Our pets feel stress and are affected by it in some of the same ways that humans are.  Stress and anxiety in our pets are normally identified by either body language or behaviors.  A recent Finnish study used social media to reach out to the owners of 13,715 dogs of 264 breeds.  Each person rated seven aspects of their pet’s behavior: noise sensitivity, general fear, fear of heights/surfaces, inattention, compulsive behaviors, aggression, and separation anxiety.  Results indicated that 72.5 percent reported their dogs exhibited at least one anxiety-related behavior.  The most common issue, affecting nearly a third of those, was noise sensitivity, especially thunder and fireworks.

There are many signs that your dog or cat is stressed, and these can change over time.  Since every animal has its own personality and communication style, it’s important to learn your pet’s signals that she’s feeling nervous or stressed.  Here are some examples of what to watch for.

Signs your dog is stressed:

  • Lowered or tucked tail.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Ears pulled back.
  • Increased whining, howling, or barking.
  • Nose or lip licking, yawning, or panting.
  • Cowering, crouched body posture or hiding.
  • Digestive issues, especially diarrhea or constipation.
  • Decrease in appetite.
  • Increased isolation from human or animal family.
  • Sleeping more than usual or overly lethargic.
  • Destructive behaviors.
  • Aggressive actions towards animals or people, often with fearful body posture/facial expression.

Signs your cat is stressed:

  • Hypervigilant scanning of the area or staring with dilated pupils.
  • “Halloween cat” posture with arched back, flat ears, and tail up or wagging.
  • Pacing, circling, or restless.
  • Urinating outside the litter box.
  • Digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation.
  • Excessive grooming.
  • Excessive scratching.
  • Actively and constantly hiding from other family members.
  • Excessive vocalization like long or recurring bouts of panicked meows.
  • Decrease in appetite.
  • Increased sleeping.
  • Aggressive behavior towards animals or people

It’s important to pay attention to these signals as chronic stress can contribute to, cause, or decrease recovery from many physical ailments, including skin conditions, allergies, digestive issues, urinary tract problems, and cancer.  In the next issue, we’ll cover ways to calm stress in our pets (and ourselves) so that our animal family members can have a longer, healthier life with us.