Identifying Stress in Your Pet: What Pet Owners Need to Know
At Walnut Street Animal Hospital, we often see pets coming into the office with signs of stress. While it’s natural for animals to experience some level of stress in their lives, chronic or extreme stress can impact their health and well-being. As a pet owner, it’s important to be aware of the signs of stress in your pet so that you can take appropriate measures to reduce or manage it. Here’s what you need to know.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress in Pets
Depending on the species and individual animal, different signs of stress may be exhibited. The most common signs include changes in behavior, such as aggression or withdrawal from normal activities; changes in physical appearance, such as weight loss; changes in appetite; excessive vocalization; and excessive grooming. Other less obvious signs may include respiratory issues like panting and increased heart rate, trembling or shaking, urination or defecation outside the litter box or designated area for elimination, hair loss or thinning fur, sleeping more than usual (or not at all), pacing/panting/vomiting/diarrhea.
Health Impact of Stress on Animals
Stress can have a profoundly negative effect on your pet's health if left unchecked. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety disorders and depression—both of which are serious conditions that require immediate veterinary care—as well as weakened immune systems and digestive issues due to prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels (a hormone released during times of stress). Additionally, stressed animals may be more prone to developing other medical issues including skin diseases and infections due to weakened immune systems. In extreme cases, long-term exposure to high levels of stress has been linked to premature death in animals.
How You Can Help
As a pet owner, there are steps you can take to reduce your pet's exposure to stressful situations: provide plenty of exercise opportunities for them (especially if they're cooped up inside all day); make sure they have access to plenty of food and water at all times; give them lots of love and attention when you're around; create a safe space where they can relax when feeling overwhelmed by noise or activity; avoid using punishment-based training methods; consult with a veterinarian if your pet is exhibiting any concerning behaviors that could indicate potential medical issues causing the stress.
If you suspect that your pet is experiencing chronic or extreme levels of stress, don't hesitate—contact us right away so we can schedule an exam for your furry friend! With proper care and attention from an experienced veterinarian like myself, we can work together to get your pet back on track toward living a happy and healthy life free from undue amounts of anxiety and distress.