Everyone has dealt with fear and anxiety. In small doses, these emotions can help keep us safe and protect us from danger, but when these feelings overtake our lives, it can be problematic.
Unfortunately, our pets are no different. Anxiety in pets manifests differently than in humans, but the physiological effects are the same – nearly every system in the body is negatively impacted by long-term anxiety. Helping your pet manage their anxiety is key to their health and happiness.
Anxiety in Pets
Anxiety in pets can take many forms:
- Separation anxiety is common in pets and tends to manifest as destructive behavior, eliminating inside the home (or outside the litter box), attempting to escape, and excessive vocalization.
- Loud noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks, can trigger feelings of fear and anxiety in dogs. This may result in hiding, barking, or erratic behaviors, such as clawing at windows or doors, attempting to escape.
- Cats are creatures of habit who can become distressed at changes in their routine (e.g., introducing new pets or people to the family, moving to a new home, etc.). Anxious cats may hide more than usual, eliminate outside the litter box, experience digestive issues (vomiting), or groom themselves excessively.
Lend a Paw
It’s important to keep in mind that pets who suffer from anxiety are acting out of fear. Never yell, hit, threaten, or otherwise punish a pet for anxiety-related behaviors. This will only make the situation worse.
Similarly, try not to console your pet or make a big deal out of their anxiety, as this can be akin to “rewarding” your pet for their behavior.
Visit Your Veterinarian
For example, inappropriate elimination in cats may be the result of kidney or bladder stones or issues with the products you’re using in the litter box.
Change the scenario
If you know which noises or events trigger your pet’s anxiety, do your best to avoid those situations. Repeated exposure to a stimulus will only worsen your pet’s fear over time, so try to keep your pet away from the source of their anxiety until you and your veterinarian can develop a plan.
Enrich Their World
Keeping your pet safe is always the right thing to do, but life inside the same four walls can get boring and isn’t exactly “natural” for most pets. Boredom and lack of exercise can contribute to anxiety in pets, but, fortunately, this is an easy fix!
- Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise each day. A morning walk, a game of fetch, some time with a feather chaser, or even obedience classes are all excellent ways to burn calories and help calm your pet.
- Enrich your pet’s environment. Cats should have plenty of vertical spaces in which to climb and sleep, as well as ample hiding spots throughout the home. Pet-safe indoor plants, access to window viewing, food puzzles, and lots of fun toys (rotated regularly to keep interest) are all important.
- Take time each day to interact one-on-one with your pet, and make sure everyone else in the family does, as well. Pets thrive on our love and attention!
- In some cases, the use of calming pet hormones, such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs, can help create a calm, soothing environment for an anxious pet.
Don’t be afraid to seek help for serious anxiety or behavioral problems. Your veterinarian can help you develop a plan or refer you to a board-certified animal behaviorist. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact the staff at Mobile Vet M.D. with any questions or concerns.