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
- Excessive panting or drooling
- 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!