Anxiety in Pets: Signs and Ways to Help

Posted January 14, 2021 by in Lifestyle

Although humans suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives, they have resources and tools to cope with or significantly reduce the symptoms. Our furry friends are no less prone to anxiety attacks. Sadly they are not able to express what’s plaguing them. Thankfully there are ways we can notice the symptoms and help. The first step is knowing how to distinguish between situational and behavioral anxieties.

Situational anxiety occurs when pets react to immediate triggers. It can be strangers, another dog’s barking or firecrackers. Behavioral anxiety is triggered by past experiences. For example, your animal can remember separation from the previous owner or cruel treatment. This anxiety is more complex and includes several subtypes: general (generalized) anxiety, separation, rescue/ former shelter, and illness-induced.

  • General anxiety covers the cases when the cause for anxiety can’t be clearly determined. Symptoms may be subtle, and you can mistakenly treat them as normal behavior. Pets with anxiety don’t demonstrate exacerbated signs of fear in specific contexts but exhibit low energy levels indicative of anxiety. If you notice that anxiety or apprehensive expectation lasts for around six months, your pet needs to see a veterinarian.
  • Separation anxiety. Symptoms may occur when you leave your pet for some time. Animals become upset and agitated as they don’t know if you will return.
  • Rescue/ former shelter anxiety happens when pets remember being abandoned and spending time in animal shelters.
  • Illness-induced anxiety is caused by various conditions. They include pre-diabetes, thyrotoxicosis, hypothyroidism, encephalitis, and vision or hearing loss.
  • Moving anxiety. If you recently moved to a new home, your pet may experience bouts of anxiety while they get used to their new surroundings.

What Are the Signs of Anxiety?

Anxiety usually manifests itself through body language and unusual behavior. Here are some examples of anxiety signals:

Whining or Barking

When your pet whines or barks continuously, it can be treated as a signal of inability to relax and calm down. 

Shaking or Trembling

Your pet’s body can react by shaking in a range of situations. However, tense muscles and shaking can also be caused by separation anxiety in pets.

Excessive Licking or Salivating

Too much stimulation causes excessive production of saliva, happening when animals are in a panic or feel like they are in a dangerous situation.

Reluctance to Go Outdoors

If your pet doesn’t want to go play outdoors, it means something has happened that caused unpleasant emotions or fear. 

Urination or Defecation in Inappropriate Places

Episodes of anxiety may be followed by bouts of diarrhea or urination. It can be especially evident if your pet is well-trained and always does its business in appropriate places. 

How Can You Help?

  • Rule out any medical conditions. For example, a number of medical issues can cause urinary incontinence in dogs. Make sure to visit your veterinarian to rule out medical issues.
  • Rule out any behavioural problems such as submissive or excitement urination or juvenile destruction.
  • Do not scold or punish your pet. Anxious behaviour is a distress response, not the result of spite or disobedience.
  • Be mindful of any medications and supplements your pet may be on. 
  • Desensitisation and counterconditioning are common methods, but they are tricky to carry out. You need help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB).
  • For dogs, crate training can also be helpful if they learn that the crate is their safe place to go when left alone. 
  • Giving your dog a lot of physical and mental stimulation can also be helpful. 
  • Try CBD oil for anxiety. CBD and Hemp are known to have a calming effect on the nerves, thus reducing nervous behavior. It is a natural drug-free supplement that won’t make your dog high. Bottled CBD oils with droppers are great options because they make it easy to measure the right dose, but you can also try CBD-infused chews and treats. For more information about CBD for animals, visit cbdclinicals.

If your pet suffers from anxiety, it’s good to know the symptoms and the difference between situational and behavioral anxieties so you can best help your fur baby stay calm, relaxed, and happy.

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*Photos by Samson Katt