Helping your pets overcome anxieties
By Dr. Rebekah Frost
The Fourth of July has come and gone and with this holiday there were many discussions with pet owners and prescriptions were written in regard to one of the most common anxieties we deal with in our pets: Noise and Storm Phobias.
Many dogs suffer this time of year from anxieties due to thunderstorms and other loud noises, like fireworks. Dogs can sense a storm coming miles away. Their acute sense of hearing along with changes in barometric pressure will cause dogs with this anxiety to start panting, shaking, pacing, and trying to find a place to hide up to an hour before a storm comes through. Recommendations for dogs with this anxiety include doing everything you can to desensitize your pet to these storms and keep them comfortable.
This might include buying a nature CD with storm sounds. Start the sounds at a very low volume for short periods of time until your pet appears comfortable with the noise. Wait until another day to extend the time and increase the volume. Slowly continue increasing the volume until your pet is comfortable with the sound of a storm. Other recommendations include buying a “storm jacket” or a “thunder shirt.” These are snug shirts that hug your pet tight, putting pressure on certain pressure points, which in turn can help relax your pet and help them feel more comfortable.
Other recommendations include providing a safe, dark, and quiet place for your pet. This might be a basement room or other dark room where the noise and the flashes of lightning cannot be seen. We also recommend turning up the TV or music loud to help drown out the sound of the oncoming storm. When all else fails, we will recommend natural and/or prescription anti-anxiety meds given at least an hour prior to an oncoming storm.
The most common type of behavior issues, usually from stress or anxiety, in our feline friends is house soiling. House soiling can be inappropriate urination or defecation in your home anywhere but the litter box where they are supposed to be going!
This time of year we commonly see stray cats wandering through our neighborhoods. Even on our remote farm we have stray cats show up on occasion, only to be chased away by our very territorial female cat Popcorn. Unfortunately, these cats will come in the middle of the night and may be marking their own territory, which could include the outside of your own home and even the bushes and landscaping around your home. Your indoor cats will sense and smell these outdoor cats and this may cause stress and anxiety as they feel the pressure of these cats impinging on their own territory. This is one reason why your cats may be urinating or defecating outside of their own litter box because they are upset and they all of a sudden feel the need to be marking their own territory. Also be aware that a new pet or person in the household may cause the same reaction in your cats that do not like change!
Recommendations in these cases include deterrents to help keep the stray cats out of your yard. There are a variety of items from natural oils repellants to ultrasonic or light motion sensors to help deter the cats. I also recommend a natural relaxant for your cat that includes natural cat pheromones. Our clinic sells these pheromones in a collar, a spray, and a room plug in device. These are a natural way to help ease your feline’s anxiety. We use these products often in our clinic to help calm some of these anxious kitties when they are hospitalized with us for boarding or for surgery. Make sure you are changing your litter every day and providing a variety of substrates and litter boxes for your cats. Always have one more litter box in your home than you have cats.
Keep in mind that many cats as they age may develop an anxiety to going down stairs and into dark places. Many people keep litter boxes in the basement. As your cat gets older, if you notice house soiling starting, you may have to move the litter box upstairs to a closet or bathroom in an area that your older cat will be more comfortable using their litter box. When all else fails again, we may discuss prescription anti-anxiety medications for your cat to help with house soiling.
Above all, if you have concerns regarding any anxieties your pet may be experiencing, schedule a consultation with one of our veterinarians. We will help work with you to discuss a plan of action to help ease your stress and your pet’s stress!