Signs of Pet Stress

Many of us think of stress as being a purely human emotion, and a result of the pressures of work and/or home. However, pets are as likely to experience stress as we are, and it can prove to be just as detrimental to their health and wellbeing. As responsible, loving owners, it is important to recognize the signs that our pet is stressed, so we can try and alleviate the problem and help him to feel calm and happy again.

The effects of stress

Stress is the body’s reaction to a change in our life that requires a physical, mental or emotional response. While our bodies are designed to handle some stress, and it can be considered a positive thing (such as sensing danger and triggering the fight/flight response), repeated episodes of stress without a break, or one continuous long episode of stress without relief, can cause actual physical symptoms that can impact on your life. The same can be said for your pet.

Some of the most common effects of stress on your pet’s body can include physical signs such as:

- Upset stomach (vomiting, diarrhea, constipation)

- Trembling/shaking

- Yawning

- Frequently licking his nose and lips

- Loss of appetite

- Weight loss

- Persistent itching/scratching

- His ears are pulled/pinned back

- Cowering/crouched body position

- Hiding from you when you call

- Tail lowered/tucked

- Panting

- Increased vocalization, such as howling, whining or barking

There is little doubt that your pet will also experience some emotional responses to the cause of his stress, but for obvious reasons, these can be a lot more difficult to identify. Most pet owners find that if their pet is stressed, it affects their normal behavior and their pet may become aggressive, destructive or otherwise ‘naughty’. She may also start to have toilet incidents in the wrong places (inside the house in the case of dogs, or outside the litter tray in the case of cats).

Why is my pet stressed?

Pet stress can be caused by many things, particularly as changes that happen in his home and environment are out of his control and in the hands of his humans. For this reason, you should take extra care to provide as much love, care and consistency as you can if there are changes occurring that are unavoidable – such as a house move, new family member or change of routine. One of the best things you can do to help her cope is to provide additional exercise. This is because often stress manifests as excess nervous energy, that unless released, builds and builds in your pet and causes her symptoms to become much worse. By providing plenty of exercise or physical activity each day, you can help to minimize her stress levels.

Some of the main reasons that an animal may become stressed include:

- Exposure to new people or animals

- Moving home, or staying away for a temporary period (such as in kennels while you are on vacation)

- Changes in the household routine, for example kids being off for summer vacation, or a difference in the times when you are home from work

- Separation from their human family

- Loud noises (such as fireworks, parties or construction work)

- Poor behaviour / stressful emotional climate exhibited by the humans or other animals in the family

With a little time, care and consistency, pet stress can be managed, and you can relax knowing that you are doing everything possible to prioritize your pet’s emotional welfare during times of change. For further advice, do not hesitate to contact our veterinarian.