Many pets deal with fear, anxiety, and stress during their everyday lives, and these uncomfortable mental states can kick into high gear, especially during fireworks, thunderstorms, construction, or veterinary visits. Since the majority of pets experience anxiety at some point, what’s the big deal? People suffer through stress on a daily basis, between juggling the kids’ extra-curricular activities, work meetings, and dashing through the grocery store, and we seem to cope, so why can’t pets do the same? While we’ve convinced ourselves stress is a normal part of daily life, chronic stress in pets can take a mental, physical, and emotional toll that can lead to a variety of physical ailments—does high blood pressure ring a bell?—and decrease their quality of life.
Since stress has such a weighty effect on your furry pal’s health and well-being, take action to reduce your pet’s fear, anxiety, and stress, for a happier, healthier companion. Follow these simple methods to help your pet cope with everyday stressors, and those one-off situations that can turn your pal into a puddle of quivering nerves.
#1: Learn to identify fear, anxiety, and stress signals in your pet
Without knowing the common signs that fearful, stressed, and anxious pets exhibit, your four-legged friend may be silently suffering. Learn to identify your pet’s subtle distress cues to help reduce their anxiety. Common clues include:
- Heavy panting
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive vocalization
- Yawning when not tired
- Refusal to take treats
- Excessive shedding
- Inability to rest
- Inappropriate elimination
- Destructive behavior
While some of these cues can easily be confused with a lack of house-training or normal puppy teething, the entire situation must be considered to accurately diagnose fear, stress, and anxiety. For example, your elderly cat who has suddenly started urinating outside the litter box with no household changes may have developed a urinary tract issue or kidney disease. Or, if you recently welcomed home a hyperactive puppy who constantly harasses your cat, and you’ve begun discovering puddles of urine outside the litter box, your cat likely has become highly stressed and may be suffering from idiopathic cystitis.
#2: Determine your pet’s stressors and take steps to avoid them
Although no one can avoid all potential stressful situations, you can take steps to minimize the number of anxiety-inducing scenarios for your pet. If you know the day of your neighborhood’s annual July Fourth fireworks display, for example, create a cozy haven for your pet to ride out the cacophony and bright lights. If your dog doesn’t like meeting other dogs on walks, hike in a secluded area, or cross the road when out walking.
#3: Teach your stressed pet coping methods
Stressful situations are a natural part of life, but teaching your pet coping methods can help reduce their anxiety and greatly alleviate their discomfort. For example, many cats are afraid of their carrier, because they only see it once per year, and associate it with unpleasant activities. Instead, leave the carrier out year-round, outfitted with a cozy bed and special treats, to create a positive association. If your dog focuses too intently on strange dogs, barking and lunging, teach them to focus on you instead.
#4: Use stress-relieving aids to help your pet relax
We may drink a cup of chamomile tea to relax, and likewise, your pet can also benefit from stress-relieving aids. Some popular options include:
- Calming supplements
- Pheromone therapy, like Feliway and Adaptil
- Compression wraps, such as a Thundershirt
- Calming probiotics, like Purina Calming Care
- Prescription diets
Often, a multimodal treatment plan is the best way to achieve the greatest results. While a single calming supplement may not reduce your pet’s storm fear, adding a Thundershirt may be icing on the cake for comforting your worried furry friend.
#5: Ask LaGrange Veterinary Hospital for help with your pet’s fear
If your furry pal is suffering from an unmanageable amount of fear, anxiety, or stress, they need professional help. Your LaGrange veterinarian is your best resource for helping ease your pet’s nerves. Left unchecked, a stressed cat can develop painful idiopathic cystitis that can be difficult to manage, or a dog’s anxiety can escalate, potentially damaging your home or themselves. Pets affected by severe anxiety benefit from a multimodal treatment plan designed to reduce their stress, and create new neural pathways based on a calm mindset. We may prescribe long-term anti-anxiety medications, immediate stress-reducing medications, calming supplements, prescription diets, or a veterinary behaviorist referral.
No matter your pet’s level of fear, stress, and anxiety, a treatment plan is available to help your best friend live a comfortable, happy life. Call us to schedule a behavior evaluation.