Feelgood Health

Does YOUR pet have an anxiety problem? How to treat anxiety in dogs & cats and what you can do

 

Just like humans can suffer from anxiety, our dogs and cats can also become anxious, fearful or tense. As they can’t tell us how they are feeling, it is our duty as pet owners to understand our pets’ behaviour and try to help them.

What is anxiety in pets?

Anxiety in dogs and cats is quite common. When something upsets your pet and causes him to feel anxious or fearful, his behaviour changes and results in a physical and emotional reaction. Anxiety and fearful behaviours include separation anxiety, noise phobias, aggression, travel anxiety or confinement anxiety. 
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How will I know if my pet is anxious?

Anxious pets exhibit altered or repetitive behaviours to cope with their stress or fear. Behaviours to watch for in your dog or cat include:
• Trembling, tail tucked under, hiding, pacing, withdrawal
• Overgrooming – licking and biting self or pulling out of fur
• Excessive barking or crying
• Destruction inside or outside the home – chewing furniture, clothing, door frames, carpets, curtains, digging in the garden
• Urinating or pooping in the house, kennel, crate or any other area of confinement  even if housebroken
• Aggressive towards people and other animals
• Wanting to escape, run away
• Diarrhea

What causes anxiety in pets?

Some dogs and cats have a naturally anxious disposition while others may have endured a traumatic experience. Animals that have a history of abandonment, re-homing, numerous owners or those who have experienced neglect may suffer from anxiety or fearful behaviours.

If an animal was unable to escape because he was locked in a crate and something caused him to panic, then this would also exacerbate anxiety and phobia. Dogs and cats that were not socialized until 14 weeks of age may develop anxiety. Underlying illness as well aging in pets can bring about anxiety, fear and phobias.  
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How to help anxious pets?

It is important to know the cause or what is triggering your pet’s anxiety so that you can find ways to help. However, there are a few things that you can do to help your dog or cat – no matter what the cause.

1. Exercise

Humans are told to exercise all the time to relieve stress. If it works for us, then it would definitely help your pet too. Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety or nervous tension will benefit from a good, long walk or run after being cooped up at home the whole day.

Exercise relieves pent up energy, stress and tension that is created by anxiety. It will also tire him out and keep him calm. Make a date with your furry pal to exercise every day – you’ll both be getting exercise and spending time with each other.  

2. Touch and massage

The power of touch is known for its amazing healing abilities. Petting, cuddling and massaging your pet can reduce anxiety, stress and fear. Keep your pet calm by massaging them using long, slow strokes.

Learn the TTouch which is a popular dog massage technique created by Linda Tellington-Jones. Using circular movements of the fingers and hands all over the body, TTouch helps to awaken cell function thereby relaxing your pet. Even brushing your pet’s hair and fur helps to soothe and keep them calm.
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3. Establish a fixed routine

Pets, especially rescue or abandoned pets will welcome a set routine to help them feel more settled and less stressed or anxious. Feed, walk, play, go to work and come home at the same every day.

Having a fixed schedule shows your pet consistency, gives a sense of routine and certainty and helps them to know what they can expect from you and vice versa.

4. Stay calm

Dogs and cats feed are intuitive and often feed off our behaviour and emotions. If you react negatively to your pet’s anxiety, they will pick that up and gradually their behaviour becomes worse. Maintain a calm demeanour and avoid raising your voice or shouting.

Speak calmly but firmly to your pet if he acts out. Most importantly, avoid punishment associated with anxiety, fear or phobias.
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5. Use distraction

Anxious pets become destructive because they don’t know how to channel their energy. This is why dogs that suffer from separation anxiety act out by destroying your belongings. Distract destructive pets by giving them a chew toy to keep themselves occupied and something to focus on.

Chew, puzzle or treat toys also work well for pets that are nervous because of a thunderstorm or fireworks. By distracting your pet with a toy or a treat you allow them to associate a terrifying situation like a thunderstorm with a reward, making the event less frightening.

Pets with separation anxiety will also feel reassured if you give them a transitional object linked to you, such as an old T-shirt to help while you are away.

6. Socialise your pet 

Puppies who are socialised early by being exposed to other dogs and humans are generally more well-adjusted than those who are not. However, even older animals will benefit from gradual exposure to others and the outside world. You could also take your dog to socialisation classes or consult an animal behaviourist for help. 
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7. Natural remedies

Depending on the cause and the severity of your pet’s symptoms, your vet may  prescribe anti-anxiety medications. While anti-anxiety medications will relieve the symptoms, they often have negative side effects. If you are looking for a more natural approach to treat your pet, Feelgood Pets range offers:

PetCalm – a 100% homeopathic remedy to calm anxious, stressed, nervous and highly strung pets. PetCalm helps your pet to cope during times of domestic stress (moving house or introducing a new baby or pet). It also helps to reduce distress during fireworks, thunderstorms and other frightening occasions.

Aggression Formula – Aggressive pets are often acting out their insecurities and trying to keep themselves safe or defend their territories. Aggression Formula is a homeopathic remedy especially formulated for pets who tend to bite, scratch or attack humans or other animals, seemingly without good reason.

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