Pets can suffer from anxiety and stress, just like humans do. Yet, noticing their symptoms might be much more complicated as you often mistake them for aggression, misbehaving, or something else.
Recognising pet anxiety symptoms on time is the key to correctly diagnosing your cat or dog and finding the proper 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 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?
Like people, pets can feel stressed, fear something, miss someone, be scared of new people or places, and feel pressure or strain. These feelings of unease, worry, or fear in both pets and humans are known as anxiety.
Depending on their causes, your cat or dog might experience different types of anxiety. And while it's quite an 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. Click here to find 5 simple steps to deal with it.
- 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 is usually associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS.) It harms your pet’s memory, awareness, perception, and learning ability, leading to confusion and anxiety.
- Generalised Anxiety: This one 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, your furry friend might feel nervous because of a sudden urge to 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, if your dog's yawn is longer and more intense than a regular sleepy yawn, it can be a direct sign of stress? Excessive drooling or licking can help you understand your dog's nervousness.
If your dog doesn't have any orthopaedic 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 tuck her tail and become unusually stiff.
So, don't dismiss those signs if you see your dog behaving unusually or trying to express her feelings with repetitive movements. Sometimes, even a relatively insignificant event can cause severe anxiety issues in your dog.
Cat Anxiety Attack Symptoms
Cats are empathetic 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, and 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 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 trying to reach out to you. Of course, it can also mean your cat has some physical problems. But often, it’s an indicator that your feline friend is anxious.
It’s okay for cats to disappear from your sight from time to time. However, they can have severe anxiety issues if you don’t remember the last time you saw your kitty.
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. Sometimes, cats can be so anxious that they can groom to the point where they start losing fur in some spots.
Like humans, cats can express their anger or dissatisfaction aggressively. 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 always feel their love. But if they start following you everywhere and seem 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. Anxiety can lead to severe complications if not spotted on time, negatively affecting your pet.
At Bella&Toby™, we developed a calming pet bed model to help you make your dog's or cat's life joyful and without anxiety. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have questions about our anti-anxiety pet beds.