You know how stress can throw wrenches in your life, causing all sorts of troubles including anxiety, sleeplessness and more. As a pet owner, you might be interested to know that your animal friends can get stressed out, too.
Fortunately, just as you can implement techniques in your routine to help reduce and eliminate stress from your life, you can also help your pets reduce stress and relax in their lives! If your dog or cat is ill or their behavior becomes troublesome, you should first see your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.
For dogs, stress often comes from a change in environment or surroundings. When changes come up in your life, say moving to a new home or spending more time away from home (separation), your dog may experience stress over the new situation. Noise can be a source of stress, too. Some of these things cannot be controlled, and a bit of stress once in a while won't likely have far-reaching negative effects on your dog, but prolonged stress might bring a change in behavior and even illness.
What types of behavioral changes could you see in a stressed out dog? Your dog may experience:
- Excessive barking
- Destructive behavior like biting or chewing furniture
- Illness like vomiting or diarrhea
Our pets can't talk to us, so it's good to know how to help them. Spending more time with your pet is a good start. Give your dog more exercise and playtime with you, which can help keep him or her happy. Not only is this good for your furry friend, it can be good for you, too!
Melissa Bain, DVM, a veterinary behavior specialist associated with Animal Behavior Resources Institute, suggests the following to help keep your dog stress-free and relaxed:
- Increased physical activity
- Increased mental stimulation
- Stimulation of normal canine behaviors
- Prevention or reduction of repetitive behaviors
Bain also notes that these activities fall into three categories of enrichment:
- Human interaction — Play with your dog more. Things like fetch, tug-of-war and hide-and-seek are easy ways you can play with your pup to help increase mental stimulation and exercise.
- Animal interaction — This activity includes supervised play dates, outings to the dog park and obedience or training classes. Keep in mind, however, that some dogs tend to be more solitary, and play dates or dog park visits might stress him or her out even more. Keep a careful watch on your dog during these activities and decide how to proceed at a later date.
- Solitary activities — Leave on a television or radio in the house when you're not home. Consider buying a few toys for your dog. Things like "treat toys" (toys your dog has to move around and work at to get to the treat) can occupy time for your dog and stimulate his or her senses.
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Cats may seem like cooler-than-cool, laid-back animals, but they can get stressed out too. However, unlike dogs, cats are not pack animals and may prefer alone time.
When a cat is stressed, he or she might exhibit the following behaviors:
- Aggression toward people or other animals
- Urine marking
- Loss of appetite
Cats can become stressed by many things, including a move to a new home, a new pet in the house and noises. If you can figure out what is bothering your cat, try to eliminate or alleviate that stressor.
- Give your cat an area/hideaway where he or she can retreat
- Keep your cat's litter box clean
- Spend time playing with your cat each day
- Set up an area for your cat where he or she can climb up
- Provide some toys for your cat to play with when you're not home
A stressed pet can mean a stressed owner, too. Take time to find ways to help keep your pet happy, healthy and stress free. You'll both be happy in the end!
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