Looking at Pet Anxiety

October 7th, 2019

Anxiety in pets is somewhat common with many cases related to separation, noise or attached to a specific phobia. It is a feeling of distress that animals, much like humans, may experience in response to various triggers.

It is important to be able to indicate whether your pet is being destructive and acting out as a result of bad behaviour or if it is related to anxiety. Animals can express many indicators of anxiety or distress with some toileting in the house, pacing, digging, trying to escape or excessive barking. Other changes in your pets behaviour that may indicate anxiety include:

  • Excessive licking of lips
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hiding
  • Tail tucked between their legs
  • Inappropriate panting
  • Wrinkled expressions
  • Excessive yawning
  • Turning away
  • Crouching
  • Being hypervigilant
  • Sudden disinterest in food

Note that every animal is different and may show only a few or all of these signs.

There are many different causes when it comes to pets and anxiety, with each having a different impact on the pet. Some causes of anxiety are:

  • Illness or physical injury increases anxiety
  • Fear from a terrible experience that happened in their past
  • Lack of social and environmental exposure when they were young can grow in to a fear later on in life and cause anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Separation

Treating Anxiety
Your pet’s anxiety can be treated in a number of ways, some relating to a specific cause of the behaviour. Many pets will become anxious as they can feel their owner is stressed out, therefore the more relaxed around your pet you are, the better off they will be. This should be done all the time around your pet as they will feed off your emotions and behaviour. Separation anxiety is one of the main causes in pets; this can be overcome with a range of different treatments. Firstly, by having a daily routine of feeding, play and exercise, your pet will have a sense of normality and won’t be as worried when you leave to go to work. Secondly, noise cues such as your keys jingling or the door shutting will lead them to associate that with you leaving them and therefore start to stress. Try to do these cues regularly in order to desensitise your pet so they don’t associate the noise with anything. Treats are also your best options when it comes to pets and anxiety. You can positively reward your pet by asking them to be “calm” and give them a treat when they are fully relaxed. This also means that you don’t reward your pet or try to distract them with treats when they are visibly stressed or anxious.


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the writer. Content published here does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Petcover.

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