Owners of young animals are highly aware of the experiences they provide for the new life in their care – and for good reason. The sensitive period of development (up to 3 months for a puppy and 2 months for a kitten) is crucial to long term perception/acceptance of various stimuli, such as people, places, noises, smells, and more. Without a proper introduction or positive encounter, you may risk the development of an irrational fear or pet anxiety.
Often, however, pets are adopted long after the sensitive period, leaving pet owners with questions and frustrations about how to soothe an anxious or fearful animal.
Getting to the Bottom of the Issue
Fear can be the result of an early experience that went awry. Most often, problems surface by the age of 5 but can develop well past 10 years old. No matter the age, we’d like to examine and address even the slightest behavioral changes.
Pet anxiety can also stem from genetics or aging and can easily continue if the response to the fear-inducing stimuli was successful or rewarded. Instead of diminishing pet anxiety, it can be inadvertently reinforced by well-meaning owners who try to calm fears with treats or affection.
Pet anxiety can be triggered by loud noises, such as:
- Vacuum cleaners
- Construction and power tools
A pet may become anxious without noise, as in the case of pressure changes, wind, or even cloud cover. This heightened state of awareness can alert an owner to take extra special care to calm an upset pet.
Signs of Trouble
Pet anxiety and noise phobia can be characterized by the following symptoms:
- Barking or whining
- Trying to escape through windows, gates, or fences
- Getting stuck in small places
- Dilated pupils
- Grinding teeth
What to Do About Pet Anxiety
Effective management of pet anxiety is the key to reducing fears, phobias, and aversions. Leaving an anxious or stressed pet alone can greatly increase or intensify symptoms, such as destructive behavior.
It may seem impossible to control or relax your pet when he or she is confronted with pet anxiety, but with the support of our veterinary staff, a solution is well within reach. Pet anxiety doesn’t always result from a traumatic experience. Instead, illness, aging, or pain can also trigger the same symptoms.
If your pet is older than the critical sensitive period, training, desensitization, nutritional supplements, and even prescription medication can help anxiety from becoming an overwhelming issue. Environmental management, behavior modification, pheromones, and medication are all effective components in your strategy against pet anxiety.