Did you know that March is the official Pet Anxiety month?
Our pets can suffer with anxieties, just like we can. Coming from our experience of having two lovely dogs who suffer from anxiety, we know that it can be hard dealing with these issues day in day out so it is important that everyone knows you’re not alone. March is pet anxiety awareness month, with this in mind we wanted to raise awareness of the problems anxiety can cause and the various methods we can use to help our pets to relax.
There are many reasons that our pets may feel nervous, and of course when our pets are apprehensive about something, it causes us concern too. Pets often feel worried by separation from their owners, scary noises, changes at home, meeting new people or animals – the list is pretty much endless as some fears can be completely random and caused by a one off event.
Pets express anxiety in many ways and some can be quite obvious while others may be suppressed as much as possible. You may notice a small change in their behavior such as not wanting to visit certain areas of the house, grooming more or a change in the way they play. Some symptoms you are unable to miss such as destruction of toys and bedding, toileting in the house, vocalization or hiding.
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive barking
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
The rule of thumb is if you notice any change in your pet’s behavior it’s a good idea to see a vet to rule out any health issues first that may have caused the change, and if anxiety is the reason then it is advisable to get guidance from a vet behaviorist or a certified canine behaviorist (positive reinforcement and force free trainers only) on what to do next.
Here is what you can do to prepare for your consultation:
- Document or video record the incident that caused your pet to react or feel anxious. Take several videos, however, don’t put your pet in a situation just to record it as you want to minimize their daily stress level.
- Describe your pet’s daily routine, food intake, interactions etc.
- Describe when you first noticed the symptoms and how did you react or helped your pet?
- If your pet is taking any medication, it is worth mentioning that too.
Your dog’s behaviorist will gather all necessary information and will discuss the management plan as well as any behaviour modification plan to help both of you. In some severe cases medication will be recommended which will be prescribed by a vet. Other herbal remedies may be recommended for less severe cases.
Things you can do to help your pet in the meantime:
- Avoid situations that cause anxiety. When we human or animals experience stress, our body secretes a stress hormone called Cortisol. High levels of cortisol can be very harmful in the long run. It usually takes 72 hours for cortisol level to reduce so imagine what your dog or cat is going through.
- Consider playing some classical music when you leave home
- Take a break. For instance, if your dog is reactive when they are on walks. Perhaps take a break from walking in those peak hours or stop all together and introduce your dog to some enrichment games. If you must go for a potty break, consider driving away to a quieter spot.
- Allow them some rest time. There is such a thing as too much. For instance, dogs that go to daycare every day for hours and hours can experience stress. Not every ‘tired dog’ is a happy day.
Like humans, many pets will experience anxiety at some point throughout their lives. Although not all pets will have anxiety that leads to a diagnosable anxiety disorder, it’s important to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment options involved with pet’s anxiety. Understanding these important facets can help you, as an owner, know the best ways to help your pet in anxiety-inducing situations. So, don’t forget to consult your vet or a behaviorist.