Pets can suffer from anxiety and stress, just like humans do. Yet, it might be much harder to notice their symptoms as you might often mistake them for aggression, misbehaving, or something else.
Recognising pet anxiety symptoms on time is the key to properly diagnosing your cat or dog and finding the right treatment. Constant barking or meowing, destroying your belongings, refusing to eat, and ignoring commands can all be signs of anxiety in your pet that you might simply take for disobedience.
So what are the most common pet anxiety and stress symptoms you should pay attention to? And how can you help your dog or cat with anxiety? Let’s take a closer look.
Pet Anxiety: What Is It?
Just like people, pets can feel stressed, fear something, miss someone, be scared of new people or places, and have a feeling of pressure or strain. These feelings of unease, worry, or fear in both pets and humans are known as anxiety.
Depending on their causes, there might be different types of anxiety your cat or dog might experience. And while it's a quite unpleasant feeling, anxiety is a normal and natural emotion. However, if left untreated, it can turn into a phobia.
Types of Anxiety in Pets
Cats and dogs can experience anxiety in a few different forms, and here are some of the most common types of anxiety in pets:
- Separation Anxiety: This type of anxiety occurs when you or regular caretakers have to leave your pet alone for some time, move to a new place, or introduce changes to your pet’s regular schedule.
- Social Anxiety: It happens when your pet feels anxious about being around different people or even other pets. This type of anxiety can be caused by past trauma in rescues or simply by not socialising enough.
- Environmental Anxiety: It shows up as a fear of going out of the house or to a specific location, such as a vet clinic. Loud noises and frightening situations such as alarms, sirens, thunder, or fireworks can all trigger environmental anxiety.
- Age-Related Anxiety: This anxiety can affect older pets, and it usually is associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS.) It harms your pet’s memory, awareness, perception, and learning ability and ultimately leads to confusion and anxiety.
- Generalised Anxiety: This form of anxiety often appears out of nowhere and without known reasons, even if you trained your pet well.
Critical Signs of Stress in Dogs
Dog anxiety can have different causes and levels of severity, and the earlier you notice them, the better.
Common causes of stress in dogs may include:
- Being left alone
- Moving to a new home from a shelter
- Being forced into an unfamiliar situation or frightening experience
- Change of owners
- Change in schedule or routine
Fear or phobia from previous traumatic experiences
And while many things can trigger anxiety in your favourite dog, one of the easiest ways to spot whether your dog has anxiety issues is to observe the body language. Here are some of the symptoms you should pay close attention to:
- Destroying furniture
- Excessive barking
- Urinating or defecating inside the house
- Trying to escape
- Pacing or trembling
- Yawning and lip licking
- Not eating
- Pinned ears or tail tucked between legs
All these signs might look like disobedience or strange behaviour, but they might often indicate your dog is suffering from anxiety or feels stressed. Understanding the causes of your dog’s particular behaviour will help you figure out how to ease its anxiety faster.
For example, if you notice changes in your dog’s bodily functions, it might mean your furry friend feels nervous because of a sudden urge to go pee. If the dog refuses to eat or loses bowel function, you should consider these signs as stress indicators.
Panting can seem like a natural reaction to hot weather and excitement. However, if your dog hasn’t spent hours playing outside but keeps on panting, it might be a sign of emotional drain.
Drooling, licking, and yawning are all everyday things dogs do. Yet, did you know if your dog’s yawn is longer and more intense than a regular sleepy yawn, it can be a direct sign of stress? Just like excessive drooling or licking can help you understand that your dog feels nervous.
If your dog doesn’t have any orthopedic problems and you notice changes in body posture, such as shifting her weight to the rear legs, it might mean that your dog is stressed. Or, for instance, when scared, your dog can also tuck her tail and become unusually stiff.
So, if you ever see your dog behaving unusually or trying to express her feelings with repetitive movements, don’t dismiss those signs. Sometimes, even a relatively insignificant event can cause severe anxiety issues in your dog.
Cat Anxiety Attack Symptoms
Cats are very sensitive creatures and don’t deal well with stress. Usually, cats develop most of their anxiety issues during the first year of their life. After that, those problems can aggravate as well as new ones might appear. That’s why it’s crucial to pay attention to your cat’s behaviour and understand what can make it feel stressed or anxious.
The most common causes of cat’s anxiety can include:
- A change in routine
- New family members
- Loud noises
- Other animals
- A new home
- A past, traumatic experience
- A visit to a vet
Sometimes, it can be pretty easy to tell that your cat is experiencing anxiety. However, very often, cat owners disregard not-so-obvious cat anxiety attack symptoms. Here are some of the most common ones:
Your cat usually meows to communicate with you. Yet, if you can’t understand what your cat wants and its mewing sounds more like a siren, it can mean your cat is in distress and desperately requires your attention.
Not Using the Litter Box
If your cat starts peeing and defecating all around the house “out of the blue”, they’re definitely trying to reach out to you. Of course, it can also mean your cat has some physical problems. But often, it’s an indicator your feline friend is anxious.
It’s okay for cats to disappear from your sight from time to time. However, if you don’t remember when was the last time you saw your kitty, they can have very serious anxiety issues.
Cats tend to groom a few times per day. And while it’s great to have an exceptionally clean cat, you should watch out if you notice them doing it all day long. Sometimes, cats can be so anxious that they can groom to the point where they start losing fur in some spots.
Just like humans, cats can express their anger or dissatisfaction in aggressive ways. But if you spot that your cat is aggressive all the time and without any apparent reason, they can be feeling anxious.
Following You Everywhere
It can be nice to have your cat close by and feel their love all the time. But if they start following you literally everywhere and seem to be unusually attached, it might mean they’re anxious or stressed.
There are many more ways cats might express the signs of anxiety or stress, but as long as you take care of your kitty and analyse their behaviour, you should be able to spot when something is wrong with them.
How to Help a Pet With Anxiety
Your cat and dog might give you mixed signals that can mean nothing. However, your pet's unusual behaviour often might indicate that they have anxiety or a stress attack. In those cases, your little friend needs your immediate attention and help. If not spotted on time, anxiety can lead to serious complications, negatively affecting your pet.
At Bella&Toby™, we’re revolutionising the concept of pet care. We developed a calming pet bed model to help you make your dog’s or cat’s life more joyful and without anxiety. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our anti-anxiety pet beds.