Behavior

When we think of our pets, we picture lazy days napping on the furniture, lying in the sun and frolicking carefree. We hardly ever associate our pets with anxiety but many pets indeed face challenges with fear and anxiety.

The most common type of anxiety is separation anxiety. Separation anxiety occurs when pets become anxious or fearful when they are separated from a pet parent or someone to whom they've become attached.  There is no concrete cause for separation anxiety and why some pets suffer and others do not.

Separation anxiety is the most talked about and most referenced form of anxiety in pets, but it's not the only reason a pet could experience anxiety.  Many pets suffer from noise phobias and can become anxious during loud thunderstorms and especially have issues around 4th of July or fireworks.  Other pets have a fear of riding in cars or being around children.  Adding a new family member or a family member leaving, moving and changing homes or routines all can add to a pet's heightened anxiety level. Our blog post Pet Routines goes into further detail about how important routines are to our pets.

The symptoms of anxiety can vary in degree and intensity and for dogs can include barking, howling, whining, digging, drooling, chewing, destroying furniture, pacing, trying to escape, urinating or defecating and in extreme cases, even self-injury by digging or chewing at crates, attempting to jump through doors and windows.  Cats will attempt to hide, not eat, withdrawal or show signs of aggression.

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it's important to schedule a trip to the vet to rule our other health issues that could be the cause. For example, a urinary tract infection or diabetes could cause a pet to start urinating around the home.

It's always important to make sure the pet isn't simply bored and destroying things, digging, and barking as a way to break up the boredom. Make sure to always provide both physical exercise and mental stimulation for your pet to ensure they aren't being destructive to have something to do or trying to get attention. If your pet is anxious, physical exercise can still help but allowing the pet to burn off some energy and de-stress.

For pets suffering from temporary anxiety from things like thunderstorms or car rides or vet trips, there are ways for a pet parent to help their pet. Some pet parents have luck with a product like Rescue Remedy There are also music CDs made especially to help a pet relax, such as Through a Dog's Ear and WholetonesVictoria Stilwell takes using music to soothe pets a step further with her Canine Noise Phobia Series.  According to her website Positively.com, “The Canine Noise Phobia Series (CNP) is a 4-CD compilation of specialized audio recordings and innovative training protocols specifically designed to reduce and prevent noise phobias and anxiety in dogs.”

Pets suffering from consistent anxiety, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed by a veterinarian.  Never use prescription medication for a pet without first consulting their veterinarian to check for side effects or possible medication interaction with other prescriptions.

So many times in a pet's life, we wish they could just talk to us and tell us what is bothering them, but unfortunately, that is just not the case. Thankfully, with a patience and reassurance we can help our pets overcome their anxiety to live happy, stress free lives! 

 
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