Many pets today are prone to anxiety and stress.  The stress of living with a fear or anxiety disorder can negatively affect your pet’s health and longevity.  The more you know about what triggers your pet’s anxiety, the behaviors she exhibits when anxious, and the effect of stress on her health, the better you’ll be able to notice the signs and take action to minimize or eliminate the stressors.  In this 3-part series, we’ll talk about these factors and how you can help your pets  have a more stress-free life.

Sometimes, what we consider to be a normal event, our pets may see as stressful or even traumatic.

Things we consider normal that may stress our animals:

  • Changes in the physical home like home repairs, new flooring, new furniture or rearrangement of furniture.
  • Changes in their routine like having other people or animals in the home or yard, changing their food or litter, or having a dirty litter box (Yuk!).
  • Sudden loud noises such as fireworks, thunderstorms, loud music, or yelling.
  • Unwanted attention as in being randomly awakened from a nap, having ears and tails pulled, and being forcibly held, hugged, or kissed.
  • Lack of opportunities to express normal species and breed-specific behaviors such as running, retrieving, hunting, herding, etc.
  • Being denied access to a “safe place” that is calm and quiet and allows them to decompress.
  • Punishment-based training methods involving yelling, hitting, shock collars, etc.

Big stress triggers that can affect our pets and our stress level too:

  • Changes in the family dynamic such as marriage, divorce, death, new human or animal family members, kids going back to school, or adults going back to work after time spent at home.
  • Major home renovations or moving to a new home.
  • Illness or injury of a family member.
  • Averse or abusive relationships with other pets or humans in the household.
  • Natural disasters.

Many pets lack the coping skills to effectively manage anxiety and stress due to experiences or lack of experiences in their early lives, so when identifying triggers for your pet’s anxiety, also consider his history.  What do you know about your pet’s past?  Is there a history of past abuse or neglect?  Was your pet properly socialized between 3 and 14 weeks of age?

Stay tuned!  Next month we’ll talk about the signals your pet gives you when he’s feeling anxious or stressed.