Pets Not Immune to Feelings of Anxiety

Throughout the country's economic struggles, many Americans began to suffer anxiety. With a sagging job market and a housing crisis that witnessed many people lose their homes, it's no wonder the year 2009 is one many people might never forget, no matter how much they'd like to.

But as tough as recent times have been for people, they might also have been problematic for the family pet. Pets can often sense when their owners going through tough times, and that could result in feelings of anxiety among the family pet, particularly for pets who are part of a relocation.

How Does Anxiety Manifest Itself?

Separation anxiety is often at the root of a pet's anxiety. This is especially the case with dogs, who are traditionally more social animals than other common household pets. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a dog can exhibit feelings of anxiety in a number of ways.

* Pumping up the volume. When a dog begins to get louder, be it through excessive barking, grunting or even growling, that might be the dog's way of expressing feelings of anxiety.

* Dirtying up the house. Many times, dogs who are completely house trained will start soiling the house. This is often indicative of a larger problem such as anxiety.

* Tearing with their teeth. Dogs can become destructive as a means of drawing attention to themselves and their anxiety. Oftentimes, dogs will do their dirty work with their teeth, including destroying furniture or even biting through walls and doors.

When Will I Notice This?

The feelings of anxiety often start to settle in as the pet owner is leaving the house or apartment, such as in the morning for work. In certain instances, the dog will grow worried as it watches its owner get ready to leave. Dogs also don't have good poker faces, and chances are the dog will begin to look depressed as its owner readies to leave the house.

Dog owners will also notice possible indicators of anxiety when they return home, as the dog will behave as if its owner has been gone for an eternity.

Why Causes Anxiety?

Over the years, pets have become increasingly important to their owners, as evidenced by the growing emphasis pet owners place on feeding their pets healthy foods and the success of expensive pet boutiques. That said, many dog owners are understandably puzzled as to why their dog might be exhibiting signs of anxiety. While there is no specific root cause of anxiety in dogs, several events might act as triggers.

* Relocation. This has been especially common of late, when many people have been forced to relocate after the housing crisis and the collapse of the job market. Just like a human being can suffer from anxiety from an event as life-changing as a relocation, so can the family pet, be it a dog, cat, bird, etc.

* Traumatic event. Pets aren't immune to the harmful effects of a traumatic event. Be it a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake, traumatic events can trigger anxiety in pets.

* Loss of a friend. A death in the family hurts everyone, including the family pet. Dogs often grow especially attached to their owners, so the death of an immediate family member or even a fellow family pet can prove very difficult for an animal to cope with.

* A new family member. Just like losing a family member can cause a pet to experience anxiety, gaining one can as well. A new child or a new pet changes the family dynamic, and it can be difficult for pets to make this adjustment.

* Genetics and age. The ASPCA notes that mixed breeds tend to be less likely to suffer from anxiety problems than pure breeds, while an older dog tends to cope worse with a relocation or other life-altering event than a younger dog.

What Can Be Done?

Concerned dog owners can take several steps to help a dog that's suffering from anxiety. For dog owners, compassion and patience must be paramount, as a dog already suffering from anxiety will react negatively to an impatient or seemingly unwilling owner, possibly leading to a bigger problem than already exists.

* Consider employing a dog walker. Many people today are working longer hours than ever before, particularly in an economic climate wherein those lucky enough to keep their jobs were forced to lend a hand to cover the work for those who weren't so fortunate. If you find yourself with an increasingly hectic work schedule, hire a dog walker to make an afternoon visit and let your dog out for some fresh air.

* Make alone time less alone. Whenever possible, keep a dog's alone time to a minimum. When a dog must be alone, such as when the household heads off to school or work, associate this alone time with something positive. Toys designed to keep your dogs busy while the house is otherwise empty are a good means to making alone time more enjoyable. But there's a method to these toys' effectiveness as well. Initially, after giving your dog such toys, leave the room for very short periods of time (30 seconds, for instance) and then re-enter. If your dog starts to think each time you leave will only be a few seconds, his separation anxiety will begin to decrease. Owners can then gradually increase the time between leaving and re-entering. Every so often, revert back to the beginning of this process, leaving for very short intervals after giving the dog a new toy, to reinforce the dog's belief that you'll be right back.

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