High anxiety and depressed behaviors in our Fur Babys

Hello HMFBCO Family,

I have been involved with many conversations around pets and their anxiety. I wanted to share some insight on what I have learned. Studies that have  taken a deeper look into pet anxiety and what it means to us as pet owners and what we need to do to assist our pets in dealing with anxiety. What can we do to help and what can WE stop doing that is encouraging our pets to continue to show anxiety behaviors.

The things that trigger anxiety or depression in people can affect our pets as well. Some pets can adjust well to transitions such as a home move, and others not so much. and many animals will grieve even the temporary loss of a human  or animal family member. 

Anxiety or depression can turn into a physical problem as well. for example some dogs are prone to what is called "stress colitis" which is the equivalent of a nervous stomach, causing diarrhea. Stressful situations can cause any breed to have a physical reaction.  This can also manifest into a obsessive-compulsive disorder  like chronic licking. A vet appointment is the best place to start if you are concerned about your pets overall health due to anxiety or depression.

I personally have a husky named Grace. She is easily stressed and even  the simple move of her crate can push her into a licking drooling frenzy. I have accepted her for who she is, that is the first step. The second is not to expect her to act or deal with stressful situations like my other husky, Hank. After all, like humans, animals are very much individuals. Some pets are simply more sensitive to their surroundings. Try to let go of any preconceived ideas about how your pet "should" react to his or her environment.

Many people seek out medication for an anxious or depressed pet. While medications can help in some situations, it is always best to figure out what is causing the stressing situation in the first place. It is better to be proactive than reactive.

Here are some things to consider while dealing with a pet that appears to be  anxious or depressed.

 

#1 Keeping a routine.

Make sure your pet has a reliable schedule and do whatever you can to stick to it. This includes more than meal times and walks. This should also include attention time. With change if your pet had a routine that they can depend on, change, like a new baby or someone moving out, wont be so difficult to handle.

#2 Exercise

Exercise isn't just for the body, its for the mind body and soul of your pet. Its bonding time with you, or other family members and or other pets. A tired dog is less likely to have energy for anxious behaviors. If you are unable to exercise your pet yourself, consider a dog walker or passing this onto another family member that can stick to a routine of exercise.

#3 Fulfillment

A life filled with things that your pet likes. For example, toys, bones, or even music. Dogs and cats do not get the opportunity to stimulate their mind with watching tv, playing a video game or reading a book. Pets need stimulation as well. But just like humans, they too can become bored with the things they love. Try to not give your pets all the things that stimulate them. Instead give them one thing and maybe next week, exchange it for something else. and continue rotating their favorite items.

#4 Exploring the outdoors

Whether its a walk around the block or a long ride up the hill, the outdoors is a very important part of your pets purpose. A dogs primary sense is smell. When a dog goes for a walk or takes in the sweet air of an open window while driving down the road, their brain is is processing the smells they are experiencing. One of dogs many joys!

Other ideas to consider may be, essential oils and diffusers, or even CDB oil.

Even a warm towel can be just what the doctor ordered. for an anxious dog. Wrap your pet up in a towel freshly pulled from the dryer. this has been know to calm them.

 

In closing I want to make sure to cover one more important fact. We never want to reinforce anxiety. 

Its only natural for us to want to comfort our pets in times of stress. But we never want our pets to interpret our reassurance as praise. Its all to easy to exaggerate our words of comfort, which can have an unintended affect of reinforcing anxiety. If your pet feels rewarded with praise and attention when they act scared they will not be motivated to stop the behavior. after all its giving them attention.  Also studies have shown that the stress levels in humans and their pets can synchronize. If you feel relaxed your pet may be more likely to be relaxed as well. Try to be mindful of your tone and gestures when your pet is feeling upset. Praise your pet when they are relaxed and calm not when they are anxious. Remind yourself that everything is ok and you are handling it.  Your pet will look to you to gauge how to react to any given situation.

Thank you!