Last year, veterinary health company Ceva launched Pet Anxiety Awareness Month as an opportunity to educate pet owners on the causes of animal stress. So, in a bid to support their mission, here are some tips to help you restore an anxious pet back to their old, happy self.
Causes of stress in cats and dogs
Looking at our pets, it’d be hard to imagine they’d suffer from any stress. Their lives seem so easy! But certain situations can often make our furry friends uncomfortable, especially when they involve a change in their routine: moving home, introducing a new pet or baby, travelling in a car or the presence of guests. Dogs in particular struggle with having to spend long periods of time alone while multi-cat households can be a big stresser for our felines.
Some signs your pet may be stressed or suffering from anxiety:
- Digestive issues (diarrhoea, constipation)
- Decreased appetite
- Increased need to sleep
- Aggressive behaviour
- Excessive barking (dogs)
- Excessive grooming (cats) or lip-licking (dogs)
- Urinating outside their litter tray (cats)
- Walking with their tail between their legs (dogs)
Tips to soothe a stressed-out pet
- Identify the root cause of stress: Look around you – has anything changed recently? Your neighbour’s new cat or the construction works next door could be what is making your pet anxious. Finding the trigger will help you address the problem.
- Stick to a routine: Like us, pets are creatures of habit and find great comfort in their daily routines. Establishing regular times for meals and walks will help provide stability in their lives.
- Promote a calm environment: In a recent study published in ScienceDirect, researchers found that dogs can read angry human faces, which suggests our feelings and behaviour can have an effect on our pets. And although few of us can claim to be Zen all the time, it’s good to keep this in mind.
On the other hand, pheromone-based products can help us prepare for events that we know will unsettle our pets, like parties, vet visits or fireworks. Pheromone support is available as home diffusers, sprays or collars, and these products work by releasing a synthetic pheromone which helps our pets feel calmer.
If your pet suffers with anxiety, we would recommend you give Feliway or Adaptil a try (for cats and dogs respectively). In addition, a calming supplement such as Zylkène can also be given for added support. Please be mindful that, for some pets, products alone may not ease them completely. Combine them with the tips in this article to make challenging situations more bearable.
- Provide a place to retreat: Having access to a quiet room, a hiding spot under a bed or their favourite cosy corner can give pets a sense of security. This could be any area in the home where your pet can be alone and undisturbed. Many pet owners use a pet crate as a secure place for their dog.
- Ensure your pets get regular exercise: Activities like walking or playing are great stress relievers. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins: feel-good chemicals that reduce our perception of pain.
- Seek professional help: If your pet isn’t improving with these tips, an animal behaviourist could help you find out what’s wrong as well as teach you mechanisms to help your pet relax. The Animal Behaviour and Training Council site (ABTC) gives recommendations for accredited professionals across the UK.