How to Know Your Pet is Expressing Their Anxiety and What You Can Do


Dogs and cats are sophisticated animals, just like humans. Due to their emotional intelligence, they experience many of the same emotions we do. Unfortunately, this means your dog, cat, or both, they feel nervous and anxious just like us. It is important to be able to read your pet’s body language so you know when they are experiencing fear, stress, and anxiety. More often than not, the less-desirable behaviors in our pets’ stem from fear and anxiety, no different than humans. When you can recognize what your pet is feeling, it is tremendously easier to help them work through these feelings to feel calm and comfortable. It is important to understand the majority of all stress in pets is caused by change as well as the unknown and past trauma.


Reasons for Pet Anxiety

There are many reasons for pets to experience anxiety, just as humans have an endless list of reasons for anxiety. More often than not, pets experience anxiety due to change, fear of abandonment/being alone, and simply things they don’t understand. The average causes of anxiety in your pet are as mentioned:

  • Separation stress/being alone
  • Unidentifiable noises, such as storms and fireworks/unknown
  • New surroundings and habitat/change
  • New routine/change
  • The addition or loss of a pet/change
  • Veterinary appointments/past trauma

Believe it or not, approximately thirty percent of pets struggle with separation anxiety. Furthermore, almost all dogs fear thunderstorms and fireworks, with the extent of the fear varying dog-to-dog. At least half of all dogs will show physical signs of stress in the presence of loud, unknown sounds, such as fireworks and storms.


Tell-tale Signs of Pet Anxiety

Many signs of anxiety in dogs can be misinterpreted. Panting, drooling, and barking are signs of anxiety, but the dog may just be barking because they’re excited, panting because they’re tired, or drooling because they’re hungry. If your dog is showing/performing the below behaviors and they don’t have a reason to be tired, excited, or hungry, your dog may be communicating their stress:

  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Scratching
  • Chewing
  • Drooling
  • Digging
  • Shaking
  • Urinating/defecting indoors


Tell-tale Signs Your Cat is Anxious

  • Fighting with other cats or pets
  • Nonstop meowing
  • Urinating/defecting anywhere except in litter box
  • Scratching
  • Hiding


What You Can Do to Help

If the behavior has always been present or if it is only occurring recently, anxiety can still be the foundation of it. Make sure you consult your veterinarian to be sure the symptoms aren’t the result of a more severe medical condition. After you have spoken with your pet’s veterinarian, there are ways to help your pet get through their anxiety.

  • Spend more time with your pet
  • Give your pet plenty of physical contact. Physical contact reduces stress in both pets and owners. Contrary to popular belief, consoling an anxious pet does not reinforce bad behavior.
  • Remove the cause of anxiety (if possible)
  • Expend more of your pet’s energy
  • Create a comfort corner or safe place for your pet with blankets, white noise, and your scent
  • Hire the help of professionals. Contact the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) to find expert assistance.

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