No one wants to come home to a chewed up couch, or a special surprise on the rug. When pets have behavioral problems, it might be because of anxiety. Sometimes it feels like your pet is trying to punish you for being gone and living your life. It can be frustrating to have to clean up messes again and again, no matter how much you love them. It’s important to remember that anxiety is an unintentional and often uncontrollable response due to the release of chemicals in your pet’s brain. Anxiety in pets is a common and treatable issue, just like it is with humans.
While your pet’s anxiety can be triggered by thunderstorms, meeting new people, or for rescue pets, a history of abuse, there often isn’t a reason for anxiety – it’s just there, part of your pet’s personality. All pets express anxiety in different ways, including excessive barking, howling, or meowing, indoor elimination, excessive grooming, aggressive behavior, or acting clingy. For cats and dogs, dramatic changes to the household, including new babies, visiting guests, or new pets can be stressful. Pets can also feel anxious about being left alone for long periods of time.
To help manage your pet’s anxiety, we put together a few tips:
Talk to your vet
First, visit your veterinarian to rule out any other issues, such as brain or thyroid conditions. If your cat is eliminating outside of the litter box, she might have a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, or diabetes – or she just might not like the type of litter you’ve been buying. A thorough examination from a vet can help clear up whatever issues there might be.
Additionally, a vet can develop a behavior modification program or prescribe medication that will help to treat your pet’s anxiety, like fluoxetine and trazadone. Getting the right dose or type of medication can take some time and adjustment, so it’s important to be patient during this process.
Don’t scold or punish
A fearful animal will not respond well to negative reinforcement such as loud voices or stern commands, and it’s important to remember that anxious behaviors are often an involuntary response. Recognize that your dog or cat is currently an animal in distress. Patience will go a long way, so when you feel yourself getting short-tempered, take a moment to calm down before you respond to them.
Maintain a routine
Always try to feed your pet, clean the litter box or take them for a walk, and come home at the same time every day. This establishes a routine so your pet knows what to expect when it comes to meal times and when you’ll be home, which will help to assuage their fears and anxieties.
Play with your pet
Playing with your pet can help relieve and treat their nervousness. It’s also a way of demonstrating to your pet that you love them and are there for them, which in turn helps to calm them down. Doggy day care is another option that will keep your dog busy and entertained while you’re at work.
Offer your pet their own space to retreat to
Both dogs and cats need to retreat at times when they’re distressed. Consider providing a space that is their own. For your dog, line a crate with a comfortable dog bedding and drape a blanket over the top for a cave-like space. For your cat, heights work wonders. Set up a cat tree that they can climb up to get away from any real or perceived threats – being up high is reassuring for cats.
Recondition your pet
Giving your pet a treat or a toy when you leave can help replace the fear of being left alone with the pleasure of fun or a snack. Over time, they’ll begin to associate you leaving with a reward instead. For dogs, obedience training can be an effective tool to give you control over their behavior.
Adjust their dietTreat anxiety with nutrition with foods that specifically help treat anxiety. Even cats and dogs experience the calming effects of tryptophan in turkey, just like you do after Thanksgiving dinner, according to a study. Blueberries, kale, oils rich in Omega-3s, quinoa, beef, and pumpkin seeds all have anxiety-reducing properties, and we include these ingredients in our Primal Pet Foods. Proper nutrition is always a great place to start for treating any ailment, including anxiety. Try our raw turkey formulas for dogs and cats. Good luck, and remember to stay calm and be patient with your furry friend.