Blog, Health, nutrition and lifestyle

Dealing with Stress in Dogs and Cats

Recognising the Symptoms, Triggers and Dealing with it…

Similar to how we deal with feelings of overwhelmedness and agitation, there are some situations our pets can not thrive in. What may look like a sudden, distasteful change in attitude and behaviour, may be your pet’s way of letting you know that they are stressed.

Stress in pets is not easy to recognise, especially because some stress-related behaviour may correspond with normal animal behaviour, so it is often times easy to overlook and attribute to your pet being ‘naughty’. Stress, however, can be very detrimental to your pet’s health, because the chemical response to feeling stressed can suppress your pet’s immunity.

According to Dr Jean Gouws, of the Greenside Animal Hospital, stress affects cats more than it does dogs, especially in multi-pet households. This, according to Dr Gouws, is because dogs are natural ‘pack animals’ and adjust much easier to being in groups than cats do.

Stress is also more recognisable in cats because the symptoms are more severe and stressed cats may experience chronic or recurring urinary tract infections when they are stressed.

Recognising the symptoms

The key to recognising stress in your pets is by being aware of their behaviour. If you cannot distinguish between normal and odd behaviour, you may not be able to tell when your pets are acting out of the norm or displaying telling symptoms.

Although the stress itself is not life-threatening, it may lead to conditions that may be, due to the chemical reaction that causes immune suppression.

Dogs and cats react differently to stress and the triggers may be different for dogs and cats alike. One thing for certain is that when your pets are experiencing symptoms that are easily attributable to stress, it is safer to deal with them promptly.

Symptoms of Stress in Dogs

Some symptoms of stress in dogs are easy to confuse with normal behaviour, so it is imperative to look out for new antics and concerning behaviour that your dog may have. Common stress symptoms in dogs include:

  • Excessive Drooling
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Hiding/Isolation/Escaping
  • Itching/Scratching
  • Decrease in Appetite
  • Increased Sleeping
  • Increased Aggression (towards people/other pets/dogs)
  • Tail between Legs
  • Changes in Body Posture

Symptoms of Stress in Cats

Unlike dogs, cats are not known to be the most affectionate of animals. For this reason, pet owners may not be able to tell when their cats are acting particularly distant, however, there are more telltale signs that cat owners can look for:

  • Excessive Grooming
  • Excessive Vocalisation (Loud/Constant Meowing)
  • Decrease in Appetite
  • Isolation
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Decreased usage of the Litter Box
  • Aggressiveness
  • Increased Sleeping

How to handle stressed Pets

Reducing stress in your pets is as easy as ensuring that they are in good health and comfortable in their surroundings.

For dogs, comfortable environments are places where they feel safe. This means away from overly noisy areas and fireworks, which are known to be common stressors. Dogs have also been known to experience stress as a result of trauma and anxiety.

Common stress triggers in dogs, include moving to a new residential area, disrupting their daily routine, boredom and separation anxiety. Sometimes your dog becomes stressed as a reaction to your attitude and the stress you may be experiencing.

Similar to dogs, your cat may react negatively to an environment they do not find comfortable. These include new apartments, an addition to the family (be it a new pet or person) and having to share resources. Feeling like they have to compete with other cats/pets is a significant enough trigger to induce stress in your cat.

Ensure your cats are well taken care of and do not lack any resources. Alternatively, stress could be an indication that something is wrong with your pets. A visit to the vet may just be what your pet needs to rule out the possibility of other more serious diseases that mimic stress-related symptoms.

Pet Hero also offers a variety of products that can help you in calming stressed pets, such as stress collars and supplements that can help them deal with stress-related symptoms and diseases.