Looking After Your Pet’s Mental Health

Stress Awareness Month (April)

April marks the start of Stress Awareness Month, and many of us may take some time to evaluate our mental health and wellbeing – but what about the mental health of our precious pets?

PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “We all know how important it is to monitor our own wellbeing, but sadly our pets can also be affected by stress and anxiety. Though our furry friends can’t talk to us about how they’re feeling, there are many other ways we can spot signs of stress, and lots of things we can do to ensure our pets live a happy, heathy life.

Spotting the signs of stress in pets

“The most common signs of stress y are changes in behaviour, low energy or a lack of appetite. If your dog is stressed, you may see them hiding, panting or licking their lips even though they’re not warm, exercising or eating. Their body may appear tense or they may yawn when not tired. In some cases, they may start displaying unwelcome, destructive behaviour or toilet in strange places. Cats can also behave differently, hiding away, seeming tense, and toileting in places other than their litter tray. Cats can even become physically unwell as a result of stress, with some developing stress induced cystitis and other conditions. Rabbits and other small pets aren’t immune to stress and anxiety either, so whatever pet you have, make sure you’re meeting their 5 welfare needs to help reduce the chances of becoming stressed.

Quality time

“Companionship is one of a pet’s 5 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 walks 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.

Creating 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. Cats will often prefer a safe spot somewhere high up.

“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 4 hours at a time.

Consistency is 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.

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. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk

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