Anxiety is an issue in pets that can be frustrating for both the pet and the owner. Cats and dogs can suffer from various forms of anxiety, including separation from owners or loud noises such as thunderstorms, lawnmowers, or fireworks.
There are many ways to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Whether it’s crating, confining to a room, medication, supplements, Thundershirts, pheromone collars, or behavior consultations, it will be so worth figuring it out for both you and your pet. Most of these options work best in conjunction with each other, such as medications given while working with a trainer to help you understand the best way to treat your pets’ anxiety. There are natural options for mild cases, such as Zylkene, ProQuiet, and Adaptil, which are pheromone options. Exercise can also help tremendously with anxiety. Long walks, runs, and playing fetch are all great options. Mental exercises are important as well for your pet. It keeps them busy while things are going on around them. Puzzle balls, Kongs, and training all are good ways to stimulate their minds, which can cause them to get tired as well. A physically and mentally tired pet rests better, therefore anxiety usually decreases.
This is an issue that is very close to my heart. I have two rescue dogs, both of whom suffer from anxiety. One of them, Luna, had a severe phobia of thunderstorms. With attention and her favorite blanket, we have learned how to alleviate it pretty well. On the other hand, Rue is still a work in progress.
Rue was found on the street and taken to a shelter when she was six months old. We adopted her shortly after. As soon as she got into the car to go home, she started panting and shaking. That’s when we realized we were in for a “project dog”. Rue has severe separation and noise anxiety, mainly to fireworks. We tried crating her when we left her alone for almost a year before we realized that was not the best situation to help her anxiety. Most dogs love having their own “den” and won’t make a mess in their house. She was the complete opposite. Urinating and defecating in her crate were a normal thing for her and we figured she would grow out of the bad habit, but she never did. We came home one day to find her feet bleeding and her teeth chipped from trying to get out, standing in a puddle of her own making. We didn’t want her physically harming herself to get out, so we decided to explore other options.
The next idea we tried for Rue, when she was left home alone, was to confine her to a room by herself with all of her favorite things: tennis balls, treats, bones, the works. As it turns out, this wasn’t a good option either. She chewed the baseboards and almost chewed her way through the door, giving her tiny cuts in her mouth. Again, due to her hurting herself, we decided to reevaluate.
Rue now free roams the house with our other 3 pets. Being around them seems to alleviate some of her anxiety. We utilize puppy training pads and music while we are away. And while it isn’t ideal that she is still suffering from some symptoms, at least she is more comfortable than she was previously. More importantly, we know she isn’t harming herself anymore. Fireworks still scare her to the point of panic, and this year during the month of July we are exploring options such as Thundershirts and distractions while the events are actively happening. She is very food motivated as well, so Kongs and treats are a big thing to try to take her mind off of the booming outside.
The next step for her, if needed, is going to be medication. We have tried a couple without much success, but are not giving up. Because anxiety in pets is largely trial and error, when one thing doesn’t work, you move onto another. Our main goal is to make sure Rue is happy and healthy, and we are slowly getting to where we don’t worry about her when we are gone for short periods of time.
While this may sound time consuming to many of you reading this, think about if you were the one suffering from crippling anxiety. You’d want to try absolutely everything to make it better, right? Cats and dogs are the same way. Other options are always available to try when one doesn’t work.
If you ever need any help with your anxious animal, or you think your pet might have some sort of anxiety, give us a call. We are always here to help you and your pet figure things out, and I’m sure your pet will thank you for it.