Pet Anxiety

Elizabeth Rogers, DVM  cat_anxious_cropped

It is storm season again. Your cat or dog may be anxious or fearful.  Types of anxiety include: separation anxiety, storm and noise phobia, or aggression (directed at humans and/or other dogs). Short-term stress response is considered healthy and necessary behaviors, allowing dogs and cats to be alert and take action (e.g.  retreating from a stranger, scary sound, another dog/cat). These responses become an issue if they are prolonged such as every thunderstorm or every time that the owner leaves the house.

Common symptoms      

  • Urinating and defecating inappropriately
  • Barking and howling
  • Chewing, digging, and destruction, such as chewing on-objects, door frames, doors, or doorways
  • Self-trauma, such as broken nails, broken teeth, ulcer on the forelimb (self induced), or cut or scraped paws
  • Escaping- breaking windows, doors, or tearing holes in walls through sheet rock
  • Pacing/vigilance- back and forth or circling
  • Coprophagia (eating own feces)
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Change in appetite/only eats at home or with owner present
  • Looking away from threat/hiding
  • Body language/response signs of anxiety
    • Excessive licking, lip licking, or yawning
    • Ears back
    • Panting/drooling
    • Crying/whining
    • Shaking/tail tucking

 

Reasons for Anxiety

  • Change of guardian or family
  • Change in schedule
  • Change of residence
  • Change in family
    • Losing a family member
    • Losing of other pet
    • Adding a new family member
    • Adding a new pet
  • Weather change
    • Thunderstorms
    • Tornados
    • Hail
  • Medical issues to rule out first
    • Medical reasons for house soiling
      • Urinary tract infection
      • Hormone dependent incontinence
      • Bladder stones
      • Diabetes mellitus
      • Kidney failure
      • Liver disease
      • Cushing’s disease
    • Medications that cause frequent urination/house soiling
      • Steroids
      • Lasix
    • Other behavior problems to rule out
      • Submissive or excitement urination
      • Incomplete housetraining
      • Urine marking
      • Destructive chewing or digging
      • Boredom/lack of mental stimulation
      • Excessive barking/howling

What NOT to do when these happen

  • Do NOT scold
  • Do NOT punish

 

** Your dog is doing these behaviors due to stress/anxiety and their attempt to cope with stress/anxiety. Punishing your pet just escalates the anxiety/stress.

Treatment Recommendations

Treatment recommendations depend on the underlying cause of the anxiety.  I recommend contacting your regular DVM and making an appointment to discuss treatment options.Anxious dogs

  • Thundershirt
  • Adaptil – pheromone collar
  • Medications for anxiety
  • Desensitization training
  • Counterconditioning
  • Providing enrichment activities
  • Crate training
  • Referral to a veterinary behaviorist
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