How To Help Your Pets Deal With Stress During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected our lives, with stay at home requirements, wearing masks, and social distancing. With this drastic change in our daily routines, more veterinarians are seeing an increase of visits regarding behavior in cats and dogs.
So, what actually causes this stress? What can vets offer to help reduce stress levels between pets and their humans?
Now with being quarantined at home, and the uncertainty over the virus, both humans and their pets are bound to experience major levels of stress, and eventually may start to take its toll. Any anxiety we experience, especially now, can rub off onto our pets.
Pets are very sensitive to stress and anxiety, especially if we create it. They are very susceptible to human emotions, and this may be very intense for them, being in such close quarters with us. Dogs are especially keen on picking up on our emotions, primarily in our facial expressions, our voice, smell and even our posture.
Signs That Your Pets May Be Experiencing Stress
Since the quarantine began, you may have noticed different levels of stressful behavior from your pets, such as the following:
- Changes in litter box routine for cats
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, vomiting, and gas
- Excessive grooming (and more hairballs)
- Limited interest in eating
- Cats hiding more often than usual
- Limited interest in playing
- A difference in your dog’s barking
- Dogs being more aggressive when stressed
- A destructive streak, including chewing of household items
- A tendency to chew and/or lick themselves more when stressed
Many of these behaviors can be signs of increased anxiety, but, some may be caused by an underlying condition. If these behaviors persist, your Austin Vet will be able to diagnose and treat any types of behavior modifications.
How To Help Reduce Stress In Cats
Cats have a tendency to be very social, but they can also be extremely shy. If you have cats, keep an eye on what exactly makes them social, whether it be eating, playing or how they interact with you or other pets in the house. Cats have a variety of personalities, and since they can’t speak to us (yet), cat owners and their veterinarians should determine what their social needs are to help them through this stressful time.
The more your cats are stimulated, the less stressed out they may be. They like to be pet, eat and play…but not in that order. A stressed cat may refrain from eating, but you need to make sure that they eat something, even a treat of some sort. If they’re hesitant to play, try to help them come out of their shell; mild exercise might make them hungry.
Other ideas to help your cats deal with stress are getting a cat tree and having some empty boxes around. Cats like to climb, so a cat tree is a great addition that will help them get exercise. They also like to hide, which is where an empty box comes in handy; many cats will lay claim to empty boxes for days, until the next one comes along.
Helping Dogs With Stress
Dogs tend to be more energetic, in that they crave exercise. Before COVID-19, you’d probably go to work, come home and have to take your dog out for a walk. With the way things are now, your dogs may be incredibly bored, so keeping them active can help them if they’re stressed out.
In addition to keeping your dogs physically active, you should help them keep mentally active as well. There are numerous toys and games available to help your dogs’ mental acuity, but also to keep them entertained and happy. Giving them activities and playing with them can also reduce the chance that they’ll be destructive and damage items or furniture. If you’re not sure what type of exercise is right for your dog, consult your veterinarian and they can help you devise an exercise plan.
If you want to be more adventurous, consider a feeding puzzle. Dogs like to search for food, so these types of puzzles or games are great ways to get them active and get their brain going.
If you live in a neighborhood where you can walk, then do so and take your dog with you. A backyard may be a great environment for them to run around, but dogs like going on walks and leading you all over the place; it benefits both of you and it can greatly reduce both of your stress levels. And most of all, your dog will be excited and happy to get out of the house.
Other Ideas To Help Dogs And Cats Deal With Stress
The Nose Knows: If you sense your cat or dog is a bit stressed, experiment with different scents to see which helps them relax. Give lavender and chamomile a try at first to see what effect they have. Other scents such as valerian, vanilla and ginger, also have calming capabilities. For cats, products such as Feliway are specifically designed to replicate a cat’s F3 facial pheromones, which they expose when they rub their cheeks against surfaces. This also comes in a plug in variety or a spray and can greatly help your cat calm down.
A Little Night Music: Exterior sounds can greatly stress out your pets. Think of how upset they get by 4th of July fireworks, or if a car alarm goes off. Such noises can greatly cause your pets to get excited, and not in a good way, while other sounds can help your pets relax. Here’s where music enters the picture, especially classical. If your pet has a specific room they like to sleep in, bring in a radio and set it to a classical station…you may find your dog singing along with some opera, but in most cases, they’ll enjoy what classical music has to offer. If you have a Roku for all your streaming, there are several channels available with programming geared specifically for pets (seriously) to help them with relaxation and stimulation.
As COVID-19 continues and we find ourselves spending more time at home, it’s important to take care of ourselves and our pets. These are just a few ideas to help your little guys deal with this unprecedented situation. A slight change in routine may help your pets calm down, so give some of these ideas a try and see what results you get. If nothing seems to be working, give ATX Animal Clinic a call and we can help you figure out what’s best to help reduce stress in your cats and dogs.