How does stress affect animals?

Stress related illnesses in animals aren’t as uncommon as you’d think. Here are a few tips on reducing your pet’s anxiety.

15th February 2016

You might be surprised to hear that it’s not only humans who suffer from stress related illness, but that our furry friends can suffer from stress related conditions too.

Some animals, particularly rescued pets, may have had a traumatic start in life, causing them anxiety later on.

Even wild animals can suffer from stress related illnesses. Take Derek the hedgehog, for example. After being rescued by Herts Hogline, Derek was diagnosed with stress related alopecia after losing almost all of his spines. He was found wandering in a back garden at just three weeks old, weighing only 3oz (87g).

A hedgehog with alopecia

Herts Hogline treated Derek for an infected wound, thought to be cause by a bird attack, when he was diagnosed with the condition. Thankfully, once Derek has made a full recovery and is rehomed in a suitable environment, his spines should begin to grow back.

A hedgehog with alopecia

Stress related hair loss has previously been observed in cats, dogs, humans and even bears, but this is the first the team at Animal Friends has heard of it happening to a hedgehog.

A hedgehog with alopecia

How to protect your pet from stress related illnesses

There are a number of ways to keep your pet’s coat healthy, including providing Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in their diet, giving them fresh meat and vegetables for antioxidants and phytonutrients, and also making sure they have access to fresh, clean water. But how can you treat a stress related illness?

Alopecia is commonly treated with shampoos, lotions or antibiotic therapy. If these medicines don’t work, your pet’s hair loss may be caused by stress.

To reduce the anxiety in your pet’s life, you can take the following steps:

Ensure they have a safe environment

Pets need a safe haven they can retreat to if everything becomes too much. You can provide this by giving them a warm place to sleep, away from the usual sounds of the house, where they have access to fresh water. You can also give them softer bedding or more padding to ensure their skin is comfortable.

Giving them ample exercise

Your pet could be stressed due to a lack of exercise or boredom. Making sure that your dog is walked at least once a day and that your cat has access to the outside or an appropriate amount of room inside can reduce boredom and keep your pet fit and healthy.

Increase stimulants

Providing your pet with toys is a great way to reduce boredom and increase stimulation. Providing them with toys, especially puzzle games, can take their mind away from the thing causing them stress. If your dog is suffering from stress, you can even try teaching them tricks and obedience to keep them occupied.

If you have any concerns about your pets health and are unsure how to treat them, always visit your local vets as soon as possible.

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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Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.