Managing Your Pet’s Anxiety

Dog with anxiety hiding under the bed

How to Calm an Anxious Pet

Does your pet cower in fear during thunderstorms or hate to be alone? Although it doesn't seem fair, anxiety isn't just a human problem but can affect animals too. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to decrease your pet's anxiety.

Anxiety Triggers

Identifying your pet's triggers can help you create a strategy to calm your dog, cat or rabbit. Triggers vary from animal to animal and may include:

  • Loud Sounds: Vacuum cleaners, fireworks, thunder, and other sounds can be particularly frightening to some pets.
  • New People or Animals: Exposure to unfamiliar animals and people may increase anxiety symptoms in some pets.
  • Change in Routine: Moving, bringing a new person or pet into your household, or even changing your work schedule may be the catalyst for your pet's anxiety symptoms.
  • Visits to the Veterinarian: Some pets are overwhelmed by the unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells at the veterinary office or feel threatened by the other animals in the waiting area.
  • Certain Surfaces: Does your pet resist walking on marble, hardwood, laminate or types of smooth flooring? He or she may be afraid of falling or may have been scolded after walking on a particular type of floor in the past.
  • Separation: Separation anxiety is particularly common among pets, affecting 14 percent of dogs, according to the American Kennel Club.
  • Aging: Pets that have cognitive dysfunction syndrome, a condition similar to dementia in people, may develop anxiety.

Signs of Anxiety in Pets

Anxious pets may lash out if they're afraid of a person, animal or object. Your pet may express fear by growling, barking, hissing, biting or scratching.

Just like people, animals can lose control of their bowels or bladder if they're extremely anxious or fearful. If you've ever returned home and discovered that your housetrained dog or cat had an accident, separation anxiety may be to blame. Anxious pets can also be destructive. Social media is full of videos and photographs of mangled couch cushions, gouged doors, and overturned plants.

Anxiety can trigger frequent barking, howling, meowing, or drooling. Cats or rabbits may groom themselves excessively, causing bald or irritated spots on their skin.

How to Reduce Anxiety

These tips may help your pet feel more secure and less fearful:

  • Create a Safe Space: Place your pet in a quiet room when you're vacuuming, hosting a noisy party, or meeting your best friend's new Great Dane.
  • Try Pheromones: Pheromones are natural or synthetic chemicals that can calm stressed or anxious pets. Pet stores and online shopping sites sell pheromone sprays, diffusers, wipes, and collars.
  • Avoid Routine Changes if Possible: Your work schedule may change, but that doesn't necessarily mean that your pet's routine must be altered. Ask another family member or roommate to feed, walk or play with your pet at the usual times. If you're going out of town, your anxious pet may be happier staying at home with a pet sitter rather than spending the time in a boarding kennel.
  • Give Your Pet a Piece of Your Clothing: Decrease separation anxiety by giving your pet clothing that contains your scent.
  • Buy a Calming Vest: Calming vests are a type of wrap-around jacket that calms pets by applying constant pressure to their bodies. Similar to weighted blankets for humans, calming vests help dogs and cats cope with loud noises and may also help with general anxiety.
  • Make Time for Exercise: After a vigorous game of fetch or chase the laser pointer light, your pet may feel much calmer. Daily exercise is beneficial for all pets but is particularly important if your pet suffers from anxiety.
  • Gradually Desensitize Your Pet to the Anxiety Trigger: Pets may become less fearful if they're gradually exposed to anxiety triggers. If your pet is afraid to walk on hardwood or laminate floors, take one or two steps into the room and offer a treat. When the fear of loud noises is the problem, play a recording of thunder or fireworks for a few seconds, then offer a treat. Discontinue this approach if your pet doesn't respond well or becomes increasingly agitated.
  • Talk to Your Pet's Veterinarian: If these suggestions don't relieve your pet's anxiety, it's a good idea to consult the veterinarian. Your pet's doctor can offer suggestions, prescribe anti-anxiety medication, if needed, or make a referral to a behavioral specialist. Your pet will also receive a thorough examination to make sure that anxiety isn't related to a health condition or disease.

Are you worried about your pet's anxiety? Contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

AKC: Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Dog Anxiety, 5/14/19

Humane Society of the United States: Does Your Dog Freak Out When You Leave?

PetMD: 6 Cat Calming Products to Help Ease Cat Anxiety

Yummy Magazine: Stress in Rabbits, 2/16/18

Contact Us Today!

Contact us using the form or call us at 804-741-3200.

Monday:

7:30am

6:00pm

Tuesday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Wednesday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Thursday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Friday:

7:30am

6:00pm

Saturday:

7:30am

2:00pm

Sunday:

Closed

Closed

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Dr. Evans was so patient and kind with our kitty "Cookie". Very caring and so helpful and answered many questions for me concerning her health. The office staff are kind, caring, and professional. The office is immaculate. I have never been to a vet where my pets and myself were treated so well. Love it and so glad to have found them. Best vet appointment ever!"
    Dorothy M.
  • "We have used the Q for over 15 years for our cats and our dogs. Dr. Mortimer is a genius at diagnosing and treating a wide array of issues, and we have relied on his skills to help our animals live to amazing ages. The staff is incredibly caring. They do everything possible to help when we call or come in with a sick animal. They truly care for our pets, and many of the staff will come out from the back to pet our dogs
    when they come in. They are so patient with shy animals like our ferally cat Stasha who needed laser treatments, and our Bagle Topsy who is afraid of her own shadow.Yes, they are not the cheapest vet in town, but they work with us on making a treatment plan we can afford, and we feel that the value and the care are well worth it. Thank you to everyone at the Q for their dedication and loving care."
    Sally M. / December 21, 2017
  • "Met with Dr. Hiser today for the first time. Everyone at the
    clinic--from the desk staff to the vet techs to the veterinarian were warm and welcoming. My dog Iris--who is often nervous around new people--was comfortable there and (I think) made a few new friends. Looking forward to a continued relationship with the clinic as my sweet girl grows up. Thanks, thanks thanks."
    Stephanie C. / June 27, 2018
  • "My three chihuahuas have been Dr. Mortimer's patients for over nine years. The expertise, love, and care demonstrated for each pet is extraordinary. The doctors and staff go the extra mile to help their patients and the parents. They are truly an amazing group that love and care for each pet. If there was a review rated outstanding, that would have been my choice!"
    Donna C. / June 10, 2018
  • "I would highly recommended QVH. All of the staff are so kind and compassionate. They are so willing to help and never mind answering any questions you may have, even if it's 100 questions they are so patient. They genuinely care and treat your pets as if they were their own. And I cannot say enough about Dr. Hiser. She is amazing. Even on her days off she would still call and check in on my dog. I am so appreciative of this place and the staff. It's a great feeling to be completely comfortable with putting your pets care in someone's else hands and trusting them to provide the best service."
    Taylor H. / August 25, 2018
  • "I have been seeing Dr. Evans for at least 20 years. Her manner, knowledge, staff and facility are exceptional. I am a health care provider myself and hold the care of my pets to the highest standards....and I have never had a second thought about the care or recommendations of Dr. Evans. I moved out of town 6 years ago....and drive 3 hours each way to see her."
    Kimberley W. / April 2, 2018
  • "Wouldn't trust my four-legged Kids to anyone else - they have guided us with all our dogs through the years. The entire staff is kind and patient with the animals (and their parents)."
    Karen K. / November 7, 2017

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles