Anxiety in Pets: How Can You Tell?
Anxiety and stress are as much a problem for our pets as they are for us. But they can show their stress in different ways. Here are a few signs that could tell you your pet is anxious.
- Those large dilated pupils are a sure sign of adrenalin and cortisol release.
- Some pets will become aggressive, especially if fear is part of the stress.
- Others will show repetitive movements like pacing, licking or even barking.
- Some may urinate and defecate in inappropriate places.
- And some will hunker down, as far from the stress as possible, just hoping it all goes away soon. This may be the cat hiding under the bed or the dog that goes in the other room and does not come out to socialize.
Adrenalin and cortisol are important hormones during life threatening situations. Together they increase heart rate, improving blood flow to muscles for a quick get-away. They increase blood sugar to be sure those muscle cells have plenty of food and they divert blood flow from digestion, the immune system and other non-life saving processes. While this is great if being pursued by a predator or hunting food for their own survival, but over long term this can have serious consequences.
Pets under chronic stress often have poor digestion and may gain or lose weight. They are more likely to get a chronic disease due to immune dysfunction and increased oxidative stress. They also have a higher risk of developing diabetes and can have serious behavioral issues
What can you do to help them?
Just like people, stress relief is essential for optimal health for our pets. And while we each respond differently to stress, there are often 1 or 2 things that will work best for your pet to help relieve it. Here are some suggestions:
- If you know the source of stress, do your best to minimize it. If this is another pet, be sure they each have a place to go for at least part of the day to get away from each other.
When they are together, give them each an activity that they like so they are having fun in the vicinity of their stressor. You and a family member can each play with 1 pet with their favorite toy.
- Provide plenty of exercise. A long brisk walk may be plenty for some pets, while very active pets may need to run alongside you as you ride your bicycle. On the days that are too hot to go out, consider calling in some help. There are now companies that will come to your house in an air conditioned vehicle and allow your dog to run on a treadmill to burn off that extra energy.
- And sometimes we all need a little help from mother nature. There are some amazing herbal products that can ease stressful events.
A couple that I recommend and use for my pets are:
Tranquility Blend from Animal Essentials. This is a combination of herbs that will take the edge off without causing sedation.
Super Hemp CBD works great for others. Hemp plants have a full spectrum of bio-active molecules including CBD, that can be very helpful for anxiety. It also helps to relieve the inflammation that stress can cause. Since this product does not contain THC, there should be no sedation.
If these suggestions do not relieve your pet’s issues, it is time to see your vet or behavioral specialist for help.