Understanding (And Helping) Pet Anxiety

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It’s an all too common scene: you arrive home from work, tired, but happy to relax and unwind with your favorite furry friend. But what greets you instead is a couch chewed to smithereens, or a fresh urine spot on the carpet. Welcome home!

It can be natural to think that your dog is angry with you or that your cat is trying to teach you a lesson when they exhibit these behaviors, but in reality, it’s likely that fear, anxiety, and stress are the root causes.

Fear and anxiety are common contributing factors in behavioral problems in pets. Learn how to spot the signs of pet anxiety and steps to take to help your furry best friend.

Behavioral Signs

Some of the signs of pet anxiety are obvious, such as hiding or trembling. But sometimes it’s up to us to recognize their behaviors. Common forms of pet anxiety include:

  • Excessive vocalization
  • Pacing
  • House soiling (dogs) or outside the litter box (cats)
  • Unusual clinginess
  • Panting or drooling
  • Digging
  • Destructive behavior
  • Trying to escape out of doors, windows, or fences
  • Sudden aggression
  • Getting stuck in small places
  • Hiding
Common Causes of Pet Anxiety

Pet anxiety may be mild or severe. Depending on your pet’s anxiety, the following tips may help you both.

Life changes. Pets, especially cats, are creatures of habit and may become stressed by changes in the household. A move, a new partner, a new cat in the household, or even moving furniture around can cause anxiety in pets. Strive to keep their routines as stable as possible in times of change, and make changes as gradually as possible. Pro tip for managing stress in cats: multiple cat households should have one litter box per cat, plus one extra.

Noise anxiety. Holiday parties and visitors can be difficult for anxious pets. To combat this, set up a safe space for them in a separate room away from the noise. Include their bed and blanket, food, fresh water, toys, treats and a white noise machine or soft music. Another good tool is to give your pet some extra exercise ahead of a noisy event, so they will be more tired and relaxed.

Separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can be mild or severe. If your pet is missing you during the day, make sure he gets plenty of exercise before you leave and a mild greeting when you return. Give him some entertainment while you’re gone – a puzzle feeder and a sturdy chew toy could do the trick. You can hire a dog walking service or take your dog to doggy day care to give her some social interaction during the day.

How To Help Pet Anxiety

Be aware that most behavior problems don’t get better with time, and may actually worsen. If your pet is fearful, anxious, or stressed, please give us a call right away. We can examine your pet to rule out any medical causes of behavioral problems, and then work together to combat your pet’s fear and anxiety.

Sometimes, behavior modification training and/or pharmaceuticals are necessary to truly help pets with anxiety. Punishment, yelling, and scolding doesn’t help and can actually make matters worse. With time, patience, understanding and positive reinforcement training, pet anxiety can be eased.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns. Our team at Embrace Veterinary Care is here to help!

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