Anxiety in Pets: Causes and Solutions

Understanding pet anxiety

It is not only us humans that can experience anxiety, pets can also be troubled with it. Anxiety in pets can be triggered by a number of different reasons, and it is important for owners to recognise these signs and symptoms. To gain a better understanding of anxiety in pets, it is best to understand the causes, symptoms and solutions associated with it.

Types and causes of pet anxiety

There are all sorts of different types of pet anxiety that stem from various causes, which can also differ between animals. A few different causes of pet anxiety can include:

  1. Travel anxiety: sometimes when you travel with your pet, whether that is in the car or transporting your horse, it can cause them to feel stressed and anxious. Travel anxiety can cause stress for both the animal and the owner.
  2. Separation anxiety: as one of the most common forms of anxiety in pets, separation can leave the animal distressed when left alone, especially dogs. Separation anxiety can lead to unfamiliar behaviours such as destructive, excessive barking and even attempts to escape.
  3. Social anxiety: just like humans, pets can also become anxious in social settings. This type of anxiety occurs when pets are exposed to unfamiliar people, animals or even environments. Social anxiety within pets can show signs of nervousness, fear and avoidance.
  4. Noise anxiety: pets can become anxious and sensitive around loud noises, these noises can include fireworks, construction sounds, shouting and thunderstorms. Due to anxiety from noise, pets can show behaviours such as hiding, trembling, trying to escape from the source and excessive panting.
  5. Conflict anxiety: similar to social anxiety, pets can experience anxiety when put with another animal. For example, if you have a cat that is introduced to a new pet, they may experience anxiety and unusual behaviours such as fighting, chasing, blocking and staring.

Symptoms and behaviours of anxiety within pets

Anxiety in pets can manifest and show in all sorts of forms, and recognising these signs will allow you as a pet owner to support them fully. The signs of anxiety may be different between pets, but here are common behaviours to look for:

Destructive behaviour: when pets suffer from anxiety or stress, they may turn to destroying things. This can include scratching, chewing furniture, digging holes and more.

Excessive vocalisation: making a lot of noise can be related to anxiety in pets, such as excessive barking or meowing to express their distress and seek comfort by alerting their owners.

Restlessness: not sitting still can be a sign of anxiety in pets, you may find them fidgeting constantly, pacing back and forth or constantly moving in circles.

Panting and shivering: breathing heavily and shivering can be a sign of stress and anxiety within pets, especially dogs and cats.

Aggression or withdrawal: pets that suffer with anxiety can have dramatic changes in their behaviour, such as becoming aggressive or avoiding interactions to cope with their anxiety.

Hiding: it is common for pets with anxiety to hide in dark, quiet places to gain a sense of safety. This tends to be more common in cats.

Loss of appetite: anxious pets tend to eat less and some can become picky eaters or refuse to eat at all.

Clinginess: some pets may become very clingy, which can lead to them following you around and seeking constant physical touch to ease their anxiety.

House soiling: anxiety in pets can cause them to urinate or defecate indoors, especially dogs.

Solutions for pet anxiety

Behavioural techniques can reduce pet anxiety by changing how your pet reacts to stressors and helping them develop healthier coping methods. Strategies include controlled exposure, creating positive associations, rewarding good behaviour, and providing a safe space for comfort during anxious times.

If your pet’s anxiety is severe, constant, or if you’re unsure what to do, seeking professional help is a great choice. You can consult with a veterinarian, work with a certified pet behaviour expert specialising in anxiety, hire trained pet trainers for behaviour changes, or join online or local support groups for insights and emotional support when dealing with anxious pets.

Products that can help with pet anxiety

Medication and supplements can also help reduce anxiety in pets, common options can include:

Conclusion

In summary, just like humans, pets can experience anxiety, and it’s important to understand the causes, types, and symptoms. Pets can get anxious due to travel, separation, social situations, noise, or conflicts with other animals. Anxiety shows through behaviours like destruction, excessive noise, restlessness, and more. To help, you can use behaviour techniques to change how your pet reacts to stressors or seek professional help if the anxiety is severe or persistent. Anxiety in pets can also be helped with medication and supplements. Understanding pet anxiety can lead to improving their well-being, so start today.