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.