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Is your pet anxious? How mental health affects our pets

Is your pet anxious? How mental health affects our pets

One third of the UK’s pets suffer from a mental health issue! With mental health being a hot topic amongst us humans, we surveyed the nation’s pet parents to discover just how serious anxiety, depression and stress are when it comes to our fur family. Plus, we spoke with pet expert Rosie Barclay to help us better understand our pet’s emotions. 

Just like us, pets are faced with mental obstacles and emotions that are sometimes hard for them to process and deal with. In fact, our survey found that out of those pets who are suffering, 65% of dogs and 41% of cats are currently living with anxiety.

“Pets get stressed just like we do, often for similar reasons, and may need help with their mental health. They may feel frightened of things they don’t understand, frustrated that they can’t get the things they need or expect or maybe feel as though something valued is being taken away. It could even be that they’re feeling ill, in pain or just simply having a bad day.”

- Rosie Barclay, Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist

As well as high rates of anxiety, we also found that more than 1 in 4 cats showed signs of stress, as did 21% of dogs.

“Body language will also give you clues to how your pets are feeling. Dogs, for example, may have their tails and ears down with a low body carriage and move more carefully. They may also pant, pace, lick their lips, yawn (when they are not tired) and seem generally agitated, just as you would when you’re feeling anxious. Cats, on the other hand, tend to hide away and become more subdued - they may even become aggressive when you try to stroke them. Small furries also often show aggressive tendencies.”

- Rosie Barclay, Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Some dogs owners also revealed that they suspect that their pets stress and anxiety issues are side effects of other conditions, or even made worse when separated from their owners.

“My dog Max has epilepsy, which has an effect on his mental health - he suffers from anxiety and sometimes fear-based aggression.

- Survey Respondent

It's not just cats and dogs showing signs of stress or aggression, we found that 15% of small animal also show signs of stress and can become aggressive.

“My pet duprasi sometimes displays cage aggression, making her protective over the items in her cage!”

“My guinea pigs get very stressed when I take them out of their cage. I would love for them to be more relaxed, they usually seem to stress nibble when this happens.”

- Survey Respondents

So what are the triggers for mental health issues in pets? Boredom and loneliness are key catalysts, so it’s crucial that pets aren’t left alone for long periods of time. Plus the environment and care that you’re able to provide suitable for the pets that you want to adopt. If a pet is used to being around other animals all day, then they will become depressed if they are brought into a household that is empty during the day and has no other pets - it’s about finding the right fit for both pet and parent.

Concerned about your pets? If you believe your pet is struggling with a mental health problem, then speak with your vet or a behaviour expert who will be able to advise on the best way to help.

*Survey of 1118 Pet Parents, March 2018.

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