What is Anxiety?
Anxiety in pets is a very common problem. Pets will exhibit their fear and anxiety in a number of different ways and causes of anxiety can range from a visit to the vet’s office, separation from the owner, change in routine, the sound of fireworks, moving to a new home, a traumatic event or small children.
Although some pets are naturally highly strung, anxiety can also affect pets that are left alone for long periods of time in a confined space and as a result become stressed and bored because of a lack of social contact. Pets also pick up on your mood and feelings, so if you are anxious and stressed most of time, your pet is most likely to be too.
The most common anxiety disorders include separation anxiety,
noise phobias and social anxiety:
- Separation anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders and typically occurs when pets are left alone and separated from their owners. Destructive behavior such as continuous barking and whining, chewed furniture, scratching of doors or soiled floors may be exhibited when the pet is left alone.
- Noise phobia occurs when pets are fearful of loud noises such as thunderstorms, firecrackers, gunshots, sound of birds, a vacuum cleaner or a hairdryer. Often, when animals are frightened by loud noises they may run and hide to a safer haven. In trying to escape, they may endanger themselves by jumping through windows, digging or running away. Other signs of fear that may be displayed include excessive barking, meowing, drooling, trembling, chewing, urinating or defecating.
- Social anxiety most often occurs when pets have not been socialized at an early age. Pets that have not been socialized are fearful and overwhelmed by crowds, small groups of people as well as other animals. When the pet becomes anxious, he may feel trapped and cornered which in turn causes him to react aggressively or run to a safe retreat.
Owning a pet is a huge responsibility, and the onus is on you to ensure that your pet feels safe, secure and confident as much as possible.
Diagnosing anxiety in pets will be based on observation of symptoms.
The symptoms and signs of anxiety include:
- Excessive barking
- Whining and moaning
- Tremors or shivering
- Drooling and panting
- Poor appetite
- Licking or chewing on their skin
- Hyperactivity or excitability
- Soiling the house or tearing up household items in your absence
What Causes Anxiety?
Pets like humans are very sensitive to change within their surroundings. Certain factors that can cause stress and anxiety in pets include:
- Separation from the owner (separation anxiety)
- The addition of a family member whether human or animal (baby, spouse or another furry friend)
- Moving to a new residence, relocating or boarding and kenneling
- A change in your daily routine such as a visit to the vet or grooming parlor
- Change of owner
- Health conditions
- Poor nutrition
- Crowds, small groups of people and small children
- Noises such as thunder, fireworks, sirens, loud parties and the sound from a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer can cause stress and anxiety in pets.
Emotional stressors such as fear, traumatic event, nervous temperament, death of a family member or pet companion, jealousy or rivalry, stress and poor health in older pets can also contribute to anxiety developing.
Help for Anxiety
Various treatment options are available to help your pet cope with the symptoms associated with anxiety. Certain anti-anxiety medications such as Clomipramine, amitriptyline and acepromazine can help to suppress anxiety and stress. However, these medications do immobilize pets and often some very negative side effects such as diarrhea, low blood pressure, and vomiting, dry mouth and bowel movement disturbances may occur.
Behavior modification is also essential when dealing with different types of anxiety and phobias which will make sure the pet understands your command, teaches the owner to communicate with the pet for the desired behavioral change to take place, and rewarding correct behaviors. Keep in mind that a healthy diet, plenty of water, regular exercise and plenty of love and attention also contributes to the physical and emotional wellbeing of your pet.
Natural remedies can also benefit the health and wellbeing pets just like it does for humans. Herbal and homeopathic remedies are a gentler natural alternative that is safe to use without the risk of any negative side effects.
Two well known herbs such as Scutellaria laterifolia (Scullcap) and Passiflora incarnata helps to soothe the nervous system and promotes a calming, relaxed effect for pets. Homeopathic ingredients such as Kalium phosphate and Argentum nitricum maintains balance and harmony within the nervous system, and promotes digestive health.