How to Tell If Your Pet is Stressed and What to Do About It

Written By: VetriScience

Does your cat or dog suffer from stress or anxiety? It’s nothing to be ashamed of and a far more common problem than you’d think. Believe it or not, 9 out of 10 pet parents are seeking help for behavioral issues.* Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to help relieve pet stress when it’s needed most.

What Causes Stress in Pets?

Your four-legged friend is a creature of habit and any change to their daily routine can trigger a stressful response. Everyday occurrences like leaving for work, summer storms, and even package deliveries can cause a great deal of stress for cats and dogs. Many pets also have phobias of strangers, large crowds, and loud noises which cause them to react negatively. Here are a few of the most common pet stressors:

Collection of images representing different types of pet stressors: fireworks and thunderstorms, cookouts and parties, traveling and moving, separation anxiety and boredom, boarding and kenneling, vet and grooming visits

What are the Signs of Stress?

Does your dog growl at house guests? Or love to chew your favorite shoes? Does your cat always hide under the bed when you're vacuuming? What you may perceive as normal behavior or a personality quirk might actually be your pet’s reaction to stress. But, it can be easier than you think to recognize when your cat or dog is feeling anxious, stressed, or fearful.

Common signs of stress include, but are not limited to:

    • Excessive vocalization (i.e. constant barking or whining)

    • Destructive or aggressive behavior

    • Accidents in the house

    • Reduced appetite

    • Physical distress (i.e. panting, pacing, trembling)

    • Hiding or isolation

5 Tips for Managing Pet Stress

A brown-and-white cat peeks nervously around the corner of a slightly opened door. Pet stress can be hard to identify.

We know how hard it is to see your cat or dog struggle to manage stress or fear. Of course, you’d do everything in your power to help your pet feel better. If you have underlying concerns about your pet’s health, we strongly recommend consulting with a veterinarian for treatment options and behavior modification techniques.

In the meantime, here are a few helpful tips so you can get through the next thunderstorm, backyard BBQ, or stressful situation:

1. Create a Safe Space

Whether in a comfortable, appropriately sized crate or a spare room, provide your pet with a cozy, quiet space during fireworks, thunderstorms, and other stressful occasions. Keep curtains and windows closed to minimize visual stressors, and use white noise or TV to help out drown out noises that may worsen anxiety.

2. Play, Run, and Have Fun Before!

Give your pup plenty of exercise and attention before a stressful event. A game of fetch, a long walk, or training a new trick can reap rewards before a car ride or vet visit. After all, a pet who has their physical and mental needs met is less likely to act out.

3. Act Naturally and Stay Calm

Remember to keep a calm, positive attitude yourself! Your pet may take comfort in your behavioral cues and be calmer themselves. You can't reinforce or "reward" fear by comforting your pet, so speak in a quiet, soothing voice, use gentle touch if your pet enjoys a good belly rub, share a tasty snack, and let them know that you're here to keep them safe.

4. Use Calming Supplements

Try Composure to help manage pet stress! Veterinarian formulated and made with naturally sourced ingredients, Composure™ calming supplements support calmer, more relaxed behavior in dogs and cats during times of stress. It has been clinically shown in dogs to work within 30 minutes and last up to 4 hours.**

5. Consult Your Veterinarian

If you've tried the tips above and are still struggling with your pet's behavior, there is no shame in discussing these issues with your veterinarian! It is extremely common for pet behavior to be affected by physical issues like pain or changes to cognitive health. Let a trained professional help properly assess the situation and work with you to determine how to help your pet live their best, happiest life.

* Promoting the Human-Animal bond in Veterinary Practice. Tom Catanzaro. 2001 Iowa State University Press.

** CanCog Technologies Study “Assessment of Anxiolytic Properties of a Novel Compound in
Beagle Dogs with a Noise-Induced Model of Fear and Anxiety”

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