Understanding Pet Anxiety

dog chewing on treat

Welcome home! You’ve just unlocked the door and walk inside to find your living room covered with your chewed up couch material. Or, you walk in and find that your cat has eliminated on the rug, instead of in the litter box. You grit your teeth and start to clean up, wondering what has come over your pet these days. 

Are they angry with you for leaving the house and punishing you? Probably not. Chances are, your pet is experiencing anxiety and fear. 

Fear and anxiety are complex problems in dogs and cats that manifest themselves in many ways. We thought we’d give you an overview of these issues, and what you can do to help alleviate these feelings in your pet. 

Signs and Causes of Pet Anxiety

Anxiety and fear are common contributing factors to destructive behavior in pets. Some signs of pet anxiety may be: 

  • Destructive behavior, such as chewing furniture, digging, frantic scratching at doors or windows
  • House soiling
  • Vocalization
  • Trembling
  • Coprophagia
  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Pacing
  • If confined, attempts to escape

Causes of pet anxiety and fear can run the gamut and might not necessarily make sense to you. Some common causes of anxiety in pets often include changes to their normal routine, such as: 

  • Moving homes
  • A new pet in the house (especially for cats)
  • A new baby or other new people in the house
  • Loud noises, such as thunderstorms or large gatherings
  • Traveling in the car
  • Separation from you

How to Help Your Pet

Before you reach your wit’s end, know that there are steps you can take to help alleviate your pet’s anxiety. 

Rule out medical problems first – Your first step is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian at Felton Veterinary Hospital. We can start by determining if there is an underlying medical issue that might be contributing to your pet’s anxious behavior. For example, litter box issues with cats are commonly caused by bladder stones or infection. 

Form a plan of action Barring any medical issues, we can work with you to determine the causes of your pet’s stress and form a plan for reducing their feelings of anxiety. Behavior modification is one way we can help do this, as is anxiety reducing medication. These two approaches are often utilized to help eliminate or manage your pet’s anxiety.

Seek training for your pet and guidance for you Veterinarians and trainers also work closely together to help with anxiety problems in pets.  Behavior issues are complex, and some medical problems may result in behaviors that then become a habit, requiring treatment on many levels. We can refer you to a trusted trainer, if we find that this is needed. 

Be patient Behavior problems stemming from anxiety can be frustrating, but remember to be patient with your pet. Scolding them or exposing them to the object of their fear repeatedly in the hopes they will become desensitized will only make their fear and anxiety worse. 

We hope we’ve given you some food for thought and insight into this complex area. If you have any questions about your pet’s behavior, or are wondering if your pet is experiencing anxiety, please don’t hesitate to call us. We’re here to help!

Your Go-To Guide for Adopting a Shelter Pet

You’re ready to adopt a new pet! Congratulations. Of course, your first thought is probably to check out our local shelter, and we couldn’t agree more. Shelters and rescue organizations have many loving and wonderful pets of every size, shape, and personality just waiting for their forever homes.

Adopting a shelter pet is most successful if a little planning and preparation takes place before you set foot in the building. Felton Veterinary Hospital is ready to be your tour guide along the journey of adopting a shelter pet. 

Know Before You Go

All in the family – talking with your family is the first step. Hold a family meeting specifically about adopting a shelter pet. Make sure everyone is on board and that responsibilities are clear. Who will take care of the pet each day? Who will take her to the vet? Dogs live up to 15 years and cats well into their twenties. It’s important that everyone in your household is ready for that kind of daily commitment.

Do your research – consider your own lifestyle. Do you own or rent your home? We all know how tricky it is to find a rental with pets in our area. How much free time do you have to dedicate to pet care? What are your family’s needs? Then, research different breeds and species of pet to find one that will fit into your life well. Call us for recommendations; we are breed experts!

Pet proof your home – new pets of any age are unpredictable, and you won’t want your new pet to get into things that can break or that can hurt him. Gate off any areas you don’t want your new pet to access before you bring her home. Place valuables and hazardous substances far out of reach.

Learn the basics – there are several essential items you should have before bringing a new pet home. A high quality diet, food and water dishes, leashes and collar, a litter box, and toys and chews are all important gear to have on hand.

The lay of the land – most shelters and rescue organizations have all their adoptable pets listed on their websites. It may be helpful to peruse this ahead of time, so you can ask shelter workers to see specific pets. Shelters are busy, overwhelming places, so a little prep can make things easier for you once you go.

A Trip to The Shelter

Nothing is more exciting than going to pick out your new pet. Here are our best tips for adopting a shelter pet.

Make new friends – with the shelter workers, that is. No one knows the pets at the shelter better than they do, and they can often help make your perfect match. 

A grain of salt – take each pet’s personality while at the shelter with a grain of salt. Shelters are busy and noisy, and many pets use coping mechanisms such as tail tucking, barking, or aloofness. Remember that a pet’s personality may not be what you see in the shelter environment. If you’re looking at dogs, ask to take the ones you like for a short walk (individually). You can tell a lot about a dog’s energy, personality, and activity level on a 10 minute walk. 

Black is the new black – for whatever reason, pets with black coat colors are often overlooked at shelters. Don’t ignore the darker coated pets – one might just steal your heart!

A golden oldie – take a close look at middle aged or older pets. Many of these senior pets end up in the shelter only when an aging owner can no longer care for them. They are often housebroken, have trained at least one human, and are wonderful, loving companions. 

Adopting a Shelter Pet

Congratulations! You’ve met and adopted your new best friend. Now what?

A slow start – give your new pet time to get acclimated t o your home and immediate family. Don’t throw a new pet party or take them out to meet the neighbors right away. A couple of weeks of quiet time is in order, to allow them space to get comfortable. Don’t be surprised if your new pet hides when you bring her home. And give us a call for tips on introducing your new pet to your existing pets. 

Establish a routine – a routine of feeding (where, what, and how often), going out to the bathroom, sleeping (where) and play/ social time is important to help your pet acclimate. With love, gentleness and stability you’ll see their true personality come out. 

Bring them in – one outing that should be the exception is a visit to see us, hopefully within 48 hours of adoption. We can help the transition by making sure your pet is protected from infectious disease and parasites, and that they are healthy and well. We can also answer any of your questions about behavior, nutrition, and wellness. And, we can make sure your new pet has a great first experience with their new veterinarian – one that will last throughout their lifetime!

Go to a training class – especially if you’re a new pet owner, a training class can be eye opening and a huge relief. Not only is it fun to get to know your new pet, it’s important to know some basic positive training skills so that your new pet feels confident and secure in your kind leadership. The more common language you share with your pet, the fewer behavioral issues you’ll experience – and the happier your pet will be, too. 

Keep in touch most shelters welcome questions about a pet that they’ve adopted out. If something doesn’t seem right, they are often more than willing to help. And, most shelter workers and organizations love to get updates on the pets they have helped. It’s rewarding to know that a pet they’ve known is in a forever, loving home. Shelter work is often thankless work, so these updates and pictures are worth their weight in gold.

If you have any questions about adopting a shelter pet – whether before, during, or after – please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to give you whatever support we can. And, we are looking forward to caring for your new pet now and in the future!