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4 Common Causes of Stress in Pets

By Heather Burdo

Stressed Dog

Pets aren’t always happy, wagging their tails, or rubbing up against you purring. If you notice something is off with your furry pal, he could be stressed. Instead of assuming your dog or cat is sick, try to understand things that cause stress in pets.

1. Outside Noises

Dogs and cats are notorious for sitting by the window to watch the outdoor life. However, when he sees an animal in your yard or hears noises outside, it may frighten him and cause anxiety. All he knows is someone is in or around his territory. To prevent this, you could leave your blinds or curtains closed during times of excess noise.

2. New Home

Moving to a new home is one of the biggest causes of stress in pets. Your dog or cat has been used to living in your old place, and now they have to get used to a new, unfamiliar house. They are out of their territory, so they tend to be fearful and anxious. There are ways to help your pet overcome this stress, like unpacking their stuff first.

3. Rearrangement and Decorations

While it’s nice to change things up and rearrange or decorate differently, your pets probably aren’t fans. It can stress them out when there is so much change going on. They are used to the way things are, so try to minimize changes as much as possible.

4. Inconsistent Rules

Some people have rules for their pets, like not allowing them on the couch. If that’s the case, you should not scold them for jumping on the couch one day, then call them up to join you on the couch another day. When you do that, you’re sending mixed messages and it increases their stress levels because they aren’t sure what you expect them to do. 

Pay close attention to your cat or dog when you know something is a bit off. Here is a breakdown for both types of pets so you know what to expect and keep an eye out for.

Signs of Stress in Dogs

  • Whining and barking – Of course, barking is normal. But if it’s more than usual, it may be due to stress. He could be trying to get your attention or self-soothe.
  • Body posture changes – Dogs typically bear their weight evenly on all four legs. However, if your healthy dog who has no orthopedic issues is shifting his weight to his rear legs or putting his tail between his legs, he’s likely stressed.
  • Licking, drooling, and yawning – It’s easy to assume yawning is linked to being tired, but stressed out dogs yawn too. You’ll know when it’s a stressed yawn because it’s more drawn out and longer. Dogs also lick and drool more when stressed.
  • Panting – If your dog isn’t hot and didn’t endure strenuous exercise recently, he is likely anxious.
  • Eyes and ear changes – Just like people, dogs may blink rapidly and have dilated pupils when they are stressed out. Your dog’s eyes may be wide open and ears may be back.

Signs of Stress in Cats

  • Urinating outside of the litter box – This is a common complaint for cat owners. In fact, many people get rid of their cats due to this issue. It’s best to pay attention because it could very well be due to stress. You could solve the stress and keep your cat.
  • Excessive Grooming – Cats love to keep themselves clean, but when you notice it’s getting excessive, pay attention. If your cat is licking themselves so much that they are raw or bald, it could be a sign of distress.
  • Hiding – Some cats don’t like a lot of affection and would rather be left alone. However, if your cat is consistently hiding from you, and it's out of the norm for him, it’s best to get to the vet to see what could be causing such stress.
  • Decrease in appetite – If your cat suddenly stops eating or isn’t eating as much, don’t just assume he is sick. It could be something stressing him out. A veterinarian can help you rule out the true cause.
  • Aggression – Just because your cat is showing signs of aggression towards other household pets doesn’t mean he is a bad cat. Seeking the help of a veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist is ideal before the problem becomes worse.  

Pets are family. When something is wrong with them, it’s overwhelming to figure out how to make them better. By identifying stress in pets, you will be able to do your best to create a stress-free environment and watch for any potential signs.

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