As we approach Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May), many of us will take some time to evaluate our wellbeing – but what about our precious pets?
It is important to maintain our mental health. Unfortunately, stress and anxiety can also affect pets. Our furry friends may not be able to talk about how they’re feeling, but PDSA Vet Claire Roberts has shared some top tips for spotting signs of stress and ways we can help our pets live a happy, heathy life.
Identifying signs of stress in pets
“Common signs of stress include changes in behaviour, low energy or a lack of appetite. If your dog is experiencing stress, you may see them yawning, licking their nose or lips, or panting even though they’re not warm. They may seem tense and have a tucked tail. Or they may try to hide away or move away. If stress is persistent, they may display unwelcome, destructive behavior or use strange toilets.
Stress can cause cat behavior changes such as a tense body or arched back. Cats may hide, eat less and use other places to urinate when they are under longer-term stress. Stress can make cats physically ill, with some stress induced. cystitis and other conditions. 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. You should look out for signs such as flattened ears and a tight body.
Whatever pet you have, make sure you’re meeting their five welfare needs to help reduce the chances of them becoming overwhelmed.
“Companionship is one of a pet’s five welfare needs and an essential part of our pets’ overall wellbeing, so we must take some time each day to give them our love and attention in a way which our pet enjoys. It can be difficult to prioritise quality time in between busy schedules but exercise and playtime are so important – this helps your pet to burn built up energy and keeps them mentally stimulated, in turn leaving them relaxed and happy.
Create a safe space
“Just like we may have a favourite place to relax, our pets need their own space where they feel safe and secure, especially when we’re out of the house. This could be a den, crate (if crate trained), box or bed – just ensure it’s in a quiet place with access to food and water and plenty of room to move around. A safe place high up is preferred by cats, and rabbits will be happier if they have somewhere to hide that they can escape to.
“Leaving on background noise such as a radio can also help some pets to feel more relaxed if you have to leave them alone for longer periods, but remember that dogs shouldn’t be left alone for any longer than four hours at a time.
Consistency and consistency are key
“Sticking to a consistent routine is a great way to reduce our pets’ stress, so try to stick to their regular feeding and exercise routines wherever possible. It’s best to gradually implement any big changes, such as a new job schedule, to allow your pet to adjust to the shift in their daily lives.
Ask your vet if your pet is experiencing persistent stress signs. accredited behaviourist.
For more information on supporting all aspects of your pet’s health, visit www.pdsa.org.uk/your-pet-care
PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. PDSA is available to assist many vulnerable pets when their owners have no other options. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk