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Pet Stress During a Pandemic: Chatting with Dr. Laura Palumbo

A change in routine can cause stress in pets. Pets are like humans and some are more prone to being anxious while others are more laid back and might not be affected by a change in routine. Signs of stress in cats can include grooming themselves excessively, urinating outside of the litter box, and a loss of appetite. In dogs, stress is often seen through obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as licking their paw pads excessively or frequently chasing after their tails.  

While in medicine one size does not fit all, here are some tips and tricks in minimizing stress in animals

Animals seek routine. Maintaining a regular feeding schedule or even using an automatic feeder for food or treats can be an important tool. It is also important for owners to remember that pets sometimes need their space and that is especially true for cats. The best way for an owner to gauge if their pet needs space is by paying attention to their body language. If the animal is hiding or seeking his space then it is best to leave them be. Alternatively, if the pet is going up to their owners, then it is wanting attention. 

Going on more walks can be stress relieving for both owner and dog. Owners with senior dogs that have arthritis might have to gradually increase the walking time of their pets. Furthermore, they should try to gauge their dog’s behavior if they would like to go on a walk or would rather stay home.

There are multiple ways to relieve stress in dogs and cats

If owners have access to a backyard or a park, bringing their dog outside can help, as dogs seek contact with nature and other animals. Stimulating them with toys can help relieve their stress as well. Dogs tend to get bored quickly, but the introduction of a new toy can maintain them occupied for a while longer. If the owner does not have access to the outdoors they can still stimulate their dog with toys and adapt games such as fetch in the comfort of their home.

In cats, stress is often more serious and there are several natural alternatives available. Lavender and chamomile oils are great stress relievers in cats. Lemongrass has also been shown to be effective in relieving stress in felines, however the essential oil can be poisonous. Additionally, the use of pheromones and other essential oils (owners should verify that it is not toxic to cats) can be a great tool for stressed pets. Another strategy that can work both for owners and pets is listening to classical music and/or nature sounds. Similar to dogs, stimulating cats through toys and movement can also be a strategy. 

Dr. Palumbo warns owners against using cannabis products on pets, as cats have double the amount of THC receptors. Therefore, products containing THC should not be used on pets. 

The ‘Pandemic Puppies’ and their future separation anxiety

When things go back to normal some puppies will not always have someone at home like they are used to. Owners with new puppies can expect to see some dogs developing separation anxiety.

That being said, owners should not be worried about the issue for now and deal with it when and if it arises. Some strategies to help cope with separation anxiety include doggy daycare, having some walk your dog or say hi to them during the day and taking them to work for those who can. 

Take home message

Now that owners are home they should spend as much quality time with their pet. As long as they listen to what their pet is telling them and adapt their interactions they will be guaranteed a good time. Owners might also benefit from partaking into some stress relievers with their pet. Stress is normal but left unmanaged it can have dangerous consequences. 

Black Labrador laying on the couch in distress
Black Labrador laying on the couch in distress

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February 20, 2024
5 minutes
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