Whether your pet has severe separation anxiety or could just use a little extra help calming down sometimes, there are a number of ways to help reduce stress for your pets. Here is a general guide to help you get started.
Stress in dogs might come out in destructive behaviors like scratching up doorframes, excess barking, fighting with other dogs in the household, or chewing up your stuff. Stress for cats might come out (literally) in eliminating around the house in places besides the litterbox or leaving you bloody with each interaction. In both cases, there might even be excessive licking on parts of their bodies (first rule out allergies and intolerances, fleas, etc.).
Some Dogs Need a Job
It’s important to distinguish whether your pet is reacting from stress or boredom; the two can often manifest in similar ways. Sometimes dogs, especially younger dogs, are just plain bored. Either way, some of the same solutions can apply. Regular exercise (ahem…hiring a dog walker!), training courses, and interactive toys (such as those that dispense treats as a result of the dog accomplishing a task) are great ways to help dogs feel like they have a “job.” Some dogs have an innate need to have a job, and when they aren’t provided one, they’ll make one up…such as chasing cats in the household or barking at every perceived threat. Giving them a distraction or task fulfills this basic need and shows them what you want them to do rather than only focusing on what you don’t want them to do. If your dog gets hyper-anxious when he senses you’re getting ready to leave the house, for example, giving him a toy or treat just before you leave can help reduce the sense that something is “wrong” and give him something else to focus his attention on. Cats can get bored too; they’re not always as independent as many people assume, so make sure they have fun stuff to do as well.
Holistic Products Can Help
There is a multitude of natural supplements, flower remedies, treats, water additives, and pheromone products available these days that might really help your pet feel calmer on a daily basis or in specific situations without medication. Some of these contain botanical ingredients, some pheromones, some even colostrum; you might need a bit of trial and error to figure out which combo is the magic one for your pet because, just like people, different things will help different pets. Independent pet supply store staff and online reviews can offer some great insight on what might work for your particular pet. From pheromone collars and wall plug-ins, to tasty treats your pet will look forward to eating, to putting large chunks of rose quartz and amethyst in their water bowls (we’ve heard of people using these successfully), one or more of these options will probably work for your pet. Many work on both cats and dogs, while some are tailored for each. Thundershirts also help many dogs by giving them a sense of security, much like swaddling does for babies.
Medication for Extreme Cases
For severe cases, your vet might recommend that your pet start on an anti-anxiety medication such as Prozac. And it doesn’t necessarily mean your pet has to be medicated for the rest of his life; it might be something that takes the edge off for a short period of time until your pet can desensitize to the issue enough to realize he is okay. We would recommend attempting the other suggestions before jumping into medication except in extreme cases, however.
Like we said, this is a general guide…pet stress can be multi-layered or even mask other issues, and the solutions can vary widely from pet to pet. It can also be tough to figure out when an issue is emotional or physical (or both), so of course we always recommend talking to your vet. In general, though, the more you are okay in your world, the more your pet will respond to your energy and feel generally okay as well. Anyone who’s lived with pets long enough knows they’re an emotional barometer for their human counterparts. So make sure to take plenty of time to nurture your own self and create some quiet downtime in your household so everyone in the family can function at their best.