The Truth About Pet Anxiety
Like us, animals feel emotions. Triggered by specific stimuli, emotional responses and physical behaviors can often be predicted. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pets that we share our lives with can experience emotions similar to our very own feelings, including chronic and acute psychological conditions.
Pet anxiety is just one example. For many owners, it can feel insurmountable, but it doesn’t have to be.
All the Things
Pets enjoy the company of the people that care for them. They typically follow us around or jump on our laps during movie night. However, when we have to leave the house for any period of time, pet anxiety is not an uncommon result.
Loneliness, boredom, depression, and restlessness are typical side effects of a pet feeling left out. While pet owners may see signs of withdrawal (like hiding), sudden lack of energy, or uncharacteristic behaviour, other symptoms of pet anxiety may include:
- Excessive vocalization
- Destructive behavior
- Frantic pacing, whining, soiling, chewing or digging
- Under or overgrooming
What Am I Going to Do?
Pet owners can feel overwhelmed by symptoms of pet anxiety, especially if they seem to manifest overnight. Often, there is a root cause for pet anxiety.
The first rule of thumb is to rule out medical conditions or health challenges that can cause problematic behaviors in pets. Suddenly peeing inside the house can be caused by other illnesses, such as bladder infections, and excessive grooming can be caused by allergies. Once we know your pet’s symptoms aren’t the result of a condition, we can move forward.
How to Manage Pet Anxiety
Depending on the severity of your pet’s symptoms, the following ideas may help both of you:
- Increase physical exercise
- Play together before you have to leave or prior to upsetting events, like fireworks displays, block parties, and if possible, storms.
- Provide occupying toys in your absence, but be sure they can be chewed apart (this can present choking risks or dangers to the GI system).
- Try not to amp up your departure or arrivals. Stay as neutral as possible and your pet will eventually react in kind.
- Hire a dog walker or pet sitter to check on your pet in the middle of the day. An opportunity to play and run around can make all the difference.
- Some pet owners find that after the adoption of another pet, symptoms of pet anxiety decrease. Certainly, a deep bond can be formed between household pets, but it’s best not to rely on this to eradicate pet anxiety.
When You Need More
Sometimes pet anxiety requires professional help and guidance. Often, anxiety medication is prescribed to relieve some of the symptoms. With time, patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement training, pet anxiety can be conquered. Remember, scolding or punishment don’t work and can even make symptoms worse.