While your dog or cat doesn’t work a 9-to-5 or have to cook dinner, your pet likely does experience stress. Like humans, stress affects each pet differently and can crop up at different points in their lives. If you’re wondering how stress affects your pet’s health, how you can help, or how to recognize signs of stress, we have those answers and more.
1. Signs of Stress in Pets
How will your pet tell you it feels stressed? Cats and dogs demonstrate various symptoms of stress, most obviously avoiding interacting with whatever is stressing it out. They may also be seen hiding, shedding, and panting. Even cats can pant when stressed.
Other signs of stress in animals include:
- Shaking & shivering
- Tail tucking
- Dilated pupils
- Accidental urinating
- Decreased appetite
- Excessive grooming
- Barking and whimpering (dogs)
- Lip licking (dogs)
- Excessive and prolonged yawning (dogs)
2. Stress Affects Your Pet’s Physical Health
While stress is a psychological response, it often takes a physical toll on pets. Stress can make your pet lose its appetite or give it an upset stomach, resulting in vomiting or diarrhea.
Stress has a long-term effect on your pet’s health, too. When exposed to a stressor, your cat or dog will experience a fight-or-flight response, otherwise known as the acute stress response. This releases a hormone known as cortisol into your pet’s bloodstream, which redirects blood flow to muscles to help your pet defend itself or flee. Over time, increased levels of cortisol can weaken your pet’s immune system, making them more susceptible to illness or infection.
3. Stress Can Have a Snowball Effect
Once your cat or dog begins to feel stress it can be difficult to calm or distract them and they may start behaving erratically, dangering themselves, other pets, and people. Your pet’s body also tends to have a harder time returning to a normal heart rate and anxiety level with repeated episodes of stress.
Frequent stress can become a chronic problem when a dog or cat starts getting anxious in anticipation of a stressor. For example, a dog may show signs of stress when its owner picks up the car keys, knowing that they will soon be left alone. Behavioral problems like separation anxiety can frequently be attributed to stress and left unaddressed your pet may cause damage to themself or your home.
4. There Are Ways You Can Help Your Pet Better Cope with Stress
Some stressors are temporary, like houseguests or moving, while others aren’t, like having to vacuum your house. Temporary or light stress can usually be solved with counter-conditioning and other behavioral modification techniques, while more severe stress may require a prescription.
Whether severe or mild, you can help your pet deal with stress with some simple techniques like:
- Exercise and mental stimulation: Taking your dog on a walk burns energy and relieves stress for both of you. (Use puzzle toys on rainy days.) Playing with your cat has the same benefits.
- Desensitization: Working with a behaviorist and desensitizing your pet to things that cause them stress, like certain people or environments.
- Avoid the stressor: Minimizing the stressor or giving your pet distance from the trigger. If you have a houseguest, your dog or cat might be happier with a staycation in a bedroom.
- Compression shirts: ZenPet compression shirts hug your pup in all the right places to help relieve stress.
- Adaptil, Nurture Calm Collar, and Feliway: Pets have areas in their brains that release calming and comforting chemicals. Adaptil, Nurture Calm Collar, and Feliway interact with these regions of the brain.
5. We’re Here for You and Your Pet
It can be difficult for pet parents when their cats and dogs experience severe or chronic stress. Pet parents may not feel comfortable coming in just for help with their pets’ stress or they don’t know if their pets’ stress is severe enough to be a problem.
We are here to help you and your pet live a happy life together and that requires a holistic view of your pet’s health and behavior. We can answer any questions you may have about your pet’s stress or anxiety and make a referral based on you and your pet’s specific needs and lifestyle.
Don’t Let Stress Take a Toll on Your Pet’s Health
If you’ve wondered why your pet has been shaking, shivering, or not eating, your pet may be suffering from stress. Make an appointment now and get started on a calmer, happier life for you and your furry companion.
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