During an uncontested divorce, not only does the divorcing couple experience considerable stress, but so does the dog, cat or other pet. In tumultuous times, the family pet's health can be easily overlooked. However, there are some steps you can take to help reduce stress and anxiety for your pet.
There are some signs which can alert you to animal stress (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Behavior changes (aggression, biting, chewing on furniture);
- Heavy breathing;
- Excessive noise – meowing, barking, howling;
- Inordinate amounts of drooling or salivating;
- Severe diarrhea and vomiting;
- Loss of appetite;
- Reduction in interaction;
- Over-grooming or licking;
- Pushing items off of tables, counters or window sills; and
- Discharging on family's personal belongings.
Walking your pet on a regular schedule can help alleviate the stress your pet is experiencing. In addition, daily walks give your pet something to look forward to.
Spend time with your pet. Take time out to play with your pet. Researchers suggest spending twenty minutes a day petting your family pet can also help reduce your stress levels. Furthermore, interaction with your pet is important in order for them not to feel isolated and alone. This can be good for you to, since divorced people go through times of isolation and loneliness, too.
Turn down the volume. Loud sounds such as radios and televisions can increase the level of stress of animals. This is especially true in the case of animals that already have heightened hearing.
Soft calming music can work wonders for your pet and your household. Music can help distract from other sounds and has health benefits. Benefits of calming music can include; reduced blood pressure, heart rate and lowering levels of stress hormones. For more information you may want to pick up a copy of the book Through A Dog's Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health and Behavior of Your Canine Companion by Susan Wagner.
Massage for animals has been increasing in popularity over the last few years. Studies have shown that massage can reduce stress hormones and symptoms of depression, just as it can for divorcing people. If you decide to massage your pet, take your time and use repetitive strokes. A search on the internet can give you titles of book and videos on massage.
Don't yell or hit your pet. Your pet will not understand why you are yelling or hitting him or her. If an animal is yelled at or hit this will end up in your pet having more stress and anxiety.
Keep change to a minimum. Pets need consistency to feel safe. This is not the time to introduce new food, cat litter or another pet.
Cats may need a safe place to hide to feel secure. A safe place to retreat, where your pet is not bothered, can help a cat adjust his or her stress levels. Family members and guests should be conscious of the cat's safe place.
There are a few different ways you can reduce stress with a pet dog. Chewing helps decrease stress levels, you may have noticed your dog will sometimes fall quickly asleep after chewing. A variety of chew toys and bones are available at your local pet shop.
If you notice that your family pet continues to demonstrate signs of stress it would be wise to take him or her to your veterinarian. They may be warning signs of sickness and the earlier it's detected the more likely your loved one will recover quickly. Also, your veterinarian can help suggest products on the market which can reduce your pet's stress.