Guest Post: Why Are Our Pets So Stressed?

Did you know your cats and dogs stress about things maybe as much as you do?

Dr. Rex Riggs has a very interesting take on this month's topic of Pet Behavior. Do we cause the stress in our pets' lives? What do you think?

Dr. Rex Riggs is the owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is a veterinarian, and an Advisory Board member of Embrace Pet Insurance.


We live in a complex hurry up world.  There is stress everywhere in our life. We are running here and there, often not taking the time to enjoy fully what we are doing before going to the next task at hand. 

Did anyone take the dog for a walk?  Did anyone see the cat today?  Why did the cat pee in the living room again today?  The dog got into the trash again.  What makes the dog want to chew everything?  Damn animals!!

Guess what…our animals are often a reflection of us and our moods.  If we are stressed, so are our animals.  We live in a world of antianxiety, antidepressant meds due to our self-inflicted stress and now it is overflowing to our pets.

One of the most common behavior problems I see in our hospital is anxiety.  It can be anxiety over separation from their owners, or to loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks or just generalized anxiety.  I think that much of this comes from a reflection of our hectic lives.  Our pets are often a mirror of us.  Maybe they are telling us to slow down and smell the roses a bit? You know, dogs and cats are smarter than what we give them credit for.

A definite factor is overbreeding in our purebreds. This goes for both dogs and cats.  It seems the more popular a breed gets the more anxiety problems (and other hereditary problems) we see.  We need to be more selective on the breeders we use.  There are more and more breeders that breed for temperament.  Search them out.  Unless you are going to show your animal, you don’t need an AKC certified dog. Those dogs are bred for cosmetic traits and often come with hidden undesirable behavior traits.  Make sure you see both of the parents.  If they are “normal” and nice animals chances the offspring have a better chance of having the same desirable traits.  Remember…. “The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

We have a plethora of treatment for anxiety in dogs just like in people.  We use many of the same drugs as is used in people.  Prozac, clomipramine, buspar, and amitriptyline are just a few.  Just as in people some are very effective and some are not so, but it depends on each individual and the circumstances.  Talk to you veterinarian about these drugs and other options.

An interesting new therapy for use is called Thundershirts.  They are based on the weighted blankets that are used to calm autistic children.  In my hands, I see about a 70% response rate in helping calm my patients.  It is not a panacea, but it can help.

We also have some very good behavior veterinarians.  These people can be a lifesaver, literally,
for some animals.  Do not confuse with trainers. Trainers are great at what they do, but do not have the professional veterinary training that these board certified people do.  We have an excellent one at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.

So I will leave you a thought provoking quote by the Dali Lama:

Dalai Lama

Related Posts:
January is Dog & Cat Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Why Are Our Pets So Stressed?
Is it possible to train a cat to walk on a leash?
Embrace Pet Insurance covers behavioral issues
Guest Post: Seizure Behavior in Dogs

Other posts by Dr Riggs


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and cat Speeder. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and enjoys travel and photography.


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