What You Need to Know About Pet Anxiety
Pet owners know how lovable their cats and dogs are when they’re calmly lying by their side or happily playing with their toys. But sometimes your pets can become anxious, stressed out, or so overcome with fear that they become a completely different cat or dog.
It’s not only stressful for your pet to be in that situation, but it’s highly worrisome for pet owners, too.
To give your cat or dog the calming relief they’re searching for, we’re going to discuss what you need to know about pet anxiety.
Let’s start with a few basic definitions to get on the same page.
What’s the Difference Between Fear, Phobia, and Anxiety?
While the symptoms may seem similar, knowing the key differences between these three adverse reactions will help you best aid your pet.
Keep in mind that older pets may display more severe symptoms as their physical and mental capabilities decline and they feel more vulnerable to the stimuli in their environment.
Your pet may perceive or feel that a certain person or object is a potential threat to them. Naturally, your pet’s body will react accordingly and they will either freeze or go into flight-or-fight mode.
Some fear is useful; it helps your pet avoid or run away from dangerous situations like cars speeding in the street or encountering a rabid raccoon on your morning walk.
Signs of your pet being afraid include:
- Withdrawal, pacing, hiding
- Lethargic activity
The good news is that this type of fear can be unlearned with the right treatment activities.
Your pet may have experienced a traumatic event that caused him to become terrified of all triggers relating to that situation. Reliving that event now becomes a persistent fear or phobia.
For example, your cat may have been so stressed during a very loud thunderstorm that she now hides under the bed whenever it starts to rain especially hard. Or maybe you took your dog to a fireworks show at your local park and now he cowers whenever you walk near it.
Abused pets who have been locked in crates for long periods of time may have a fear of being trapped and will constantly be on the lookout for an exit plan (or be worried about one).
If your pet has anxiety, they’re anticipating future dangers, whether they’re present or just imagined. Their body will go through the physiologic reactions associated with impending doom, which include:
- Chewing, digging, destruction of property
- Urinating/defecating where they shouldn’t
- Excessive barking or crying
- Licking, biting themselves repeatedly
The most common type of anxiety experienced by pets is separation anxiety, which is when your pet becomes highly anxious or distressed when they’re not around you for protection.
Your pet may have a history of abandonment thanks to cycling through multiple owners and need your constant presence to assure them that they’re not being left behind.
Relaxation techniques, desensitization, and counterconditioning all work to reinforce positive associations and diminish negative ones. You can learn more about those here.
Don’t try to show affection or reassurance to your pet during one of these stressful times as they might see this as their behavior being rewarded.
Punishment will only increase the fear and anxiety and create new phobias.
If you think your pet may be going through any of these conditions, speak with your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will want to check for illnesses or painful physical conditions that may be contributing to your pet’s unusual behavior. Your vet may also prescribe medications to help your pet relax.
If you need help calming your cat or dog during inclement weather or long bouts of separation, you may want to give EcoBalance Extra-Strength Calming Formula a try.
Formulated with an all-natural blend of calming ingredients such as lemon balm, chamomile, valerian, passion flower, scullcap, and L-Theanine, your pet will feel a gentle, relaxing state of mind, without seeming ‘out of it’ like prescriptions tend to make animals. Perfect for cats and dogs, one bottle can last up to four months if used once per day.
Craig is a lifelong pet owner and dog advocate with a special interest in animal and human longevity. He founded Vet Organics to develop an affordable, all-natural, safe and effective ear infection remedy for his dog, Lucy, whose chronic ear problems could not be solved by the vet.