How To Recognize and Treat Pet Anxiety

pet anxietyA new movement is sweeping through veterinary medicine focusing on reducing pet anxiety and fear.  It’s called the Fear Free Initiative, and veterinary professionals are trying to help pet parents recognize and treat fear, anxiety, and stress in their pets.



Pet fear and anxiety doesn’t just exist at the veterinary office; often it’s present in your home.    It’s important for pet parents and veterinary professionals to start looking at things from the pet’s perspective.  Dog and cat body language can often be subtle, but these behavioral changes should be very apparent.

Signs of pet anxiety:


  • Yawning
  • Lip licking
  • Chattering jaw
  • Eyes looking away
  • Eyes squinting
  • Eyes shifting side to side
  • Hackles raised
  • Wet dog shake when not wet
  • One paw raised
  • Mounting/humping
  • Exposing belly
  • Body curved in a C shape
  • Tail lowered or tucked


  • Elimination outside of litterbox
  • Increased vocalization
  • Excessive grooming
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Hiding
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased aggression

This list should get you started on understanding pet anxiety.  Once you recognize the signs, it is important to alleviate the stress or anxiety as soon as possible.  Don’t hesitate to discuss any behavior problem with your veterinarian.

How to reduce pet anxiety:

  • Establish a feeding and exercise routine. Just like us, our pets thrive with routine schedules.  Every dog should receive at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.  Cats need shorter (5 minutes) and more frequent periods of exercise.
  • Separate resources for each pet. Every dog and cat should have its own feeding bowl and litterbox.  It’s important to not put these resources in the same place so that dogs and cats that don’t get along can feel comfortable and not bullied.
  • A comfortable resting place for each pet where they don’t have to compete with other pets in the house.
  • Don’t use harsh cleaning products: A pet’s sense of smell is much stronger than other.
  • Limit loud noises (music, lawn mowers, tools, and video games) to prevent noise phobias
  • Give your pet lots of physical attention.
  • Don’t ignore signs of pet anxiety. If untreated your pet’s fear and anxiety will worsen and may be difficult to resolve.
  • Use pheromones such as Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats to help reduce pet anxiety.
  • Give cats places to climb and perch up high.

You can help your pet live a happier, healthier, longer life by recognizing and treating the sign of fear, anxiety, and stress.  Guthrie Pet Hospital is a Fear-Free Certified Clinic and A Cat-Friendly Certified Clinic.  We understand the importance of eliminating stress in your pet.

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