Like people, pets can become ill when anxious and stressed. In a study of stressed cats, symptoms (which included vomiting, lethargy and appetite loss) disappeared once stress levels normalised. Looking after its mental well-being helps keep your pet healthy and happy. Take the test and find out if your pet is under stress.
Veterinary behaviourist Dr Quixi Sonntag says that, in addition to digestive upsets, signs of acute stress include excessive grooming; inappropriate toileting; yawning and panting; appetite loss; increased vocalisation – whining, howling or barking / meowing and changes in behaviour such as becoming more withdrawn, aggressive, hyperactive or lethargic.
Dr Sonntag says it’s important to identify symptoms as well as the underlying cause. Triggers include separation anxiety; a lack of stimulation; car travel and loud noises (such as thunder, fireworks or a noisy vacuum cleaner). Changes to the usual routine are another – a new family member, moving house, holidays, or having guests.
“Symptoms could indicate an underlying medical condition so first seek expert advice,” says Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “If stress is the issue, your vet can advise how best to manage it, recommending a qualified animal behaviourist if necessary.”
Creating a stimulating home environment can help alleviate boredom-induced anxiety. Toys are always a winner. Dogs will enjoy having indoor / outdoor access as well as a designated digging spot. Cats need an environment where they can make use of vertical and horizontal space, ideally with resting, perching and scratching spots at different levels.
Quality time with you is essential, “Cats enjoy regular human company and it’s probably what dogs treasure above all else,” says Dr Sonntag. “Don’t leave a dog alone for long stretches.”
Something as simple as a change of diet can make a huge difference. There are special foods now available (Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Stress for cats and Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Stress for dogs) that contain ingredients proven to help reduce anxiety. These nutritionally complete foods are ideal for long-term feeding.
If you anticipate a stressful situation is coming up, like New Year fireworks or moving house, plan ahead; switch to a special stress diet beforehand and make time for extra exercise and play – a happily tired pet is less likely to be sensitive.
Unsure if your cat or dog is stressed? Take the online Hill’s Stress-O-Meter www.stressometer.co.za. For expert advice speak to your vet or animal behaviourist.
– Issued on behalf of Hill’s Pet Nutrition by Paula Wilson Media Consulting.
Sickness behaviours in response to unusual external events in healthy cats and cats with feline interstitial cystitis Judi L. Stella, Linda K. Lord, C. A. Tony Buffington. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association Jan 2011, Vol. 238, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)
Pet owners, make sure your pets can be seen by cars at night, use reflective spray for pets to make sure drivers can see them in the road.
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