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Does Your Pet Need Therapy?

Anxiety

Loud noises, being left alone, or even a change in routine can upset your pet.

Animals can show anxiety in several ways. A dog may pace and pant and whine. A cat may hide or meow. Both can also be destructive: relieving themselves where they shouldn’t, and destroying things around the house. Some pets lick themselves so compulsively that their fur comes off and their skin is raw.

Is your dog bored?  

“Dogs are social animals,” Zawistowski says. If you live alone and work long hours, your absence could upset your dog.  

“Animals who don't have their mental and physical enrichment needs met can display undesirable behaviors,” Shikashio says.

If your dog is just bored, increasing walks and spending more time with him may help. But if he is truly afraid when you aren’t home, you may need to consult with a behaviorist.

Is your cat bothered?

“Typical cat behavior issues can include litter box problems and clawing at personal belongings,” Shikashio says. 

A cat may become upset if you've moved the litter box, changed the litter, or started dating someone new.

Once the root of the problem is discovered, it's easier to address.

“If you have a very high-anxiety dog or cat, it's difficult to do behavior modification without [the help of] prescription anxiety medications used to relax the animals,” Zawistowski says. The medication can help get the animals comfortable with the behavior changes, and they can later be weaned off, he says.

To find an animal behavior consultant in your area, see the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants  (iiabc.org) or American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (dacvb.org).

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Reviewed on February 24, 2014

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