While holidays are filled with fun and excitement for most people, a lot of our pets may not be as excited about the festivities. Here are a few tips on how to tell if your furbaby is stressed out and what you can do to relieve it!
Knowing the signs of stress in your dog is essential to good pet parenting. Owners may feel like they communicate on a unique level with their furbaby, but oftentimes signs are mistaken as personality quirks or even misbehavior.
“Dogs have broken down the walls of our hearts,” says ‘America’s veterinarian’ Dr. Marty Becker. He notes that when pets and people interact, there’s a corresponding release of oxytocin, prolactin, and dopamine, and a decrease in cortisol. “It’s a reciprocal biochemical spa treatment.”
Signs of Stress in Pets
Your pet’s body language can say a lot about how relaxed or stressed your dog feels. “We’re naturally attuned to stress in other people,” Dr. Becker says. “We know what a happy dog looks like, but what does a stressed dog look like? Stress increases cortisol, the fight or flight hormone, which over time can lead to long-term metabolic conditions.”
Major indicators of stress to watch out for in dogs include:
- Excessive yawning
- Excessively licking lips
- Shaking dry when not wet
- Avoiding or hiding
- Hardening of the eyes
How to De-Stress Your Pet
Much of the stress pets experience can be reduced or avoided with a little TLC. Dr. Becker notes, “The key is to reduce anxiety triggers.” If you have a vet visit, for example, “Don’t get the carrier out the night before.” Give your pet a few days to get prepared. If they’re nervous alone or travelling, play soothing music, or draw the shades. The less stimulus pets receive from the outside world, the less anxiety they’ll have about events outside their control.
Here are some common causes of chronic stress, along with some ways to help manage your pet’s anxiety.
Changes at Home
Dogs and cats are sensitive to their environments, and constant changes in the home can make your pet feel like he or she is out of control. If you move, make repairs, or remodel, try to keep as many things as possible tidy and consistent. If you have a cat, make sure she has unobstructed access to food, water, and the litter box, as cats like to have convenient escape routes handy at all times.
Changes to Social Circle
Have you adopted a new pet or had a new baby, guest, or significant other join your household? The loss of family member, or even a child heading off to college, can also stress out your pet. You can help by adding more play and exercise to your pet’s day. When introducing pets and/or people, meet on neutral territory, where nobody feels territorial. With humans give them a treat to feed your pet. With other animals, time and patience are key.
Boredom and Overstimulation
Energy varies between breeds, says Dr. Becker. “Greyhounds, Labs, Golden Retrievers, Jack Russell Terriers, Border Collies, and other active breeds have unfathomable energy.” He continues, “Wolves spend 80% of their time awake, moving. For dogs, he recommends food-dispensing that “recreates the hunt,” and puzzle feeders that engage your pet’s “body and mind.”
Everyone loves a new puppy or kitten, but — like people — a pet’s needs change with age. They may be less active, preferring a leisurely stroll to a rollicking tug-of-war, so adapt to the changing needs of older pets as best you can. Keep up on their veterinary care, and ensure your old friend remains a healthy and happy member of your family.
When looking for ways to de-stress your pet, always try to view things from his or her point of view. With a little work on your part, your pet is sure to reward you with a happy, wagging tail.
Pet owners can create happier pets by providing basic essentials such as:
- Individual food and water bowls, and separate spaces to eat and drink for each member of the furry family.
- A good diet based on age, activity level and formulated to reduce digestive issues or food allergies.
- Comfortable bed or kennel in a quiet part of the house where the pet can relax and get away from the family from time to time.
- Exercise to help burn off excess energy and tap into instinctive urges.
- Classical music, or music created for pets, or a TV or radio on (for example, a certain pet radio show) in the house so the pet doesn’t feel all alone or to mask scary sounds like loud engines or thunderstorms.
- Toys and food puzzles to keep a pet busy. Dogs are terrible multi-taskers. If they are focused and busy playing or working out a challenge for food or a treat, they won’t be as stressed out by other factors.
To learn more about how to reduce stress and anxiety in pets including the signs to look for, visit www.fearfreehappyhomes.com.