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Natural Stress Relief for Pets

Stress Relief for Pets
How Do I Treat My Pet’s Stress?

Depending on the cause of your pet’s stress, your pet may benefit from working with an animal behaviorist – especially in severe cases. If behavior modification through counter conditioning or desensitization is not fully successful, your pet may need medication to help ease anxiety and make it easier to deal with new things, loud noises (e.g., thunderstorms), separation anxiety, or compulsive behaviors like excessive licking.
If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of stress and anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about the different available treatment options. Together, you and your veterinarian can determine the best options for your pet.

Treating Anxiety in Dogs and Cats  

One of the most common complaints from pet owners is that their pets are destructive or disruptive when they are left alone. Dogs may bark, howl, chew, dig, defecate or urinate. Although these behaviors are often a sign that dogs need to be housebroken or crate trained, they can also indicate that a dog is suffering from stress and anxiety.

Cats can also suffer from anxiety; they may hide, appear withdrawn, or excessively lick or bite their fur. Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers from unknown or imagined events. Anxiety is most frequently associated with urine/feces elimination, destruction and excessive vocalization in the form of barking or crying.

Understanding the causes for anxiety in pets is essential to relieving this stress and helping pets live a happy and calm life.

Separation anxiety is a leading cause for anxiety and stress in dogs. Separation anxiety typically occurs right after the primary guardian leaves. While there is no clear evidence as to exactly why separation anxiety may develop, a sudden change in guardians or family membership, a change in schedule, or a change in residence are all common triggers for separation anxiety.
For dogs with a mild case of separation anxiety, counter conditioning may help reduce or resolve these problems. Counter conditioning is a process that changes an animal’s fearful, aggressive or anxious reaction to a pleasant and relaxed one. This is achieved by associating the presence or sight of a fearful situation with a liked person or object.

For separation anxiety, one effective option for counter conditioning is to develop an association between being alone and something your pet loves, such as a favorite treat. Be sure to only allow your pet to interact with this treat when he or she is alone. Keep in mind, however, that counter conditioning is typically most successful with mild cases of anxiety; in more severe cases, pets may refuse to eat if a guardian is not home.

Moderate to severe cases of anxiety require a more complex approach to stress relief, according to veterinarians. In addition to counter conditioning, desensitization is also helpful.

Consult with your veterinarian to learn more about the best ways to carry out counter conditioning and desensitization training, and also discuss the possibility of using psychotropic drugs.  In some cases, your pet may benefit from working with a board -certified veterinary behaviorist.


Sources:

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

ASPCA, “Separation Anxiety.” 2014

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Absolutely amazing! Dr. Imhoff performed knee surgery on my little chihuahua Caesar. I was very nervous about it but he and the office regularly called me through out the day to give me status updates. It really helped to calm my nerves. Dr. Imhoff then checked Caesar weekly for the next six weeks to check his healing progress. He explained everything to me and was very friendly and knowledgeable. One night, midway through Caesar's healing he had wiggled out of his e-collar and ripped his bandages off. I panicked and brought him into the ER next door. The staff and doctor on duty were so incredibly calming and friendly, even though I was freaking out. After checking him over the doctor re-bandaged Caesar and didn't even charge us the ER fee. Absolutely amazing service and friendly staff. I never felt like they were trying to nickel and dime me, unlike other places. I will always recommend them! Thank you Dr. Imhoff for doing an amazing job on Mr. Caesar!

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