10 Ways to Control Pet Stress and Anxiety
Pets are like people — we say and hear this all of the time, but do we really believe it? If you don’t believe that pets are truly like people, then now is the time to start. Not only do pets need good nutrition and fitness like human friends, but they also need good mental and emotional healthcare, too.There are three types of anxiety pets typically experience: general fear, separation anxiety, and anxiety due to aging and health concerns. By understanding that pet stress and anxiety is real and where it comes from, you help your pet feel safe and calm!
1) Recognize the Symptoms of Pet Stress & Anxiety
It’s impossible to control pet stress and anxiety if you don’t recognize the symptoms of when your pet is stressed or anxious. Common signs a pet is suffering from stress or anxiety include:
- Fidgeting or restlessness
- Repetitive behavior
- Atypical destructive behavior
- Panting and / or drooling
- Regressive bathroom habits
While many of these symptoms may be linked to other health problems, they are also indicative of stress and anxiety and should be discussed with a veterinarian.
2) Identify the Source of the Stressor
When you do notice signs of stress and anxiety in your dog or cat, consult your veterinarian. Then, figure out the source of the stress. Is there a new person at home? New work hours? New job? New pet? Whatever the issue, figure out what is new and when the issues started, so you can address them.
3) Address the Issue
In some instances, it’s possible to address stress triggers. Typically, these are scenarios your pet will encounter throughout their life such as encountering other animals, being around people, enduring a thunderstorm, etc. Behavioral therapy can help counter-condition your pet’s response in these situations. It takes time, but with time, patience and consistency, your pet will eventually reverse their anxious response to the negative stimuli and will better be able to cope in previously stressful situations.
4) Avoid Triggers
On the reverse of that, there are some triggers that should be avoided if possible. These triggers include things that your pet should not have to learn to cope with…such as hearing fireworks explosions. Likewise, if your pet does not enjoy riding in the car, then do not take them around town with you if the only time they ever really need to ride in the car is to visit the vet once or twice a year. Importantly, not all stress triggers can be avoided, nor can all pets be conditioned to tolerate them. Use your judgement and your pet’s response to determine which course of action is best for you and your pet.
5) Talk to the Vet
While medications aren’t the right solution for all forms of anxiety and stress, there are many medications available that can help you calm a stressed or anxious pet. Talk to your veterinarian about pet medications that are safe and how they can help your pet.
6) Natural Regimens
Many homeopathic and natural regiments that pet owners claim are useful in helping their pets are the same ones that people use such as valerian root, chamomile, etc., have been shown to be useful in relieving pet stress and anxiety. However, it is important to note that these methods are often unregulated, and you should always consult your veterinarian prior to self-administering any kind of new therapy and read about risks and side effects.
7) Experiment with Pheromone Therapy
Given their extraordinary sense of smell, it makes sense that pheromone therapy could be effective in helping dogs and cats manage stress. Originally created to help with pet aggression and negative behaviors, researchers later observed that pheromones helped animals relax in all kinds of stressful situations—moving to a new home, visiting the vet, coping with a thunderstorm, dealing with fireworks, etc.
8) Use the Healing Power of Touch
Physical touch can be incredibly soothing for a distressed pet. Just by softly stroking your pet’s fur and speaking softly and calmly, you can help with stress and anxiety in situations where your pet might be afraid or confused.
9) Play Gentle Music
Classical music as well as music specifically created for pets (there is one series called “Through a Dog’s Ear”) played before or during an event that triggers stress and anxiety in your pet can help to make the experience more bearable for them.
10) Exercise and Eat Well
Fitness and overall health and wellness are incredibly beneficial for improving an animal’s stress response. Animals that are stimulated through exercise are better able to focus and to manage their response in stressful situations. What’s more, they sleep more solidly. Meanwhile, a healthy diet gives your pet the energy and the stamina for regular fitness as well as to cope with situations and triggers that induce stress and anxiety.
Pet stress and anxiety are real, but there are many ways to help control it. At Wellness Pet Food, we try to do our part not only by educating pet owners but also by creating a broad selection of natural dog and cat foods that help your pet achieve overall wellness physically, mentally and emotionally.