Signs of Stress in Your Pet
Humans aren’t the only species that feel anxious from time to time. Our furry friends can also experience anxiety and stress when they experience uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations. Here are some common signs of stress to watch for so you can comfort and calm your best friend.
Grooming is normal behavior for nearly every animal species. But if your dog or cat starts taking their daily grooming habits to an unusual level, it may be a sign of pet anxiety. Pets use over-grooming as a “displacement behavior” or a way to focus their anxious thoughts on another activity. Your dog might start licking its paws or legs. A cat may begin pulling out clumps of fur. Left unchecked, over-grooming can cause skin irritation or infections. To help calm your dog or cat and redirect their instinct to lick and groom, try a special licking mat with a bit of their favorite food or treat smeared on it to give them a safe outlet for their stress response.
It’s not unusual for pets to shed some fur from time to time--especially as the seasons and temperatures change. When dogs and cats start shedding a high amount of hair for an extended period of time, it may indicate that they are stressed. High stress levels can cause pets to develop dry or flaky skin, which can lead to increased scratching and shedding. Try brushing your pet while talking to them in a soothing voice. It will help alleviate the itching and flaking skin, and the extra attention may offer some comfort. If shedding persists, consult your veterinarian to rule out a skin infection.
While licking paws can also be part of over-grooming, sometimes stressed pets will also impulsively lick the air or their noses or lips. Much like over-grooming, it can lead to skin and gum irritation and infection over time. Make sure your pet has access to plenty of fresh water and a licking mat. If the licking continues, call your veterinarian to help determine what is causing the behavior.
Barking, whining, or crying
If your dog or cat is vocalizing more than usual or drastically change the noises they make to communicate, they may be trying to tell you they are worried or anxious. Even the quietest pups may ramp up the barking level if they are dealing with unpleasant feelings or fears that they don’t know how to fix. Try talking to your pet in a calm voice when they vocalize. If it persists, call your vet.
Some pets, especially our feline friends, enjoy their alone time. It’s not uncommon for cats to hide in unusual places to catch a nap or just be their aloof selves. If your pet starts hiding for extended periods, begins missing meals, or refuses to come out to relieve themselves, there may be a deeper issue in play. Watch for signs of fear or anxiety like trembling, whining, or crying. If you can’t persuade your pet to come out of hiding, you may need to consult a vet to help address emotional distress.
You know your best friend better than anyone. Any unusual behavior, whether it’s a change in appetite, sudden aggression, a nervous tic, or some other change, could indicate that your pet needs your help to overcome feelings of stress.
If you're looking for ways to de-stress your four-legged friend, check out the pet section on our website!