stress and anxiety in pets

A guide to stress and anxiety in pets

A stressed cat or dog is a common concern and reason for a pet owner to visit their vet. Cats and dogs can react to stress and anxiety differently and each animal will develop the problem for their own reasons.

As a pet owner, it’s important to understand your pet’s behaviour and be able to recognise when they are not themselves or acting differently. The PDSA PAW 2018 report found that 18% of dog owners don’t think that their pet is scared of anything, compared to 11% of cat owners. There are many reasons why your pet may become stressed and at this time of year, fireworks can be a common cause of anxiety for pets. According to the PAW Report, reworks is one of the top 5 causes of stress for both cats and dogs, with 40% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners stating that their pets are scared of fireworks.

Common reasons that your pet may become stressed or anxious could include:stress and anxiety in pets

  • Fireworks, thunderstorms or loud noises
  • Vet visits
  • Travelling
  • Kennel or cattery stays
  • New pets or new family members • Multi-pet households
  • Separation anxiety
  • Moving home
  • Going on holiday

How to identify stress and anxiety in pets

To help to understand and reduce your pet’s stress and anxiety, there are common signs to look out for, these can include:

  • Trembling
  • Vocalisation – barking or whining
  • Scratching walls or furniture
  • Destroying property
  • Aggression to family members or other pets
  • Loss of appetite
  • They may choose to hide in an enclosed place like under a bed or in a den

Reducing stress and anxiety in pets

If you think that your dog or cat could be stressed, it’s important to tackle the problem and get to what is causing the stress. In some pet’s it could lead to other health problems, such as cystitis in cats. To help calm your pet during a stressful situation, there are some positive things that you can do, which include:

Create a safe zone  – Make sure your pet has a safe place to retreat to, should they become anxious.

Keep your routine  – Fixed routines can help to keep your pet calm. Any changes to your normal household routine can upset and stress your pet.

Distract your pet  – Use toys to keep your pet distracted and focused on something else.

Don’t shout at your pet  – If they do something wrong, don’t shout at them as it could cause further stress.

Plan ahead  – If you know a specific event, such as reworks or a trip to the vets could make your pet anxious, try to prepare ahead of the event.

Scratch posts  – Make sure that your cat has access to a scratch post to relieve boredom and anxiety. Stressful situations might make them scratch your furniture if they don’t have a suitable place to do it.

Multi-cat households  – If you have more than one cat, make sure that you have at least one litter box per cat. Ensure that they have somewhere to retreat to and get away from other pets.

Use music  – Play calming music if you have to leave your dog home alone, to help drown out external noise that could make them anxious.

Comfort your pet – Sit close to your pet and stroke them to try and keep them calm. Physical contact could help to make them feel safe and reduce their anxiety. If they prefer to be by themselves, let them wander off to nd a safe place to hide. Keep checking on them to make sure they are OK.

Training – If a trip in the car or being left alone causes your pet to have anxiety, you could train them to get used to these situations. Reward your dog with a treat and praise them when they respond positively to training.

High areas for cats – Provide high accessible areas for your cat, such as shelves or on top of furniture. This allows them to feel safe, while still being able to watch and feel included in the family.

Socialisation – If your dog is nervous of people or other dogs, training classes could help reduce anxiety during these occasions. Don’t lock your dog away when visitors come, as this will only add to their stress.

Stress & anxiety solutions

Natural supplements for stressed pets
Pet supplements, also known as nutraceuticals can help to reduce stress and anxiety for dogs and cats. The ingredients can have a number of significant bene ts to calm your pet. Make sure you get the right supplement/product for your pet, as some can take up to six weeks before the benefits are seen, whereas Vetpro stress & anxiety and Nutracalm are fast-acting. Other calming products on the market, include: Kalmaid, VetSpec Calm & Focussed, and VetHQ Serene-um.

Behaviour techniques
Your vet may be able to offer advice on behavioural management techniques, which could help to reduce stress for your pet. These techniques could include, positive reinforcement, advance of fear-provoking situations and situational awareness.

Aromatherapy
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and essential oils in a diffuser can be smelt immediately. Small batches of essential oils can help to calm and focus dogs during training as puppies, ease comfort during travel and reduce fear during thunderstorms or reworks.

Homeopathic therapy & flower essences
Homeopathic therapy and the use of flower essences along with other herbs has been used for medical purposes for hundreds of years. Flower essences are herbal infusions made from flowering pot plants. These can help to address emotional and mental wellness.

Plug-ins
Plug-in diffusers use slow release technology, which can include cat and dog appeasing pheromones to help keep pets calm in stressful situations and new environments.

Anxiety vests
An anxiety vest applies pressure to relieve anxiety, which is something that has been a common practice for years. They use gentle, constant pressure on a dog or cat’s torso.

If you suspect that your dog or cat may suffering from symptoms associated with stress and anxiety you should consult your vet. They will be best placed to offer advice and the best course of action for your pet in order to provide the highest long-term care.