Understanding Fear, Anxiety and Phobias In Pets: Pt. 2

Fear, anxiety, and phobias can develop as early as birth.

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CHARLOTTE – In last week’s column, we defined fear, anxiety, and phobias as they relate to pets. Today, let’s take a closer look at fear in pets and how it can be displayed.

Remember learning about “fight or flight” responses? This is a great way to understand the different ways in which pets can respond to certain fearful situations. They may display aggression (fight), display avoidance by running away (flight), appear visually anxious (fret), remain rigidly still (freeze), or make small repetitive movements (fidget). Pets that are fearful, feel cornered or feel like they cannot escape can sometimes pose a threat to themselves, other pets or people.

It’s also important to consider a pet’s development period, which is 0 to 3 months of age in dogs and 0 to 2 months in cats. During this time, they are very sensitive to their environment and social structure. Things that do and don’t happen during this critical period can have a significant effect. For instance, if a puppy or kitten was abandoned too early by its mother and missed out on that developmental timeframe with litter mates and other adult dogs or cats around, he or she may be more fearful with new stimuli. (This is why it is recommended that puppies and kittens not leave their litters until at least 8 weeks of age.) Similarly, any stimuli that a pet wasn’t exposed to during this period can also evoke fear.

Stay tuned for more information on recognizing anxiety and understanding phobias in pets in the coming weeks!

Passionate Paws Animal Hospital is a proud member of the Union County Chamber of Commerce and the Waxhaw Business Association.

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