Considering pets during Mental Health Awareness Week.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May), animal welfare and veterinary charity PDSA is advising pet owners on stress and anxiety in pets.
Claire Roberts, a PDSA veterinary surgeon, is sharing top tips on identifying the signs of stress in pets, and how pet owners can reduce stress and help their pets to live happy and healthy lives.
Sharing the common signs of stress in dogs, Claire explained that common signs of stress in dogs include behavioural changes, low energy and a lack of appetite.
In a stressful situation, dogs may yawn, lick their lips or nose, pant, tuck their tail, tense their body, and try to hide or move away.
PDSA is also highlighting stress in cats, sharing that cats may behave differently when stressed, and will often tense their bodies, puff their tails and arch their backs. Stress can also cause cats to become physically unwell, and some cats develop cystitis and other conditions as a result.
In both cats and dogs, Claire explained that toileting in strange places can be a sign of ongoing stress. Longer-term stress in cats can also trigger behaviours such as hiding and eating less, while longer-term stress in dogs may be expressed in unwelcome and destructive behaviour.
“Rabbits and other small pets aren’t immune to stress and anxiety either and as prey animals they can be very good at hiding it,” said Claire.
“Signs to watch for in rabbits can include flattened ears, a tense body or a lack of nose twitching.”
PDSA has identified three key areas of focus that pet owners can use to reduce stress in their pets. The first of these is quality time, and the charity is highlighting the importance of companionship to pets – particularly exercise and playtime. Pet owners are encouraged to take time to provide their pets with love and attention every day.
Creating a safe space is also a great way to reduce stress in pets, it is necessary for pets to have their own space to feel safe and secure in, such as a den, crate or bed.
The charity is also stressing the importance of a consistent routine for reducing stress in pets. A regular routine, with food and exercise given at a consistent time each day, allows your pet to have a sense of security.
Commenting on what to do when a pet is stressed, PDSA said: “If your pet is showing persistent signs of stress then ask your vet for professional advice or speak to an accredited behaviourist.”