Do Pets get Stressed?
The answer to that question is undoubtedly, yes. Just as we as owners get stressed and panicked, so do our pets. An animal’s nervous system is just as susceptible to stressors in the environment and surroundings as our nervous system is, if not more so.
While every animal copes daily with average amounts of stress (keeping them alert) sometimes, stress can affect both an animal’s psychological and physical wellbeing. Remember, that an animal cannot vocalize their stress, or use coping mechanisms – as they do not grasp the concept of time, and that the stress will eventually pass.
What is the effect of Stress on my pet’s health?
As with humans, stress can have serious physical consequences on an animal. Stress takes its toll on the immune system and studies have shown that people under more stress are more likely to get sick. The same may be true for our animals.
When an animal gets stressed, messages are sent to various organs in the body to produce certain results – the heart quickens, they start to pant and lick their lips, they quiver and shake, their eyes get ‘glazed’ and they seem to be in a fearful trance-like state. It is especially dangerous for a pet, as animals have been known to resort to desperate measures (jumping out of windows during a thunderstorm) to get away from the perceived danger – as they would do in nature during the ‘fight or flight response.’
Health problems related to stress may include cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease aggravated by stress. Stress may also play a role in speeding up the progress of certain cancers and disorders in the animal body.
As is the case in humans - other health problems associated with stress include diabetes, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, memory loss, autoimmune diseases, thyroid problems, infertility, skin and coat problems, muscle tension and fatigue.
When should I worry about Stress and my pet?
As your pet cannot vocalize their stress and anxiety, it is a good idea to monitor your pet’s behavior in certain situations. Stressed animals will usually change behavior suddenly – panting, pacing, or licking at themselves as a coping mechanism.
Animals that are constantly ‘high-strung’ may pull out their fur or feathers, or engage in ritualistic behavior in an attempt to calm their nerves. If your pet stops eating, or has a drastic change in bowel movements (diarrhea) it may be a sign that their stress needs to be managed.