Animals may suffer from anxiety for various different reasons, but you’ll likely notice certain behaviors if your pet feels nervous or uneasy. For instance, excessive panting or pacing may be a sign that your dog has anxiety, other characteristics like aggression, constant barking, or other destructive tendencies. Common domesticated animals like cats and dogs feel anxious over being left alone, too many people around, and loud noises.
Different Types of Stressors
The most common form of anxiety among household pets is their fear of separation. If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, he or she is more likely to break previous training sessions in response to being left alone. This could mean your pet has an accident inside while you are away, or destroys items that are left around as a way to keep him occupied. When pets are stressed, many resort to repetitive and calming actions as a way to relieve their anxiety. For dogs, they may chew a pair of shoes or dig into carpet, and cats tend to excessively groom or meow when stressed. The key to treating your pet’s separation anxiety is to notice when he or she acts differently, and what situations may indicate this stress. Dogs and cats tend to take their feelings out on items by chewing and clawing at them because they feel lonely and anxious when their owner is not around.
Cats have an affinity for clawing things, making it difficult to leave them alone without fear that your furniture falls victim to scratch marks. It’s necessary for cat owners to offer attractive and appropriate scratching posts that intrigue their pet and allow him to release energy properly. In an effort to stop cats from scratching, some owners declaw their cats, creating even more destructive behavior and takes away the cat’s ability to perform instinctual habits.
Dogs tend to be more social, and they begin to worry when left alone for long periods of time. It’s a stressful time for your dog as he wonders if or when, their owner will return—remember, our pets don’t have the same sense of time as humans do. To satisfy your dog’s natural instincts and exercise their jaws, leave a toy out while you’re away in order to prevent other objects (that aren’t meant for destruction) from becoming his next chew toy.
Anxiety Around Crowds
Some pets may not be stressed when left alone, but instead, have anxiety when they are surrounded by a lot of people or other animals. This type of stress is a bit more alarming, since dogs or cats may act aggressively out of fear when they feel uncomfortable in a situation. This is often referred to as a form of social anxiety in animals and may be caused by a lack of socialization when a pet is younger. For instance, cats that aren’t exposed to other felines while they are still young might have trouble interacting with other cats when they are adults.
Additionally, dogs that haven’t been well socialized may be fearful when they see other dogs or unfamiliar people. If you notice that your pet is uncomfortable, you should remove him from the situation and give him some time to calm down. Many people try to help animals get over their fears by putting them in a social setting, in an effort to get them acquainted with other pets and people. However, this may not be the best practice, as it overstimulates your pet depending on how anxious he is around other animals and humans. You should only expose your pet to a stressful stimulus slowly, and carefully, over a period of time to desensitize him to that environment.
Anxiety Related to Noise
Loud sounds, like fireworks, thunderstorms, or even vacuum cleaners cause some pets to feel threatened or frightened in their own home. As a reaction to their anxiety, your pet may run and hide when spooked by a loud noise, or they may tremor, shake, or pace if the sound continues for a period of time. This is particularly difficult to handle if your pet becomes alarmed while on a walk, or outside of their standard setting. It’s not entirely clear what causes an animal’s fear of loud noises, but it’s best to avoid situations with your pet if you anticipate that loud sounds may be present.
What You Can Do to Alleviate Your Pet’s Anxiety
There are medications that a veterinarian will prescribe to an animal for anxiety reduction, but more natural alternatives are available that you might like to consider trying first.
When it comes to anxiety, one of the best things to do for your pet is allow him or her to burn off energy. This is especially true for dogs, as they may be more prone to act out if they aren’t getting enough exercise. When humans engage in physical activity, their bodies release endorphins that are natural painkillers, which also alleviate stress and improve mood. The same is true for canines and felines, so when your pet is properly exercised, Fido is less likely to display symptoms of anxiety.
Just like it’s important to exercise your pet, it’s also necessary to keep him mentally stimulated in various ways. One of the best methods to keep a dog engaged is by teaching him new tricks or commands. During this interaction time, it creates a bond with your pet while simultaneously training him and helps him understand your relationship to one another. For cats, these pets are filled with curiosity and love playing with new toys, or mimicking a hunt for food to appease their natural predatory instincts.
For some pets, it may take more than proper exercise and attention to calm their anxiety. Natural dietary supplements are one option that provides stress relief and promote a functional nervous system. TranQuil tabs and chews can be given to your pet to enhance calm feelings with the use of ingredients like chamomile and passionflower. Other supplements, like CBD oil for pets, can also offer anti-anxiety benefits. Just make sure you are thoroughly researching any product before introducing it into your pet’s diet, and you may want to consult a vet for guidance.
Anti Anxiety Shirts
These garments have become increasingly popular among pet owners, mainly because they offer a drug-free alternative to aid in your pet’s anxiety. Anti-anxiety shirts wrap tightly around your pet, whether a dog or cat, to calm him by targeting pressure points along his back and sides. The gentle pressure that these shirts produce also release endorphins that improve your pet’s overall well-being.
Establish a Routine
For both dogs and cats, having a stable routine helps relieve some of their stress. Having a set schedule gives your pet a better understanding of when to expect you home, or when to expect to be fed or exercised. This works well in managing separation anxiety, as animals tend to be less anxious when they know their owner is coming back, even though they may be gone for the time being. A routine gives your pet structure in his life that allows for a more relaxed and secure disposition in various settings.
When implemented properly, crate training benefits animals that may otherwise feel stressed by travel or separation. Cats are not often kept in a crate while their owners are away, but this is a common strategy for many dog owners. Crate training allows for a dog to feel secure in his own personal space, a place to retreat to when stressed or anxious. However, it is important to remember that no animal is meant to be left in a crate for an extended period of time. If you plan for your dog to remain in his crate for hours at a time, you should also plan to walk or exercise your dog within a reasonable time frame.
Dealing with Your Pet’s Anxiety
As a whole, anxiety causes many hardships for pet owners that only want the best for their furry friend. The helpful methods outlined above are beneficial in order to manage your pet’s stress, and they are all natural alternatives to harsh medications. Although, you can always seek guidance from a veterinarian or behaviorist specialist if you are concerned about your pet’s anxiety. Also, spending quality time with your pet is the best way to foster a sense of companionship between you. When your pet feels confident in his caretaker, he’ll be less likely to feel stressed or anxious about other things.
About the Author
Melena is a staff writer for Remedy Review, where she aims to advance the well-being of people by informing readers about the natural health space.