6 Common Signs of Stress in Dogs and Cats


Pet owners know that life is stressful. Dealing with medical expenses, picky eaters, and pet training is challenging even for the best of us. However, we recognise that the reward of having a happy, healthy pet is worth it. 

Our furry friends can get stressed out just like we do. While they may be stressed for different reasons than we are, the effect on their physical and mental health can still be significant. It may be difficult to tell when our animal companions are under duress, but there are some common signs of stress in dogs and cats that pet owners should be aware of. 

Knowing these signs can be helpful whether you’re a prospective pet owning looking at dogs for sale in NSW or already have an older cat whose behaviour has suddenly changed. Keeping track of our pets’ mental and emotional state is a major part of being a responsible pet owner. Being able to tell when something is wrong is the first step toward being able to help your pet feel more comfortable. 

5 Common Signs of Stress in Dogs and Cats

If you notice any of these stress behaviours in your pet, it’s important to take action to help them feel more comfortable. Here are five common signs of stress in dogs and cats and what you can do to help your pet feel better.

1. Excessive panting or drooling

If your dog or cat is panting excessively or drooling more than usual, it could be a sign that they’re feeling stressed. Panting helps to regulate your pet’s body temperature, so if they’re doing it more than normal, it could mean that their body is trying to cool down from being overheated. Additionally, drooling can be a sign of nausea, which is often caused by stress.

2. Hiding or cowering

Another common sign of stress in dogs and cats is hiding or cowering. If your pet is normally outgoing and social, but suddenly starts hiding under furniture or in their carrier, it could be a sign that they’re feeling overwhelmed. Hiding is a natural instinct for animals when they feel threatened, so if your pet is doing this, it’s important to take notice and see if there are any other stressors in their environment.

3. Loss of appetite

Stress can also lead to a loss of appetite in dogs and cats. If your pet suddenly stops eating or only picks at their food, it could be a sign that something is making them anxious. A loss of appetite can also be a sign of illness, so if your pet isn’t eating and appears to be healthy otherwise, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes.

4. Diarrhoea or vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting are both common signs of stress in dogs and cats. Just like humans, when animals are stressed they can experience an upset stomach which can lead to diarrhoea or vomiting. If your pet has diarrhoea or vomits once and then appears to be fine afterwards, it’s likely not cause for concern. But if these symptoms persist or are accompanied by other signs of distress, it’s important to take them to the vet right away there could be a more serious underlying medical issue that must be addressed.

5. Excessive grooming

Excessive grooming is another common sign of stress in dogs and cats. If your pet starts licking themselves more than normal or excessively grooming one particular area, it could be a sign that they’re trying to comfort themselves and relieve some stress. Additionally, excessive grooming can lead to hair loss and raw skin, called a hot spot, so it’s important to monitor your pet closely if you notice this behaviour starting up.

6. Excessive Vocalisation

One of the most common signs of stress in pets is excessive vocalisation. If your dog or cat starts making more noise than usual, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Dogs may bark or whine when they’re feeling anxious, scared, or stressed out. Cats may meow or yowl if they are anxious or moody. If your pet is exhibiting this behaviour, try to identify the source of their stress and remove it if possible. You can also help your dog or cat feel more relaxed by providing them with a quiet space to retreat to, as well as a clear path to this space at all times. 

Call a Professional if Your Pet Is Severely Stressed and Anxious

More serious signs of stress and anxiety can include aggression and destructive behaviours. In these cases, you may need to enlist the help of a dog or cat behaviourist in case the animal is a danger to themselves or to others. Some common solutions for these types of severe cases are counter conditioning and behaviour modification. However, these should only be administered by certified professionals, as they will be the ones qualified to determine the appropriate treatment protocols.