We all know stress can be taxing, exhausting, and an all around downer on our day. The upside is that it’s usually easy to pinpoint the source of our anxieties. When it comes to our fur-babies, identifying the reason behind their woe can be a bit trickier. Take a closer look at pets’ stress: the causes, effects, and what owners can do to help.
Common Causes of Pets’ Stress
Wouldn’t life be simpler if our dogs and cats could send us a text letting us know what’s wrong? Unfortunately, puzzling out behavioral issues is more complicated. Dogs, cats, and exotics are great at hiding problems. The experts at Tipp City Veterinary Hospital are here to offer solutions for our Ohio pet parents and the fur-children they love.
1.) Separation Anxiety
Our pets love us as much as we love them. However, some animals struggle with separation more than others. Separation anxiety is a common cause of stress in dogs and even some cats. This type of behavior can occur when owners leave for an extended period of time or simply whenever a pet parent goes off to work. Dealing with the bad behaviors of an anxious dog or cat is a challenge for even the most patient of pet owners.
Separation anxiety is often apparent in dogs from their destructive behavior. Chewing, digging, and escaping are just some ways to tell when a pet is stressed out. Excessive howling and barking, as well as pottying indoors, are also signs that a pet may not be coping well with separation.
In cats, similar behaviors include urinating, scratching furniture, and meowing or wailing frequently. Even exotics can struggle with missing their human. Avians, for example, can become antisocial and snippy or engaging in repetitive behaviors such as pacing the floor of the cage.
Travel, whether long or short distances, is a sure way to stress any pet out. Car rides are full of strange noises, smells, and scary movement! A road trip or a move can be an especially challenging transition for animals who aren’t used to travel. If traveling overseas, a plane voyage may sometimes be necessary, albeit stressful for dogs and cats.
It’s no surprise that pets hold a special place in their hearts for vet visits. No one likes being loaded into a car or carrier only to be poked and prodded! Cats are often the quickest to hide once a carrier is brought out, but dogs are equally good escape artists. Small pets aren’t fond of being handled by strangers. New smells and noises cause even the tiniest of fur-babies to avoid an annual wellness check. Caring for the health and well-being of a skittish animal provides owners with a unique set of challenges when it comes to managing stress alongside being proactive in care.
3.) Loud Noises
Fireworks are the bane of many pets’ holidays! The 4th of July and New Years are major stress days for animals that don’t cope well with loud, sudden noises. If our pets only stressed twice a year, it might be a bit easier to help them through their anxieties. Unfortunately, many animals despise loud noises on a daily basis, making it far more difficult to manage skittish, neurotic behaviors.
Thunder is one of the primary culprits, triggering responses such as shaking, whining, and pacing. Some pets can become so terrified that they escape yards and fences. Outdoor/indoor cats may become disoriented and, in the worst of cases, run away and lose their sense of direction when it’s time to return home.
4.) Moving and Lifestyle Changes
Moved to a new house? Taken a new job? Changed the daily walking schedule? Companion animals are creatures of habit. Routines help our pets to feel safe and secure. Unfortunately, deviation from the norm is sometimes necessary. Abrupt changes can cause our pets to feel stressed, scared, and anxious. In these cases, destructive or unusual behavior is a common reaction.
Managing Pets’ Stress
No one likes to see their best furry friend in distress. Luckily, there are many ways owners can help their pets cope. Explore possible solutions and make note of tips that work best for your pet. Savvy owners may need to test a few strategies before settling on a tried and true protocol.
1.) Distract and Diffuse
Diverting a dog or cat’s attention is one of the best ways to keep pets from becoming anxious. Try a variety of toys, exercise, and environmental stimuli to keep your pet from going stir crazy. Daily walks, runs, and bike rides are especially critical in managing separation anxiety in dogs. A tired out pup is far more likely to sleep the day away while his or her human is at work. Destructive behavior is often driven by too much energy, which in turn becomes anxiety. Providing your dog with interactive toys like peanut butter filled KONG’s and squeakers to engage your pup’s senses are the best way to distract and conquer anxiety.
For cats, try scratching posts and catnip bubbles. Don’t forget the little ones! Small pets and exotics need a constant rotation of chews and toys to keep their brains active and their moods calm.
2.) Behavior Modification
Tipp City Veterinary Hospital offers a comprehensive, individualized approach to behavior modification. Our canine experts believe in positive reinforcement. Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Tara Fisher, focuses on identifying triggers and eliminating destructive behavior caused by anxiety. This includes socialization training, inappropriate elimination, unwanted chewing, desensitization to vet visits and travel, and more! Training is a great way to ensure your pet feels safe and secure, even when you can’t be there.
3.) Holistic Calming
Prior to traveling with a skittish pet, it’s a good idea to consider holistic supplements that calm and soothe anxious nerves. Sprays and medications are both available to assist. Consult with your vet on the best possible solution for your pet’s stress.
4.) Routine and Consistency
The best way to prepare your pet for stressful situations is to be proactive. Get your dog or cat used to their crate so it’s not a surprise when it’s time for a vet visit. Always reward pets for spending time in their crate and consider crate training so that the animal comes to associate the kennel as a place of safety. For added measure, place security blankets, old t-shirts, and anything that smells like home inside to create a comfy atmosphere.
Avians and exotics will benefit greatly from daily handling. Allow different people to handle small pets so that the animal becomes accustomed to different scents. This can make a huge difference when it’s time for a vet trip! Be sure to handle your pet’s feet and toes to make nail clipping less stressful.
With a little time and patience, you and your pet can stress less and enjoy more tail wagging, purring, and feather flapping. Got questions? Our experts are here to help. Contact us today for more tips and info on keeping your pet healthy and happy!