Do you have an anxious pet?
Cats and dogs can suffer from anxiety. The cause may be due to undesirable circumstances during the animals’ early development or may be due to a true problem with the pets’ brain or a combination of the two.
Pets that suffer from anxiety can be very unhappy, they can harm others and themselves and they can suffer from medical conditions as a result of the anxiety affecting their immunity.
Some of the behaviour that pets show to let us know they are include; panting, scanning the area and seeming to be hyper vigilant, and restlessness. Chronic anxiety will lead to fatigue.
Cats are naturally solitary animals, meaning they like to live alone. More than one cat in a household can lead to anxiety. This is not always the case and many cats, especially siblings are very happy living together.
One of the main problems seen with cats suffering from anxiety is inappropriate elimination. They will urinate or spray outside of the litter tray. Cats suffering from anxiety are also susceptible to urinary tract inflammation and infections. A serious consequence in male cats is the development of urinary tract crystals and stones and blockage of the urinary tract, which can be fatal without treatment.
Anxious dogs may get upset when left alone (separation anxiety). They may bark a lot, destroy things and potentially injure themselves. Many dogs become anxious with loud noises like thunder storms and fireworks and may harm themselves or escape and get injured or lost.
The treatment for anxious pets is to firstly understand why the pet is anxious and try to fix the causes. For example, if a cat is anxious because the other cats in the household do not like it, the cat needs to have a space of it’s own and to be fed away from the other cats and have a littler tray of its own away from the other cats.
Desensitisation and counterconditioning of anxious dogs to separation or loud noises can be very successful if done correctly. Often the dog needs to be given medication to help reduce the anxiety symptoms while in training to make it effective.
For some pets, the only option is permanent medication.
Synthetic pheromones (feel good chemicals released by the nursing bitch or queen) are also used effectively to reduce anxiety. They come as a plug-in diffuser, a spray or impregnated in a collar.
Puppies experience a period of brain development between 4 and 16 weeks, called the sensitisation period. During this time, the more experiences of places, people, noises, other animals the puppy can experience, the better as it make them much less likely to be anxious about these things later in life. Puppy pre-school classes are aimed at make the most of this sensitisation period with aim to help puppies grow up without anxieties.