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.
- Why does my pet have anxiety?
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.
- How do dogs exhibit anxiety?
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.
- How do cats exhibit anxiety?
A cat experiencing anxiety may show agitation, be more alert, hide, or possibly display aggression.
- Do dogs and cats learn fearful behavior the same way?
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.
- What are some ways to help a pet with anxiety?
Pets with anxiety require our compassion and assistance to overcome their worry. Finding ways to comfort a pet, provide a relaxed surrounding, and assure ease when a stressful situation or anxiety evoking stimuli occurs is extremely valuable to a worried pet. Teaching new coping strategies to a pet may allow for gradual exposure to an anxiety causing situation. Any pet that cannot recover naturally and appropriately from anxiety may benefit from the use assessment and intervention from a veterinarian. There are specifically designed medications to help your pet such as anxiolytics and supplements. In addition, individualized behavior training may prove beneficial. It is recommended to use a behavioral modification program along with any oral medication administered for anxiety. If anxiety is suspected in a pet, a thorough discussion with a veterinarian is recommended to determine the best therapy.