Anxiety can occur in both dogs and cats.
Signs can range from mild to severe, and treatment options consist of medication, supplements, diet, or behavioral training. Ruling out disease conditions is essential to diagnosing anxiety. Understanding anxiety, recognizing signs, and knowing what can be done to help a pet experiencing anxiety will enhance the bond between you and your pet. Learn more about our pets and their anxiety from Dr. Kara Wolf, DVM, Technical Services Staff Veterinarian for Virbac Corporation.
Genetic makeup, environmental influences, and learning during an influential age all affect a pet’s ability to cope with stressful situations and overcome fears. Pets develop anxiety in response to a wide array of stimuli, including but not limited to: change in environment (new home, etc.); loud or sudden noises like fireworks, appliances, lawn mowers, or thunder; new people; other animals; riding in cars; locations (veterinary hospitals or groomers); and, of course, scary vacuum cleaners. Pets assimilate with their environment through their main senses: sight, sound, smell, feel, and taste.
Dogs show signs of anxiety in individual ways. Physical symptoms and behavioral changes may be observed. Gastrointestinal disturbance consisting of vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation may be caused by anxiety. Poor appetite, weight loss, and hair loss due to excessive grooming may be observed in stressed pets. Common behavioral signs include panting, shaking, tucked tail, yawning, pacing, and vocalization. Some signs may be vague enough to go unnoticed or unrealized.
A cat experiencing anxiety may show agitation, be more alert, hide, or possibly display aggression.
Not necessarily. Dogs may learn from watching a human display anxiety, compared to a cat who may have assessed and left the situation without learning if the human is fearful, reassuring, or dismissive. Individual experiences while maturing after birth influences a pet’s ability to develop or overcome anxiety.