Things You Should Know: How to tell if your dog is stressed out.

 

Here’s one of my articles that bears repeating, and there’s no better time than on National Stress Awareness Day!

 

Do you know how to tell if your dog is under stress or feeling anxious?

 

When I ask this question, most pet owners will tell me that they see their dog:

 

  • Cower or hide under a chair
  • Pee or poop on the floor
  • Growl when afraid, but he would never bite!

 

These are certainly signs of fear, make no mistake.  However, the signs that the typical pet owner notices are usually the last in a series of attempts by your dog to avoid whatever is causing them fear or anxiety.  The signs leading up to these are much more subtle, but once you know what to look for, they will become apparent.

If you can recognize the early signs of anxiety and stress in your dog, not only can you help your pet relax before they go to the “dark side”, but you might just avoid a dangerous situation.  Dogs who are allowed to progress to the fear stages listed above are the ones who will either be permanently mentally damaged by that situation (leading to behavior problems), or they will bite. 

 

stressed dog

 

Allow me to tell you a story:

Once upon a time there was a cute little puppy who had never been to the big doggie park.  Her loving owners decided, when she was about 4 months old, to take her there so she could play and have fun!  When she arrived, there were so many smells and so much noise!  She stopped and sat down on the sidewalk, but her loving owners tugged on her leash and encouraged her to keep walking toward the park.

When they arrived at the gate, it made a really loud squeaking sound that hurt her ears! Her eyes widened, and she laid her ears back; she tried to avoid the big gate, but her loving owner picked her up and carried her through.  When they set her down in the grass, she was suddenly surrounded by big dogs!  They were sniffing her and running around in circles, panting and barking.  The puppy tried to find shelter between her loving owner’s feet, but her loving owner walked a few steps away.

The little puppy didn’t like the big doggie park after all.  And so she growled and snapped at the big doggies who wanted to meet her.  Her loving owner scooped her up – she was safe!  But then her loving owner scolded her, telling her she was a bad dog.  The little puppy was confused and scared, and from that day forward she hated the big doggie park.

Did you recognize the signs of anxiety and stress in the story?  The puppy in the story is a real dog, now an adult; she continues to have problems greeting other dogs, and she NEVER goes to the dog park.  Had her loving owner recognized her initial signs of stress, these permanent behavior problems might have been avoided.

 

Stressed bully breed dog

 

Here are the signs of anxiety that you NEED to recognize in your dog:

  1.  Ears laid back
  2.  Wide eyes (“fish eyes”)
  3.  Brows furrowed
  4.  Panting (without being hot or thirsty)
  5.  Licking lips
  6.  Acting sleepy or yawning
  7.  Moving in slow motion
  8.  Hypervigilant (looking in many directions)
  9.  Moving away
  10.  Pacing
  11.  Suddenly won’t eat, even if they were hungry earlier

Start watching your dog for these signs.  I guarantee that you will begin to see them, and maybe even in situations that you didn’t know were causing your pet stress.  Once you become attuned to your pet’s body language, you can intervene early to help your pet relax!  If your pet experiences the signs of fear listed at the top, the damage is already done.  It’s up to you to be your pet’s advocate!

And here’s a handy-dandy handout for you:

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

If you need help understanding your pet’s body language, or realize that your pet already has some fear issues, give Dr. D a call!

How To Move Without Making Your Cat Crazy

 

We’re in the process of purging, selling, and packing up our home to get ready for a local move.  And while the kitties certainly love the empty boxes all over the place, I know as moving day gets closer their stress level is going to increase significantly.

Cats do not appreciate change.  Especially change that involves removing them from a comfortable, well-marked territory to one that is completely new and smells funny.  But, as a veterinarian mommy to these two handsome felines, I know how to help them remain calm, and I’m going to share my tips with you!

(By the way, these tricks will work to reduce cat anxiety in many stressful situations besides moving; think new cat, new baby, new human, new furniture, etc…)

 

GooseBeanFocused

 

Prior to moving day:

Purchase a Feliway diffuser and place it in the room your cat uses most often, especially if they hide there.  Feliway is a synthetic cat pheromone that only cats can smell, and it helps reduce anxiety.  You can begin using Feliway a couple weeks before moving day, and then continue its use in your new home (we’ll talk more about your cat’s “sanctuary room” later).

Play classical music while you’re packing!  Studies have recently shown that cats respond well to classical music and that it reduces anxiety!  As an added benefit, it will reduce your stress as well.  I like this product (for both dogs and cats)!

Get out the carrier(s) and do some positive reinforcement training.  If your cat does not like the carrier, this is really important.  Your cat should not see the carrier for the first time on moving day!  Bring it out several days in advance, put it on the floor in a quiet spot and put a comfy blanket in it.  Prop the door open and put some food or treats in there.  Do this every day leading up to moving day.

Make sure your cat is microchipped and that the info is updated.  Moving is the perfect opportunity for tragedy to strike in the form of an escaped kitty.  Take this simple precaution to make sure your cat can be identified.

Play with your cat regularly during the packing stage!  Be sure to have regular play sessions during the weeks leading up to the move.  This will help reduce any anxiety or loneliness your cat might experience while you are preoccupied with the move.

 

Goose in a box (4)

 

On moving day:

Lock ’em up!   Put your cats, their carriers, a litter box, some food and water, and a hiding place in one room with a closed door.  This room should either be emptied before the cats are placed inside, or emptied last.  Whatever you decide, make sure everyone knows the plan and to keep the door closed.  Place a sign on the door as a reminder if necessary.

Move the kitties last.  Once the movers have emptied your home, load up the kitties in their carriers and buckle them up in the car to take them to their new home.  You might consider spraying a little Feliway on the blanket that is in the carrier at least an hour before you are going to load them up.

Cat proof the new house by checking to make sure all the windows are closed, the screens don’t have holes to escape through, and that your cats can’t get stuck anywhere.

Set up a sanctuary room in the new house.  Plug in your Feliway diffuser in the room you have chosen.  Place the litter box, food and water, and hiding places in this room.  If necessary, have the movers put your furniture in this room first, so that the cats will feel more at home.  Let your cats out of the carriers inside this room, and close the door.  This is their safe zone, until you are finished moving for the day.

When you are done moving and all is quiet, open the door to the cats’ sanctuary, and allow them to explore on their own time and terms.  You can also use Feliway in the rest of the house to help your cats adjust more quickly.  Play some classical music.  Maintain the same routines as much as possible, and give them plenty of love and attention as they are getting used to their new home.

 

For super anxious cats:

If your cat is prone to severe anxiety, consider arranging to board them for moving day and the day after.  They may be less stressed this way, and there is less chance of them escaping or hiding out of fear.  Sedatives might also be an option that you can discuss with your veterinarian.

 

Does your kitty totally freak out at the vet, too?  Then call Dr. D – she makes house calls!

Things You Should Know: The Signs of Anxiety and Stress in Your Dog

Do you know how to tell if your dog is under stress or feeling anxious?

 

When I ask this question, most pet owners will tell me that they see their dog:

Cower or hide under a chair

Pee or poop on the floor

Growl when afraid, but he would never bite!

These are certainly signs of fear, make no mistake.  However, the signs that the typical pet owner notices are usually the last in a series of attempts by your dog to avoid whatever is causing them fear or anxiety.  The signs leading up to these are much more subtle, but once you know what to look for, they will become apparent.

If you can recognize the early signs of anxiety and stress in your dog, not only can you help your pet relax before they go to the “dark side”, but you might just avoid a dangerous situation.  Dogs who are allowed to progress to the fear stages listed above are the ones who will either be permanently mentally damaged by that situation (leading to behavior problems), or they will bite. 

Allow me to tell you a story:

Once upon a time there was a cute little puppy who had never been to the big doggie park.  Her loving owners decided, when she was about 4 months old, to take her there so she could play and have fun!  When she arrived, there were so many smells and so much noise!  She stopped and sat down on the sidewalk, but her loving owners tugged on her leash and encouraged her to keep walking toward the park.

When they arrived at the gate, it made a really loud squeaking sound that hurt her ears! Her eyes widened, and she laid her ears back; she tried to avoid the big gate, but her loving owner picked her up and carried her through.  When they set her down in the grass, she was suddenly surrounded by big dogs!  They were sniffing her and running around in circles, panting and barking.  The puppy tried to find shelter between her loving owner’s feet, but her loving owner walked a few steps away.

The little puppy didn’t like the big doggie park after all.  And so she growled and snapped at the big doggies who wanted to meet her.  Her loving owner scooped her up – she was safe!  But then her loving owner scolded her, telling her she was a bad dog.  The little puppy was confused and scared, and from that day forward she hated the big doggie park.

Did you recognize the signs of anxiety and stress in the story?  The puppy in the story is a real dog, now an adult; she continues to have problems greeting other dogs, and she NEVER goes to the dog park.  Had her loving owner recognized her initial signs of stress, these permanent behavior problems might have been avoided.

Here are the signs of anxiety that you NEED to recognize in your dog:

  1.  Ears laid back
  2.  Wide eyes (“fish eyes”)
  3.  Brows furrowed
  4.  Panting (without being hot or thirsty)
  5.  Licking lips
  6.  Acting sleepy or yawning
  7.  Moving in slow motion
  8.  Hypervigilant (looking in many directions)
  9.  Moving away
  10.  Pacing
  11.  Suddenly won’t eat, even if they were hungry earlier

Start watching your dog for these signs.  I guarantee that you will begin to see them, and maybe even in situations that you didn’t know were causing your pet stress.  Once you become attuned to your pet’s body language, you can intervene early to help your pet relax!  If your pet experiences the signs of fear listed at the top, the damage is already done.  It’s up to you to be your pet’s advocate!

And here’s a handy-dandy handout for you:

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

 

If you need help understanding your pet’s body language, or realize that your pet already has some fear issues, give Dr. D a call!