What’s that noise? Who moved there? Is something scary going to happen?
Anxious pets – everybody knows one. But what is anxiety? Anxiety is when a pet worries about something that is going to happen in the future. That worry causes an unpleasant emotional feeling and in turn, a behavioural response. For example, a pet may become restless, fidgety or agitated when he can see you bringing out the suitcases – he remembers from the last time, that it means you’re going away or that he’s going to the kennels.
As people, we can feel a bit anxious before doing a big presentation or before starting a new job – it’s normal for a pet to feel a bit uncertain at times. It becomes problematic though when the worrying becomes so frequent or intense that it starts to interfere with normal everyday living.
Some common things that pets may feel anxious about are:
- going in the car
- going on walks
- staying at home alone
- visiting the vet
For some pets, anxiety may be mild and manageable with small changes, but for others, it can be debilitating and a true welfare issue. And, just like other medical conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes, anxiety in pets tends to get worse if left untreated.
So, what can be done to help pets with anxiety?
Fortunately, there are several ways that we can help pets manage better. Depending on what your pet is concerned about, various tailored strategies and supports can be employed to help them cope. It’s always useful to have a well-rounded plan that addresses the problem on many different fronts:
- Consider the pet’s environment and how that can be modified to help
- Teach the pet coping strategies
- If appropriate, veterinarians may consider suitable medications