Pets Feel It Too: How to Recognize the Signs of Stress in Pets

A small dog looks stressed.

Stress is a biological response that helps humans and animals avoid dangers in the wild. In the modern world, many of these stressors are no longer life-threatening and instead make us feel nervous, anxious, or unsure doing normal activities. Pets can also experience stress, and just like in humans, prolonged stress can lead to changes in behavior or health in animals. Recognizing signs of stress in pets is an important element of overall health and wellness. 

Fear, Anxiety, and Stress

Most pets feel fleeting stress that is directly related to some kind of stressor, like a loud noise or an encounter with another animal. In these instances, the stress will ease when the triggers are removed. In some cases, however, the stress might continue to build until it escalates to aggression or other defensive behaviors. 

What’s Happening?

Pets are highly sensitive to their environments. If you ever notice any of the following changes in behavior, they may need immediate intervention:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Flattened or tucked ears
  • Pacing
  • Increased vocalization
  • Worried or wide-eyed expression
  • Crouched body position
  • Tail tucked close to the body
  • Panting or quick respiration
  • Yawning
  • Drooling or licking the lips
  • Raised hairs along the spine
  • Hiding, withdrawal, or escape attempts
  • Shaking
  • Increased or inappropriate urination

The best thing an owner can do for their pet is first try to identify what is causing the stress. It could be a crowd, unpredictable children, other animals, a storm, or fireworks. If you can, separate the animal from the stimulus and stay with them until they calm down.

Signs of Stress in Pets

Stress in pets can also be caused by various possible medical conditions, such as pain, arthritis, dental disease, GI problems, and recovery after a surgical procedure. 

If you notice that your pet is consistently showing signs of stress or anxiety, it’s important to have them checked out. Once the problem is diagnosed and treated, they should feel more relaxed and comfortable at home. 

Be Their Voice

Since your pet cannot tell you that they feel stressed out, it’s essential to watch their body language and connect them with solutions to ease stress when it arises. 

Regardless of their triggers, your pet will benefit from having a safe place they know they can return to during times of stress. If you have loud house guests not accustomed to pets, for example, their presence might upset your animal. If your pet has a spot of their own where they feel safe, it can minimize their discomfort until your guests leave. Examples include their crate, a back bedroom, or a cozy corner that’s far from the action. 

Stress At the Vet

We understand that some of the most stressful experiences in a pet’s life may occur at the veterinary hospital. As a Fear Free certified facility, we are committed to reducing your pet’s stress and anxiety. From the second they arrive to the moment they get to leave, we adjust our care to serve all of your individual pet’s needs. Their comfort is our success.

If you have additional questions about the signs of stress in pets, our team at Berkeley Veterinary Center is here to help. 

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