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How To Recognize Signs Of Stress In Your Pet

Life is hectic. Unfortunately, stress happens to everyone, including pets. In a world full of so many stimulating things, it’s often difficult for some pets to process all of this information. We’re going to look at what causes stress in our pets, how to recognize signs of stress in your pet, and how to help them gain some relief.

What Causes Stress In Pets?

Like humans, there are various factors that lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety in your furry friends. The leading causes of stress in your pet are typically loud sounds, the introduction of new people, moving to a new home, change or a lack of routine. 

On a scientific level, the hormone cortisol is responsible for stress. During homeostasis, when your pet is at peace and all of their emotional, mental, and physical systems are healthy, cortisol is present. People sometimes view cortisol as a bad thing, but it serves many important functions. Cortisol is critical when it comes to regulating things like blood sugar, metabolism, inflammation, and blood pressure levels. 

Cortisol controls the salt and water balance in the body. This balancing act, during stressful situations, is crucial. If your pet finds themself in a life-threatening situation, cortisol levels increase which signals the release of glucose to the brain—activating the flight or flight response. However, the problem with cortisol is not its short-term health implications. Long-term elevated cortisol levels are what lead to chronic stress in pets and humans. 

Signs Of Stress In Pets

Here are three key signs to look out for in your pet that may indicate they’re stressed. 

1. Digestive or feeding issues

Have you noticed that your otherwise healthy pet is having some tummy troubles? Looser stools, diarrhea, lack of appetite, or vomiting are all signs that something isn’t right. 

2. Aggression toward people or other animals

This is one of the most common results of stress and anxiety in pets. Often, this aggressive behavior is unintentional and not characteristic of the animal. They’re acting out of stress or fear. If your kitty or pup is newly aggressive with people or other animals, that’s a clear sign they’re anxious or stressed. 

3. Excessive sleepiness or lethargy

If you’ve noticed your cat or dog behaving lethargically or sleeping more than usual, they may be stressed. Of course, sleepiness and lethargy may be a symptom of another condition, so it’s best to play it safe, and bring them into a vet

Stress Relief For Cats & Dogs

Now that you understand what to look out for, what do you do when you know your pet is under stress? There are some key things to do that will help reduce any stress or anxiety your pet is having. 

Exercise is the most important stress reliever to take advantage of—it’s natural and fun! Like in humans, exercise increases your pet’s endorphin levels which reduces stress and improves sleep cycles. So, for some effective stress relief for dogs, take them to the dog park, on a run, or even play fetch in the backyard! For the cat, you can do a game of hide and seek with treats or even use a laser pointer to play chase. 

Next, establishing a regular routine is critical for both cats and dogs. If you have a major life change, like a big move, a new job, or even having a baby, you need to try to maintain a set schedule for your pet. Cats value routine and breaking away from it too often can result in urinating outside of the litter box or similar behavior. Keeping a routine will provide a sense of normalcy for your pet that allows them to remain in a state of peace. 

Finally, an important thing you can do to reduce stress and anxiety is consider using a compression wrap. Like a baby’s swaddle, compression wraps act as a consistent hug for your pet. For example, the Thundershirt uses a combination of velcro flaps and stretchy fabric to envelop your pet with firm pressure around the body. This consistent pressure acts like a hug.

Still Have Questions? 

Generally, when your pet has any kind of change in eating, drinking, or bathroom habits, it’s a sign that something may be wrong. When you notice these changes, it’s best to address them as soon as possible. At Care First Animal Hospital, your pet’s health and wellbeing is our top priority. We strive to provide exceptional care for our patients every day. So, to ensure your pet is seen in a timely manner, we reserve appointments for same-day sick pet visits. 

Our Oberlin location near Village District is open until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday for sick pet and urgent care needs. If you’re not sure what’s wrong with your pet, please schedule an appointment today. We look forward to meeting you and your pet soon!

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