How to support your anxious pet

Anxious pets

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This month marks Pet Anxiety Month, an issue that’s common in both cats and dogs. Understanding your pet’s triggers, fears and any behaviour issues can be the first step in addressing the problem, with treatments and solutions to support them along the way. Keep reading for tips and products that will help your pet get back to their usual calm, happy self.

Common causes of stress

We might look at our pets and wonder what they have to be stressed about, but some situations and certain environments can make them uncomfortable or concerned. This is particularly common when they encounter a change in their routine, such as moving house, a new arrival, travel or houseguests. Dogs especially can struggle with longer periods of time on their own, while multi-cat homes can cause huge amounts of stress for felines.

Signs that your pet might be stressed or anxious:

Digestive irregularities (diarrhoea, constipation)

A reduced appetite

Increased desire to sleep

Isolation

Aggression or hostile behaviour

Constant barking (dogs)

Excessive grooming (cats) or lip-licking (dogs)

Going to the toilet outside of their litter tray (cats)

Their tail between their legs when walking (dogs)

Our top tips to reassure a stressed pet

1. Try to identify the main aggressor or cause of stress

Look around to see if anything has changed recently. Is there a new cat in the neighbourhood or is there loud construction work going on that could be causing your pet’s anxiety? Identifying the trigger can help you address and resolve the issue.

2. Establish a routine and stick to it

Just like us, our pets are creatures of habit and take great comfort in a comfortable and regular routine. Picking a specific time for their food and for their daily walk will offer stability and reassurance in their lives.

3. Create a calming environment

A study published in ScienceDirect found that dogs can read angry faces in humans, suggesting our behaviour really can impact our pets. We’re not suggesting you remain mellow at all times, we’re human after all, but it’s good to bear in mind that if you’re expressing anger, maybe don’t do it around your pet.

If you know your environment will be changing soon, or if you have an upcoming event or guests set to come over, you can always prepare your pet with natural pheromone-based products. For dogs, we recommend Adaptil, while for cats we’d suggest Feliway. It might be worth considering a calming supplement from Zylkène for added support.

4. Give them a place to retreat

Giving your pet access to a quiet room or a calm spot under a bed will offer a sense of security when they feel overwhelmed or scared. You can choose any spot in your home where your pet can be alone, get comfortable and won’t be disturbed. Many pet parents use a crate, giving their pet a safe space and dedicated spot where they know they can be alone.

5. Encourage exercise

Gentle exercise, like a long walk, throwing a ball or playing, are all effective stress relievers. Just like us, when our pets exercise their bodies release endorphins, and these feel-good chemicals can reduce our perception of pain and help us relax.

6. Get professional help

If you’re not seeing any improvement with these tips, or if your pet is getting more anxious, an animal behaviourist might be the solution. They can help you find out what might be wrong, as well as advise on mechanisms that can help your pet relax. The Animal Behaviour and Training Council site (ABTC) offers recommendations for accredited professionals all across the UK.

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