How to help your pet’s anxiety
Just like humans, your pets can suffer from anxiety and stress.
Pets feel stress naturally from time to time, but feeling too much stress, often, can lead to long-term problems like anxiety. There are a few different factors that will contribute to your pets feeling anxious: fear, their background, separation from owners or other dogs, lack of social mixing, and change of environment or routine are just some examples.
Being able to spot the triggers that cause your pet to feel anxious is important in helping them. Removing these triggers will make them can feel calmer and manage their stress.
Here is a list of things you can try to help your pet’s anxiety.
Supplements, plug-ins, diffusers or collars are just a few of the different calmers you can get to help your pets feel less anxious.
Plug-ins and diffusers can be used around the house to ensure your pet feels calm when they are at home.
Supplements can be given if your pet has separation anxiety and collars are great for when your pet is out and about.
If you have any concerns about calmers, please contact one of your local Willows branches.
Keeping your pet entertained at home is a perfect way to distract them from feeling anxious. It allows them to force their mind and energy on something fun, other than what is worrying them.
Puzzle toys (hiding treats), soft comfort toy, chew toys are all perfect toys to take their mind off what is going on, and they comfort them when they are stressed!
Leave these toys out if your pet is left alone in the house, so they will be distracted playing until you get home.
If your pet is anxious when they are left alone in the house for long periods of time, leaving a TV or a radio on for some background noise will help your pet to not feel alone. Hearing voices or music will comfort your pet.
Background noise will also drown out any noises coming from outside that may make your pet feel anxious: traffic, loud bangs, or delivery workers knocking at the door. You could also close the curtains/blinds to reduce what your pet can see outside.
Ensuring your pet has a safe place to go when they are feeling anxious is very important. They need somewhere they can go to know nothing is a threat to them and start to feel calmer.
A safe place for your pet could be anything, their favourite blanket on the sofa, a homemade den, a bed with all their favourite toys in, or even sitting under your feet while you watch TV.
Cats may prefer their safe place being up high, maybe on a shelf or a perch. Also setting up safe hiding places for them to go, will allow them to retreat when they feel overwhelmed or threatened.
Make sure these safe places are accessible if your pet is left for a long period of time, they may need them if they start to feel anxious and need some comfort.
Allowing your pets to burn off some extra energy is a perfect way to ensure your pet’s anxiety levels are low. Anxiety is known to give heightened energy levels, so an extra run in the park, a few more chases of a ball, or 10 more minutes on a scratching pole will help tire your pet out and treat their anxious mood.
Many pets, especially dogs, can be sensitive to their owners’ emotions. If you are stressed, they can be stressed. If your pet is anxious, keep calm around them, and try not to raise your voice as it might build their stress levels.
Avoid telling your pet off.
When your pet is showing signs of being anxious, try not to tell them off or punish them for their behaviour. It is likely they might become more anxious and distressed. Telling them off for one action, such as barking, may stop them from barking but they might start licking or biting their body instead.
Exposing your young or new pet to a range of different situations, such as meeting new people and animals, visiting unfamiliar places, being left alone for short periods of times, can reduce the risk of them feeling stressed and developing anxiety.
If you can identify what is causing your pet to feel anxious, you can begin to train them to know that the trigger is not a threat to them. Reassuring them they are safe, will allow them to feel calm.
If you have tried these techniques and they haven’t worked, please contact your local Willows branch to seek advice from your vet.
Signs your pet might have anxiety:
- Withdrawal behaviour
- Aggression – growling, barking, and meowing.
- Bad behaviour
- Attempts to escape the house or garden.
- Shaking, tucked in tail, hiding.
- Reduced activity.
- Licking and beating their body
- Pacing and restlessness
- Failing to use their litter tray/going to the loo indoors.
- Change in eating or weight.
If you think your pet is showing signs of anxiety, they should see their vet. This will give your pet a better quality of life and will reduce the chance of their anxiety contributing to behavioural problems. The vet will be able to offer you help and give you some suggestions on how you can help your pet.