Causes of Fear and Anxiety in Dogs and Cats

Why is my pet anxious and scared?

When your dog or cat experiences a fearful situation (stimulus), anxiety is increased and a deep seated, lasting memory of the experience is buried in your pet's brain. Whenever the stimulus is repeated, your pet is unable to make a conscious decision and adopts a "fight or flight" response. In many cases, it may not be caused by the stimulus itself, but signs or actions that precede it that initiate the fear response.

For example, many dogs and cats with a fear of storms may not only be afraid of the sounds the storms make, but also the signs of their arrival (decreases in barometric pressure, darkening skies, or gusts of wind). The same holds true for dogs and cats with separation anxiety, as they may become anxious when pet owners pick up their keys or pack for a trip. In addition, this behavior is often seen when pets are taken to the veterinarian office, and therefore they may become frightened when riding in a car, regardless of the destination.

Common causes of anxiety in dogs and cats
  • Noise phobias (guns, fireworks, cars, machinery)
  • Storm phobias
  • Separation from owner (separation anxiety)
  • Unfamiliar people (including children)
  • Unfamiliar places
  • Other pets or animals
  • Veterinary clinic visits
  • Boarding kennels
  • Car rides
Treatment for your pet's anxiety and fear

Many veterinarians and pet guardians find that reducing anxious behavior is not an easy task. Pet medications are available to help reduce anxiety-inducing behavior, but there are risks of side effects. We recommend a natural remedy, like the Thundershirt, which uses gentle, constant pressure on your pet's torso (like a constant hug) to help calm your nervous dog or cat. It does not contain any pheromones or drugs, so it will help keep your dog or cat calm but not lethargic during storms, fireworks, or other stressful situations.

Max's Tip

In severe cases of separation anxiety, it is recommended to use the Thundershirt in conjunction with a training program.