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25th Jan 2021

Dog and Cat Anxiety | What to Do About Your Stressed Out Pet

by Tori Jones BA

With everything that 2020 has thrown at us, it’s no surprise to learn that stress has affected not only ourselves but our pets as well. Our nearest and dearest furry family members have greatly felt the lockdown strain, and as a result, stress related issues in dogs and cats are increasing. As pet owners, it’s up to us to recognise the signs of stress and anxiety in our pets so we can do everything possible to help them.

How to Calm an Anxious Dog or Cat – A Summary

• Seek Professional Help
• Create a Safe Space
• Create Physical and Mental Enrichment
• Continue with Your Routine
• Maintain a High Quality Diet

What are the Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs and Cats?

Cats and dogs can both fall victim to stress and the truth of the matter is this can impact them in many different ways. Here are some common indications that our pets are feeling stressed and could benefit from our help.

Symptoms of Anxiety – Cats

• Loss of appetite/overeating
• Seeking higher ground/withdrawn/hiding
• Anxiety/depression
• Over grooming
• Wide eyes/pupils
• Flat ears
• Weight loss
• Change in toileting habits including toileting outside of litter tray
• Painful urination
• Scratching excessively/spraying within the home
• Aggressive behaviour
• Pacing/tensed body pose

Symptoms of Anxiety – Dogs

• Excessive panting
• Tail between legs
• Licking of lips
• Pacing
• Yawning
• Ears flat against head
• Barking
• Destructive behaviour
• Aggression
• Withdrawn/depressed
• Toileting in the house

What Can Cause Stress in Dogs and Cats?

As their owners, it is our responsibility to pick up on these changes and look for an explanation as well as ways we can help ease their stress. Firstly, try to identify the cause of these changes. This can relate to anything such as changes in their environment, building work, visitors and unfamiliar faces, new family additions; be it 2 legged or 4, as well as changes to their daily routine. How other family members are feeling can also impact on how they are feeling too, so a stressed or anxious household can transmit that energy to pets. While dogs and cats can pick up on feelings of anxiety and stress at home, they may not understand where they are coming from, which can make things a lot worse.

How to Calm an Anxious Dog or Cat

Short-term stress should not have any long-term effects, but long-term exposure to stress can pose significant health implications for our pets, which is why it’s important to try to help as soon as possible. There are several things we can do to help our beloved dogs and cats deal with anxiety and manage these stressful times more effectively.

• Seek Professional Help

At the first signs of stress you should seek the help of a veterinary professional. They will have advice, guidance and even recommendations for devices, such as plug in diffusers, which could potentially work wonders for your anxious dog or cat. You could also reach out to a behavioural specialist for tailored, specific advice and guidance for your pet.

• Create a safe space

It’s just as important for our pets to have a calm, safe environment, as it is for us humans. If your pet is feeling particularly stressed out, creating a den out of an old cardboard box, or making a spot under the stairs with a blanket and some toys or even creating some space for them in an old, quiet room could really make a difference to their stress levels. If you do decide to create a space for them in an old room, it’s important to leave the door open so they can access it whenever they want. Always respect your pet’s privacy and space in these areas, especially if your dog or cat is feeling particularly stressed out.

• Create Physical and Mental Enrichment

Make sure you create daily opportunities for psychical and mental enrichment. Walking them daily, playing with them, incorporating food activity toys can all help ease boredom and frustration, while providing them with a much-needed distraction from whatever is making them anxious. While we know you’re worried about them, try to avoid giving them increased attention when you’re at home all day, mainly because this is a big adjustment for them and it could cause more harm than good.

• Continue with Your Routine

Try to continue with the same routine for your dog or cat, even if your routine changes dramatically during a lockdown situation. Changes to a routine can be a huge cause of stress in our dogs and cats. If they’re used to you going to work everyday, and now you’re working from home, for example, this could make them feel a little uneasy. This is why it’s important to keep their routine; feeding times, walking times and sleeping times etc. as much the same as possible.

• Maintain a High Quality Diet

Did you know that a poor diet could actually affect the behaviour of your pet? A lot of problems could arise from poor quality pet food, from aggression, hyperactivity and lethargy to allergy related issues. This is why it’s vitally important to feed you dog or cat a diet that’s rich in nutritious, simple and wholesome ingredients, such as those found in Burns Original Chicken and Rice. Make sure you also avoid the urge to spoil them with too many treats if they appear stressed or depressed. If you’re considering changing your dog’s diet, make sure you change the food gradually, as changing the diet of your dog too fast could cause it’s own issues.

Read More: Switching to Burns | Introducing a Different Food Gradually

While stress and anxiety is a common problem in pets, thanks to the current pandemic, it’s perhaps more of an issue than it has ever been before. By helping to create a safe space for our pets, seeking the best help and making them as comfortable as possible at home, our pets can continue to be our tower of strength in these difficult times, as well as our most loyal and best friends.

For free UK pet help and advice, contact the Burns nutrition team by calling us on 0800 083 66 96 or send us an email at

by Tori Jones BA

I am one of the nutritional advisors for Burns Pet Nutrition and love the diversity of my job here at Burns Pet Nutrition. A typical day involves helping customers with enquiries from changing diets, feeding amounts, nutritional needs of the individual and much more.