Anxiety in pets: an anxious dog hides behind a curtain.

At first glance it may seem that there is little for your pet to be worried about. They have a warm, safe home, a steady source of food, and a person that loves them very much. Anxiety in pets is a very real phenomenon, though, and MarketPlace Veterinary Hospital wants you to know how to recognize this and help your pet.

Anxiety in Pets, Manifested

Stress can show itself in different ways, but there are some telltale signs of anxiety in pets. Some signs that your pet may be affected can include:

  • Change in behavior
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Hiding more than normal or acting less social
  • Overgrooming or other obsessive behaviors
  • Loss of housetraining
  • Digestive upset
  • Destructive behavior
  • Increased vocalizations
  • Excessive panting 
  • Pacing or restlessness

Causes for Concern

Once you are suspicious that your pet may have anxiety, it is important to try to identify the source. In some cases there is more than one source. Common culprits include:

  • Separation anxiety—Pets may become a little dependent on the people in their home and become distressed when those people leave or they anticipate being left alone. 
  • Noise phobias—Loud noises like thunder, fireworks, or even less obvious one like household appliances may be a source of anxiety. 
  • Change—Many animals become anxious when their environment changes. This can happen during a move, travel, or changes in the home such as divorce, a new baby, or even remodeling.
  • Presence of a negative association—A bad experience may result in anxiety to a certain stimulus. A fall down the stairs may create anxiety around going down the stairs, or the scary sound of the smoke alarm may result in anxiety when the oven is turned on.
  • Interanimal issues—Pets in the same home don’t always get along, and some animals may bully, guard resources, or simply not like one another. This can result in stress for both animals.

How to Help

As a conscientious pet owner, when you recognize anxiety, you want to do something to help. 

Depending on the source of the problem, there are certainly some things that you can do and changes that you can make to help the issue. 

When combating anxiety in pets, consider the following suggestions:

  • Keep your own stress level managed (your anxiety levels affect your pet)
  • Work to desensitize and counter condition your pet to known stressors
  • Provide daily structured exercise
  • Use interactive and puzzle toys to provide mental stimulation
  • Consider the use of pheromones like Feliway and Adaptil to aid in stress reduction
  • Remove small stressors where you are able to so that the larger ones are less impactful
  • Try to keep your routine stable and predictable for your pet
  • Be sure there are plenty of resources (feeding stations, toys, resting areas, litter boxes) available to all pets in the home

Sometimes you may need a little help when it comes to managing anxiety in pets. If you are noticing signs of stress but don’t know how to help, our doctors are here for you. Please contact us so that we can help you to help your pet. A happy, stress free attitude is an important element of pet wellness care and helping your four-legged friend to thrive.