Anxiety can be a common issue for our pets and it can occur for different reasons. Talking to your veterinarian about any behavioral concerns you may have with your pet sooner, rather than later, can help resolve this issue much sooner. Finding the resolution in maintaining your pet’s anxiety can take some time. This handout will go over your options, as there are many tools in the toolbox. We may also recommend you meet with a behaviorist or a trainer to work through some presenting issues. Oftentimes, medications should be used in conjunction with training in order to be effective. Most medications have a range when it comes to dosages or they have a build up period, so it can take some time to find the effective dose for your pet and or the situation. Being patient can be hard, but remember, there are many different options.
Please realize that there are situations where your pet merely needs TIME. Some of these situations can look like recently being adopted or rehomed, loss of housemate or owner, moving homes, new housemate, illness, lack of socialization and desensitizing your pet. When it is time that your pet needs, following the 3-3-3 rule is helpful. This is a general timeline but each pet is an individual. Some take more time & some take less.
3 days: Your new pet is trying to figure out their new home
3 weeks: They begin to learn a routine
3 months: They begin to feel at home
Anxiety can present itself in many different ways. Below is a list of some possible signs your pet is suffering from anxiety.
- Inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating outside of the litterbox)
- Fighting with housemates
- Decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Stress induced diseases
- Destructive behavior such as scratching or getting into things
- Pulling hair out
- Fighting with house mates
- Excessive barking
- Resource guarding
- Destructive behavior such as digging or getting into things
- Self harm such as excessive licking or chewing
- Decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Recurrent diarrhea
Both physical and mental stimulation is particularly important in pets and can help significantly reduce anxiety. We always say “a tired pet is a happy pet”.
- Frozen treats or chews such as stuffed Kongs, frozen turkey necks, to freeze dried fish skins. Kong has a wonderful list of pet safe recipes on their website Chewing helps your pet release a lot of tension
- Puzzle/interactive toys such as Kong wobblers, spinning bee, snuffle mats. These allow your pet to use problem solving skills
- 5-10 minute training session. You can practice tricks your pet already knows or teach them new ones
- Get outside & allow your pet to lead the way. Sniffing is so stimulating to your pet
- Walks & hikes
- Laser pointer (use caution with this as it can lead to an obsessive behavior and may not be suitable for some pet’s personalities/disorders)
- Hiding toys or treats throughout the house or yard so your pet has to “hunt” for them
Discussing your pet’s situation in detail is important as this will help determine the type of anxiety your pet is experiencing, ie: situational, obsessive compulsive, fear, etc.
It is very important to disclose any medications or supplements your pet is currently taking and any medical history.
Below is a list of possible medications:
- Pheromone therapies- Diffusers and collars, as found in Adaptil and Feliway release a pheromone given off during nursing of the neonate have been developed for low level anxieties.
- Diets/Supplements– L-tryptophan, hydrolyzed milk protein (casein), Bifidobacterium longum BL999 can be found in products such as Anxitane, Zylkene, Royal Canine Calm diet and Purina Calming Care.
- Cbd Oil– Cbd oil for pets needs to be of high quality to ensure the thc has been extracted from it. It can be given as needed as there is no loading period. Cbd oil is used in mild cases of anxiety
- Alprazolam– Also known as Xanax is best used in situational anxiety. This is a sedative and has best results when given 30-60 minutes prior to the stressful event. In rare cases, it may adversely affect dogs and cause aggression, worsened anxiety or agitation. You will need to alert your veterinarian if this occurs.
- Trazodone– A SARI antidepressant. Is best used for anxiety or phobia related anxiety. This medication will take effect quickly, in about 1 to 2 hours, when used for short-term stress relief, but for long-term treatment, this medication can take a few weeks before full effects are observed
- Gabapentin– Is best used in situational anxiety and should be given 30-60 minutes prior to the stressful event. Can be given every 8 hours, and may cause sedation. It is often paired with trazadone.
- Fluoxetine– Also known as Prozac. This is an SSRI antidepressant often used with behavioral disorders. This medication can take a few weeks to see full effects. In rare cases, it can worsen anxiety or cause aggression. DO NOT ABRUPTLY STOP THIS MEDICATION. This is not a medication to be used in aggressive pets.
- Sertraline- A SSRI best used in behavioral disorders. This medication can take a few weeks before full effects are noted, but gradual improvements are usually noticeable after a few days.
- Clomipramine- Best used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorders and may also be used for separation anxiety or aggression.
- Clonidine– an alpha-2 agonist that can lower blood pressure, and has been used in the treatment of human ADHD.
SSRI- serotonin reuptake inhibitor
SARI- serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitor