There are many environmental conditions as well as medical causes that can result in your pet exhibiting signs of stress. Knowing how to recognize the signs of stress in your pet can enable you to better help them through the stressful situation. Many pets react to unusual noises and visitors into their home environment. The same can be true when a pet visits an unfamiliar territory. Pain responses and medical conditions often cause stress in pets as well. Signs of stress may be sudden or develop over an extended period of time depending on the situation and the individual pet. A pet that is not fearful of a noise or individual may suddenly become stressed in an unexpected situation. Different species of animals exhibit stress in different ways. In general, however, there are some signs of stress that are exhibited by many animals during times of stress. These signs include: moodiness or irritability, which may include biting, nipping, and other forms of aggression; loss of appetite; lethargy or increased activity; and hiding or avoidance. Owners should be cautious, but attentive to their pet during times of stress. Since an animal may act out irrationally, always be aware of changes in your pet’s behavior. Attempt to pinpoint the cause of their stress and, if possible, remove them or the stress trigger from the situation. If you cannot find the source of the stress, scheduling an appointment for an examination with their veterinarian may be helpful in determining the cause of the stress. A thorough examination can often rule out medical conditions or pain as a stress trigger. Knowing your animal and their typical behavior can often assist you in determining how they deal with stress and what types of stress set them off.
The following are more species specific stress indicators:
Dogs: Trembling, increased shedding, excessive panting or salivation, inappropriate urination, sweaty paws, increased vocalization, and/or growling.
Cats: Excessive shedding, drooling, increased vocalization including growling, and inappropriate urination or defecation.
Birds: Refusal to socialize, feather picking, hiding or perching at the bottom of the cage, increased defecation, rapid breathing, and increased or abnormal vocalizations.
Always remember to keep safety of both you and your pet in mind during stressful situations. Never discipline a pet for being fearful as it will likely make the situation worse.
Ask us at Animal Central for more information on pets and stress or visit: http://censhare.umn.edu/care06.html
Dr. George Stroberg, DVM and Staff