Fear and Anxiety Behaviors of Dogs and Cats

Just as humans have a range of fears and anxieties – and coping mechanisms to handle them – so do our pets. Dogs and cats experience fear, phobias, and anxiousness towards objects or situations and react with certain behaviors.  Consequently, some pets can develop negative, destructive, or aggressive behaviors. Treating problem behavior can be a multi-step process, and often requires time and patience.

Start by Learning

So what do you do if you have a pet that has begun reacting with negative behaviors   First, observe your pet’s behavior closely to confirm what triggers the fear or anxiety and what the responses are. How long does the behavior occur? Is there anything that makes it better or worse? This information will be critical if you need to consult with your veterinarian.

Common triggers include:

  • Loud noises including fireworks, thunderstorms, construction, or street noise
  • Being home alone
  • Kenneling, boarding, traveling or moving
  • Car trips to vet or groomer
  • New family members
  • New or other pets in the house
  • Visitors or social gatherings
  • Changes to the environment or household
  • Change in daily routine

If you know what causes your dog or cat to feel fearful, you may plan ahead for these situations. Often, these situations are unavoidable. Dogs and cats can also express phobias to certain objects or situations. For example the vacuum cleaner or bathing. The fear of being home alone or separation anxiety is also common for pets. Next, take time to watch your pet to figure out what triggers them to feel anxious or stressed and what behaviors they express in response to it. Once identified, work with your pet to condition them to the object or situation. Try using training and give positive rewards to modify their behavior. Learn more about behavior modification techniques for dogs and for cats.

For some dogs and cats, these methods alone will not be enough. If you find yourselves in that position, consult with your veterinarian or a professional behaviorist. Some common signs may include but are not limited to:

Signs of Fear and Anxiety In Cats

  • Hiding
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive chewing
  • Going outside litterbox
  • Vocalization
  • Spraying
  • Aggression
  • Avoidance or isolation

Signs of Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

  • Panting or trembling
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Cowering or hiding
  • Freezing
  • Excessive drooling or lip licking
  • House Soiling
  • Destructive or aggressive behavior
  • Excessive whining or barking

Time to Talk

Reporting behavior problems and concerns to your dog or cat’s veterinarian is important. Different medical conditions may cause changes in behavior.  Your veterinarian can rule out any potential health problems. Document your dog or cat’s behavior in detail. Prepare to answer questions regarding frequency, duration, type, and patterns of the behavior. Your veterinarian may recommend training or behavior modification techniques. Supplements or prescription medication may be prescribed in addition to these methods. All treatments should be monitored by your vet.

Featured Treatments

VetRxDirect features a large selection of behavioral health products including over the counter supplements, pheromone products, and prescription medications for both dogs and cats. We’ve highlighted a few of the most popular below.

Solliquin for Fear and Anxiety at VetRxDirectSolliquin is a nutritional supplement that encourages behavioral health in dogs and cats. Solliquin helps provide a feeling of calm and contentment during stressful events, without the use of sedation. Made with natural ingredients including magnolia and phellodendron extracts, l-theanine from green tea, and whey protein concentrate.


Reconcile at VetRxDirectReconcile, fluoxetine, is a prescription medication for dogs with certain behavior and cognitive disorders. It works by affecting serotonin levels in the brain that may be unbalanced. Reconcile is commonly prescribed to treat separation anxiety in dogs, and help relieve behavioral symptoms.



Feliway at VetRxDirectFeliway contains feline facial pheromones that help calm cats and control negative feline behaviors associated with stress and anxiety. The pheromones have a soothing effect without using tranquilizers or other medications. Feliway is also great for traveling and acclimating cats to new environments. Plug-In room diffuser, travel spray, and wipes allow for multiple applications.


Sileo at VetRxDirectSileo is a prescription treatment for dogs that suffer from anxiety and behavioral problems caused by noises (noise aversion). It contains the sedative dexmedetomidine at a low dose to help calm dogs down, without heavy sedation, so they can keep fully functional. Sileo is an oral gel labeled to start working in 30-60 min and last 2-3 hours.

How To Reduce Holiday Anxiety For Your Dog or Cat

When it comes to winter holidays many of us enjoy going to parties or gathering with family and friends. When celebrating the season it’s also important to remember your pets during the hustle and bustle. Some dogs and cats suffer from anxiety disorders, while others can have a sensitivity to loud noises. Holiday festivities can trigger these problems and sometimes lead to negative behaviors. We have included some ways to keep the holidays less stressful for your pets.

Visitors and groups of people can upset dogs and cats. Even pets that aren’t normally shy may become nervous with the noise and excitement that accompany a holiday gathering. A Room of Their Own: Give your pet their own quiet space to retreat to. Make sure your pet has a room or crate somewhere away from the commotion, where your guests won’t follow, that it can go to anytime it wants to get away.

Related image

Traveling is a common source of tension for pets. Car rides may cause animals to become nervous and sometimes carsick, making it unpleasant for both you and your pets. If you are leaving for an extended period of time or going out of town, you may choose to board or kennel your pets. Some pets experience anxiety and distress when separated from their owners. Make considerations and plans in advance for your pets when traveling, especially for those with separation anxiety

New Year’s Noise: Many pets are scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches. Animals that have firework anxiety react negatively to other loud noises as well. Keep in mind that common party items and celebrations can cause your pet to become anxious and fearful. These may include party poppers, party horns, and balloon popping. Learn more about holiday pet safety.

Medication For Anxiety

For some dogs and cats, these methods won’t be enough to ease or rid them of their anxiety. If you find yourselves in that position, consult with your veterinarian and get an assessment to find out if medication is appropriate for your pet. VetRxDirect offers a variety of anxiety medications and supplements.

Fluoxetine at VetRxDirectFluoxetine is a prescription antidepressant medication. It works with certain chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced. It is commonly used to treat certain behavior disorders in dogs and cats such as anxiety. Fluoxetine is available in tablets or capsules. Compounded oral suspension or transdermal gel is also available.



Zylkene For Anxiety at VetRxDirect

Zylkene is a natural way to soothe your pet. It helps discourage behavioral problems that stem from stress including improper urination, separation anxiety, and destructive behavior. This nutritional supplement is made from a special milk protein with peptides that can impact the brain receptors that cause stress. It has a calming effect on dogs and cats without causing sleepiness.


Have you used a medication to treat your pet’s anxiety?