Dog Anxiety Awareness & Pet Fostering - How You Can Help
This week we want to highlight Dog Anxiety Awareness Week that is coming to a close and National Pet Foster Care Month of which we are in the beginning. Since fostering a pet can highly reduce the anxiety of an animal and increase their life potential (versus being in a high-kill shelter with other anxious animals), we decided to talk about them in the same space.
Dog Anxiety Awareness Week was founded in order to bring attention to the emotional well-being of our K-9 companions and to acknowledge that they suffer from anxiety, too, with some breeds being more prone to anxiety than others. While they may not have the complex emotions of a human, like humans their anxiety can manifest in physical illness when not addressed and should be reduced or eliminated whenever possible.
Dogs exhibit anxiety in a variety of ways. Getting to know your pet’s signals is a vital part of being a pet parent. Recognizing anxiety signs allows you to make changes in the environment to make your pet happier, and in the long run, healthier. (See last month’s blog for Stress Awareness Month to learn more about pet stressors.) PETMD states that there are three types of stress that dogs will experience: fears, phobias, and anxiety. PETMD defines anxiety as follows:
“Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling or fear related to the anticipation of danger. For instance, separation anxiety occurs when a pet has abnormal reactions to being away from their owner, whether for short or long periods of time.”
There are many ways that a dog will show it is experiencing anxiety. Pacing or shaking, whining or barking, clinginess, yawning, drooling, licking, or shifting its weight while standing, and also panting, are all clear indicators. Excessive urinating, loss of bowel functions, or refusal to eat are additional symptoms of stress or anxiety. Hiding or trying to escape are stress signals, too. Always consult your vet if symptoms are persistent in order to rule out any underlying physical ailment. In some instances your vet may prescribe a medication to help reduce symptoms. There are also stress-reducing CBD products for dogs that can help, which you can find here at our Sit & Stay store.
Once you are aware of what is causing your dog’s anxiety, the first thing to do is remove it from the trigger, whenever possible. Give your dog a quiet place to reset. You can give your dog simple commands like “shake” and reward it with treats to distract it from its previous situation. Always make sure your pet has a place to go in your home where it can retreat and feel safe. If noise such as fireworks or thunder is the cause, a thunder shirt or similar garment that hugs the body of your dog might help. Always address your dog in a calm manner. Knowing you are calm can help them understand that the situation is not as alarming as they think. Plenty of exercise is also suggested to help release energy that might get otherwise turned into unnecessary anxiety.
Fostering adoptable animals is so important as shelter life causes anxiety to many animals, which can also make them appear unadoptable. National Pet Foster Care Month recognizes this and is meant to educate everyone on this wonderful way to help the millions (yes, 7.6 million!) of animals that get placed in shelters every year! Anxiety from shelter stay could be health threatening, but also to an anxious dog, could mean a missed adoption opportunity because it is unable to show its true personality. High anxiety may also get a dog euthanized at high-kill shelters if it appears to be unadoptable.
Fostering gives dogs and cats that extra chance at finding the forever home that they deserve. Foster parents give these animals the opportunity to shine, have their positive quirks highlighted, and give them the time to get a little training in; maybe even get selected as a viable service animal to help people in need! Keeping animals out of shelters reduces the chance of illnesses such as respiratory infections, Giardia, and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), all of which can become rampant in packed shelters, and also becomes a death sentence in high-kill shelters. Fostering also provides enrichment to animals that may otherwise not get regularly handled or walked due to understaffing at shelters.