COVID-19 and stress go hand in hand. Masks, social distancing guidelines, working from home, hybrid schedules, the list goes on and on. We are living in, as we’re sure you’ve noticed, unprecedented times. At some point within the last several months, you’ve probably felt some degree of stress. So has your dog. Yes, you read that correctly: COVID-19 has been linked to an increase in stress in pets as well as humans.
WHAT IS STRESS ANYWAY?
Stress is how your mind and body react to a certain demand. Stress, especially long term or chronic stress, can have a negative impact both mentally and physically. Because of the long lasting nature of COVID-19, nearly everyone has experienced a prolonged period of stress. Including our pets.
WHY IS MY PET STRESSED?
Many people went from working 9-5 jobs out of the house to being home nearly 24 hours a day. According to Stephanie Borns-Weil, head of the behavior service at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, COVID-19 has radically changed the world for our pets. No longer are they home alone for vast stretches of time. Instead, their two-legged family members are now sharing their space.
While many people might imagine that our pets are THRILLED that we are home much more often, it’s still a big change for our furry friends. Besides having their humans around more, pets are experiencing more noises and sights than ever before. Cats and dogs are now being exposed to Zoom meetings, more people walking outside, young children at home rather than at school, televisions and computers being on, and various other stimuli. Change of any kind can cause stress in our pets.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY PET IS STRESSED?
Luckily, there are signs, while sometimes subtle, that tell us our pet might be a little bit stressed out. Dogs often look to us when stressed. Your dog may be under foot more often than before. She may also bark more often.
Cats, on the other hand, may show more subtle signs. Problematic behavior like urinating outside of the litter box, meowing, or scratching furniture may all be signs of stress. Cats also very commonly withdraw when stressed. Not seeing your cat out and about like before? She might be feeling stressed, and hiding is her way to cope.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
If your pet is showing signs of stress, don’t panic. There are things that you can do that will help minimize that stress:
- Follow a routine: setting and following a routine for both you and your pet will take some uncertainty out of the day. Like children, animals often thrive on routine. Try to be consistent with walks and mealtimes and playtime.
- Give your pet some space: Allow your pet to come to you; don’t force interaction if your pet seems uncomfortable
- Set Boundaries between children and pets: children and pets can have wonderful relationships. Sometimes, however, pets need a break from the noise and activity that often come along with young children. Make sure your pet has a space he or she can go to be alone if they so desire.
- Contact our office: If you are worried about your pet being stressed, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our veterinarians are happy to discuss methods to reduce stressors in your pets’ life.
Being patient and following some or all of the tips listed above can help to alleviate stress for both you and your pet.