Pet Anxiety: 10 Lesser Known Signs You Don’t Know
By Jody L. Teiche, CPHE
Is your dog whining when you go out? Does your cat hide almost all the time?
These are signs of anxiety. There are many of them, some of which you may not associate with your pet’s mental health. Being aware of what these signs are gives you the opportunity to help your pet, as soon as possible, because anxiety is your dog or cat suffering. They can’t tell you, but their body language is doing it for them.
Lesser Known Signs Your Pet May Be Struggling:
* Excessive grooming: If your pet is constantly licking or biting themselves, it may be a sign of anxiety.
* Changes in appetite: If your pet suddenly loses or gains weight, or stops eating, it could be due to anxiety. Has anything changed in the home, in your life or the life of someone else living in the home?
* Urination or defecation outside the litter box: This is a common sign of anxiety in cats and can also occur in dogs, urinating or defecating in the house after they’ve been house trained.
* Destructive behavior: Chewing, digging, or scratching can all be signs of anxiety, especially if your pet has never displayed these behaviors before.
* Aggression: If your pet becomes aggressive or growls at you, other pets, or strangers, it could be a sign of anxiety. When pets feel backed into a corner, they will either attack or cower, sometimes both depending on how long the threat lasts and how close it gets to them.
* Changes in sleeping patterns: If your pet has trouble sleeping, or is sleeping more than usual, it could be due to anxiety or depression.
* Panting or shaking: If your pet is panting heavily or shaking, it could be a sign of anxiety.
* A raised paw with dogs: when a dog often raises its paw, it is a sign of tentativeness, of stress.
* Air Licking: this can mean nausea, but it can also mean anxiety.
* Not making eye contact: this is usually a sign of an animal feeling very insecure and anxious in its own skin. Is there any emotional transference happening between a caregiver and the pet? Animals are very intuitive and pick up on our energy easily. If we are anxious, it triggers anxiety in them. If we are angry, it can cause anxiety in them. If we are sad or depressed, since they don’t understand cause, it can also trigger anxiety.
Where Pet Anxiety Comes From &…
Diet: Many pet parents don’t put the two together, but a diet low in usable, high value nutrition can cause anxiety in an animal. If their diet is comprised of highly processed food or food high in carbs/simple sugars, this not only robs the body of essential nutrients, but it causes sugar level spikes which, in turn, causes an increase in their feelings of stress and anxiety.
Dry food or kibble is highly processed and consists mostly of carbs. Even the grain free or low carb dry food diets often include poor quality proteins like lentils and legumes, and starches like potatoes, beets, and peas.
Poor quality food creates inflammation in the body. Periodic inflammation is good when needed, to fight off infection or rally around an injury. But, chronic inflammation is the precursor of all dis-ease, and a catalyst for increased anxiety. Sometimes, when the diet is changed to a raw food one, consisting of muscle meat, organ meats and raw meaty bones, the anxiety calms and the animal is much happier. Whether it dissipates the anxiety completely or not, the dog will be more energetic, vibrant and healthier.
Our dogs and cats’ digestive systems haven’t changed much since they were wolves and big cats. We may have domesticated them, but that mostly means they now sleep in our beds, we take them places and treat them like our kids. They were designed to eat the whole prey they’d just killed – meat, organs, bones, fur…everything. And, this gave them all of the vitamins and minerals they needed to be healthy and strong.
Separation anxiety: occurs when they are left alone for extended periods of time. This can lead to destructive behaviors, such as chewing or digging, and can cause physical symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Some dogs will whine or howl for hours when their caregiver leaves. Others may become depressed and just sleep. If you know your pet gets anxious when you get ready to go out, it’s best to test natural methods and modalities to offset that and make them more comfortable.
Fear-based anxiety: this can be triggered by loud noises, unfamiliar people or animals, and other stressful situations. This type of anxiety can cause pets to become aggressive or hide. Even people wearing certain hats or types of clothing can trigger this. Identify the triggers and employ training and natural calming modalities to put your pet at ease, so they can get over this fear.
Phobias: Just like humans, pets can develop phobias, such as a fear of thunderstorms, fireworks, or car rides. Shaking, hiding under the bed are just a couple of ways terrified pets behave when faced with their fears. There are essential oils, homeopathic remedies, and other natural healing modalities to help them relax. Essential oils like Balance, Peace and Console are good ones to try here. Also, the homeopathic remedy Aconite might be helpful in these situations.
PTSD: Pets that have experienced abuse, neglect, or other traumatic events may develop post- traumatic stress disorder anxiety as a result. This is very common amongst rescued pets. There is sometimes a long road here, depending on when they suffered the abuse. During the first 16 weeks of life is when the most imprinting happens, and any traumatic experience, even a mother early on that is anxious, affects the pup. When a fear develops during this critical imprinting stage, it does make it harder to overcome, but not impossible. A calm, consistent and compassionate trainer with good skills can help tremendously.
Lack of socialization: Pets that haven’t been properly socialized can develop anxiety when exposed to new situations or people. That’s why it’s so important to expose your new puppy to as many different types of situations as possible. If that was never done, take it slowly and gradually, but be consistent. Don’t push them beyond their green zone. Once they go into the orange zone of the signs you know that means they’re becoming anxious, stop and retreat. Once in the red zone, it will be too late. They won’t hear you; the sheer panic of their fears will overpower them, and it will be a set-back to progress.
For more helpful solutions, see my earlier post on pet anxiety.
It’s important to understand that anxiety in pets is a treatable condition, and with the right support, pets can overcome their anxieties and lead happy and healthy lives. Things like a diet change to fresh, healthier foods, behavior modification therapy, the right kinds of training for your animal, homeopathy, essential oils, LoveTouch™ or frequency scanning can all help. Every animal is unique and there is no one size fits all. It’s best to talk to someone who knows and can help guide you through.
As a last resort and then, hopefully, only as a bridge, would be pharmacological medications. This option may be suited for cases where a dog is extremely aggressive towards others or itself or they are so terrified of being left alone, they destroy the house and/or really hurt themselves in the process.
Usually, with love, time, consistency, some experimentation and patience, you can find ways to help your best friend overcome their anxieties and live a happy, more relaxed life.
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