Writer: Teresa Madaleno
Caring for each other, even if it means from a distance, is so important during times of crisis. You have likely heard a lot of stories about people helping each other in various ways due to the COVID-19 outbreak. What we don’t hear much about is how pets are coping with the upheaval.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has indicated that there is no evidence that family pets pose a risk for spreading COVID- 19. Researchers in China have said that cats can get Coronavirus and spread it to other cats yet not spread it to humans. Here in North America scientists say they aren’t sure about that. Clearly, more research needs to be done, but what I want to talk about is your pet’s mental well-being during this unprecedented time.
We are not living as we normally do. We are practicing social distancing, self-isolation, working from home, as well as limiting travel and shopping. Some people are exhibiting signs of anxiety, frustration, and even depression. Let’s not forget that our pets pick up on this and thus become stressed as well. While we need to do things to care for our own mental health during this difficult period, we should consider that our pets may need help too.
Signs your pet is stressed
When I brought my little Sprite home 9 years ago, I had no idea how important a role he would play in my life. I had other dogs throughout my lifetime, but this precious sheltie became a part of our family just at the right time. A year prior to getting our furry boy, I was diagnosed with two chronic health problems. I have good days and bad days, but Sprite always senses when my physical pain intensifies. He has brought me an immense amount of comfort on some of my worst days.
Sprite’s routine has changed as a result of COVID-19 and he’s been a good boy, but I know he is confused some days and I have heard about pet owners who have had difficulty with caring for their animals lately due to behavioral problems. I decided to look into the impact the virus was having on pets and discovered that veterinarians have experienced an increase in calls lately. Many of the inquiries have been about behavior that is out of character.
All pets are different and can show various behavioral signs when they are anxious. However, here are some of the most common signs that veterinarians say can indicate your pet is feeling stressed:
- Barking or whining
- Rapid blinking
- Excessive shedding
- Yawning, drooling, licking a lot
- Panting when they aren’t hot
- Suddenly urinating inside
- Not eating
What to do for stressed pets
The experts say the best approach to keeping your pet relaxed is for you to relax. Beyond that, maintaining a routine can be really helpful. For example, canine behavior specialists suggest feeding your dog at the same time every day, walking the dog at the same time every day, and reserving time to have fun with your pet at a specific time each day.
Exercise is a good stress reducer for humans, and it works for animals too, so activities like walking and fetching will go a long way in keeping your pet happy. Keeping a safe place in the house that your pet can have as his or her own, can also be calming. I have a couple of friends who say they have used music to calm their pets. You can have music or a television on low volume as you do chores or work from home.
Veterinarians say while extra petting and fussing over your pet may seem like the right thing to do in times like this, going overboard with attention can also stress them out. Like humans, they don’t want to be smothered 24/7.
If you find your pet is suddenly behaving badly and is out of control, don’t hesitate to call your vet. I’m sure he/she will be glad to guide you.