How to diagnose and treat anxiety and stress in pets

You might have started to notice changes in your pet’s behaviour, or you want to know what to look for in case your dog suffers from anxiety or stress in the future. What are the symptoms and how do you treat stress and anxiety?

19th January 2019

You might have started to notice changes in your pet’s behaviour, or you want to know what to look for in case your dog suffers from anxiety or stress in the future. Sometimes they might just be having a down day but at times it can mean there is a bigger issue involved.

Recognising the signs and knowing how to manage your pet’s stress is key to making sure your dog or cat is, and remains, happy.


What causes anxiety in pets?

There are quite a lot of reasons why your pet may be stressed or anxious, some more difficult to recognise than others.

  • Separation anxiety, when their owner leaves the house or room
  • A change in routine as dogs thrive on routine, from meal times to walkies
  • A change in their environment, eg. new house, new pet or baby, etc
  • Not enough mental stimulation to keep their mind occupied and reduce stress
  • Too much noise can overwhelm our pets
  • Fear following a negative experience, so from an injury or illness to a bad meeting with another animal
  • Even ageing can cause anxiety and stress in your pet

What are the signs that my pet is anxious or stressed?

From Chihuahuas to border collies, there are a number of telltale signs that your dog or cat might be suffering from stress or anxiety. Sometimes it can be difficult to detect any changes in your pet’s behaviour especially if they’re subtle but it’s important to take notice and be present.

  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Unusual urinating or defecating in the house
  • Licking their lips repeatedly
  • Yawning (yep, sometimes it doesn’t mean they’re tired)
  • Hunching or tucking their tail between their legs
  • Ears pinned back
  • Aggression toward people or other animals
  • Increased sleeping or isolation
  • Excessive grooming or scratching

Top tips to help a stressed pet

It’s best to speak to your vet about the changes in your pet’s behaviour as they’ll be able to provide you with some information and even medicine if needed but there may be some things you can do yourself to help your pet.

1.    Identify the causes of stress

By identifying the cause of your pet’s anxiety and stress you might be able to completely eliminate the issue or at least begin to address the problem.

For example if your dog suffers from separation anxiety you might think it’s a good idea to get another dog for company, although this can sometimes make things worse.

Instead, it might be worth asking your employer if you could work from home oryour dog could come into work with you some days, or look into hiring a dog sitter.

2.    Make sure to exercise your pet, mentally and physically

This is incredibly important, never underestimate the power that a dog walk or an electronic cat toy can have on your pet’s mental health. These are great stress reducers for our pets while helping us humans destress, too.

3.    Boost their confidence with praise

You know that feeling when someone tells you you’ve done a good job of something? Well, pets (maybe dogs more than cats) like that too. Reward your pet for good behaviour and this will boost their self-confidence.

4.    Provide your pet with a safe space

Giving your pet a space to call their own can really help with their happiness. If things get too much, they’ll be able to find comfort in their safe space. So, consider using a crate for your dog and a den for your cat.

You’ll be able to add some other comforts to their space, like security blankets or their favourite toys. You might be able to create a safe space by simply leaving the radio or television on for them while you’re out.

Each pet is different, and their stresses and anxiety will be caused by different factors. You know your dog or cat best so make sure to jot down the changes in your pet’s behaviour as it can come in handy when you visit the vet with your concerns.

Some pet insurers won’t provide cover for any costs arising from any vicious tendencies or behaviour problems shown by your pet so make sure you read your policy documents and understand the exclusions.

Need help with a stressed pet?

YuMOVE Calming Care could help your pet feel more relaxed, soothe stress and encourage calm behaviour.

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