Just as it's somewhat common for people to get anxious in certain situations, your pets can also show signs of anxiety. Having an anxious pet means you'll have to show some extra love and care to your pet to make him feel more comfortable. Anxiety can be something that your pet always shows, or it can develop after a stressful situation. Here are some ways you can help your pet with his anxiety.
Signs of Anxiety
Because pets can't let their owners know when they are worried or scared, they often demonstrate specific behaviors that are signs of anxiety. The signs of anxiety may also look like other illnesses or conditions, so it's important to work with your veterinarian to determine if your pet has anxiety. Here are some things to look out for:
Reasons Why Your Dog Is Anxious
Anxiety may be caused by a variety of things. Often, pets get anxious because of fears. Pets are sometimes afraid of thunderstorms, new situations, going to the vet or other experiences. Sometimes, if you get a dog from a breeder, anxiety may be something passed down from the dam or sire. Puppies and kittens may not show signs of having lifelong anxiety since it generally develops upon maturity. If you suspect your dog or cat is experiencing anxiety, it's important to investigate to determine triggers to help support your pet through it and help diminish behaviors.
One of the biggest causes of problems with pets is separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a specific type of anxiety centered around pets who are left alone at home. In today's world, with demanding full-time jobs, it's a reality that your pet may have to be home alone at times. While most dogs and cats can easily deal with a few hours a day at home by themselves, some pets struggle and exhibit anxious behaviors. If your pet shows any signs of separation anxiety, try rearranging your schedule so you can be home more. If that's not possible, schedule a pet walker or visitor to come by your home to give your pet some company. Additionally, some pet owners have found success with anxiety reducing shirts for their pets.
Calming Weighted Blankets
Separation anxiety and other types of anxiety in pets can also be lessened through the use of a calming or weighted blanket. Weighted blankets may help pets feel more secure if they are home alone or afraid of severe weather like thunderstorms. You can also purchase a specially designed product for thunderstorm anxiety called a thundershirt . Thundershirts provide gentle pressure to your dog or cat in a similar fashion to a weighted blanket. This comfort helps calm your pet during loud thunderstorms and can help them feel less anxious.
Exercise and Activity
Another way you can combat anxiety is to add more exercise or activity to your pet's day. Sometimes, anxiety can be more pronounced in bored or frustrated dogs and cats. If your pet is at home all day alone and you don't take him out for walks or play, he may not have a way to get out his pent up energy. Instead, he could start exhibiting destructive or anxious behavior. Take your pet on a long hike and give him his own backpack to help him feel like he's part of the pack. Grab your dog for your daily run so you get a companion along the way. Take your pet swimming to let him cool off and get his energy out at the same time.
Some pet owners have found success with reducing anxiety by using pet massage on their dog or cat. If you're not sure where to start with pet massage, you can incorporate it into your grooming routine. Use a grooming tool, such as a rubber grooming brush to give your pet a comforting massage while he also gets his fur brushed. If you want to try pet massage while you're not doing a grooming session, start slowly with gentle petting. Then, work your way down your pet's body, beginning with the shoulders and going through the legs and torso. Regular massages may help your pet start to feel more relaxed over time.
Dogs and cats can also be successfully redirected away from bad behaviors associated with anxiety through distraction techniques. Some pets are easily distracted through rewards, especially treats. As your pet shows more acceptable behaviors, keep the rewards coming to help recondition his anxiety and fears. Fun toys and a session of playtime are also helpful distractions to keep your pet's anxiety at bay. Or, consider taking your pet out with you to different dog-friendly excursions, such as parks, campgrounds, pet-friendly restaurants and more.
Your Vet's Help
The final way you can help manage anxiety in your pet is to get help from your vet. For some animals, an owner's techniques to help lessen anxiety won't work. Instead of continuing to get frustrated with your pet's behaviors, schedule a physical exam or consultation. Your vet may have additional suggestions to keep your pet from experiencing severe anxiety. There are also different medications indicated that vets prescribe for anxiety in dogs and cats. Your pet may benefit from prescription drug therapy if nothing else has worked for his severe anxiety.
Anxiety is something that many pet owners will face. You don't want your beloved dog or cat to suffer from this crippling condition, but if you find yourself dealing with it, there are ways to help. Work with your vet and try some of these techniques to give your pet a different way to manage his fears or anxious behaviors.