Understanding Pet Anxiety: How Animal Care Providers Can Provide Support & Establish Routine

If you have a pet, chances are it is a much-cherished member of your family.  That’s just how we are with our pets.  Dogs and cats alike bring joy, companionship, and love into our lives. Yet, just like humans, our furry friends can experience anxiety, which may manifest in various forms. Whether it’s separation anxiety, fear of loud noises, or general nervousness, recognizing and addressing these issues is paramount for ensuring the well-being of our beloved pets.

Pet anxiety can always be discussed with a veterinary professional, as they are trained to diagnose and treat various behavioral issues in pets, including anxiety disorders and they can provide valuable insights into the underlying causes of your pet’s anxiety and recommend appropriate treatment options, which may include behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of both.  As a rule, however, you should almost always consult with a pet trainer BEFORE you turn to pharmaceutical measures.  Your dog trainer can show you how to behave around your dog (yes, this matters!), as well as how to encourage, reward, and normalize all of the good behaviors that you are seeking in your pet.

Other pet professionals such as sitters and walkers play a role in alleviating pet anxiety by maintaining routines that you have established for your dog as well as providing companionship and support when you can’t be there. Working in tandem with veterinary professionals, these caregivers offer a holistic approach to pet care, ensuring that anxious pets receive the attention, structure, and emotional support they need to thrive.

Understanding Pet Anxiety

Anxiety in pets can originate from various sources, including past trauma, lack of socialization, and/or genetic predisposition. Signs of anxiety may be subtle or overt, ranging from excessive vocalization and destructive behavior to spinning, hiding and withdrawal. While some pets may exhibit mild anxiety that’s easily managed, others may struggle with severe symptoms that significantly impact their quality of life.

One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with pet anxiety is its unpredictability, as triggers can vary widely between individual animals. This variability can pose difficulties for pet owners attempting to provide the necessary support and care, particularly if they have demanding schedules or other obligations.

Understanding the specific triggers for each pet is crucial in managing their anxiety effectively. Environmental factors such as loud noises, changes in routine, or being left alone for extended periods can all contribute to heightened stress levels in pets. Additionally, medical conditions like chronic pain or cognitive dysfunction syndrome can exacerbate anxiety symptoms in older animals. It’s essential for pet owners to work closely with veterinarians or animal behaviorists to develop tailored treatment plans that address both the underlying causes and the outward symptoms of anxiety in their furry companions. By creating a safe and nurturing environment and implementing appropriate interventions, pet owners and pet sitters/walkers can help alleviate their pets’ anxiety and improve their overall well-being.

The Role of Pharmaceuticals

Any medical treatment or advice should come straight from your vet, of course.  There is some general information that you can know to get the conversation started about the main classes of drugs used:


  • Examples: Diazepam (Valium), Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Mechanism: These drugs enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA, leading to sedative, anxiolytic, and muscle-relaxant properties.
  • Usage: Often used for short-term anxiety relief or situational anxiety, such as during thunderstorms or fireworks.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs):

  • Examples: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Mechanism: These drugs increase the level of serotonin in the brain by inhibiting its reuptake, which can help improve mood and reduce anxiety.
  • Usage: Typically used for long-term management of chronic anxiety and behavioral issues.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs):

  • Examples: Clomipramine (Clomicalm), Amitriptyline
  • Mechanism: These drugs increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine by blocking their reuptake, which can help alleviate anxiety and depressive symptoms.
  • Usage: Often used for generalized anxiety and separation anxiety.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs):

  • Examples: Venlafaxine (Effexor), Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Mechanism: These drugs increase the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine, helping to improve mood and reduce anxiety.
  • Usage: Less commonly used but can be effective for some cases of anxiety.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs):

  • Example: Selegiline (Anipryl)
  • Mechanism: This drug inhibits the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, leading to increased levels in the brain.
  • Usage: Sometimes used for cognitive dysfunction syndrome in older dogs, which can include anxiety components.


  • Examples: Hydroxyzine, Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Mechanism: These drugs block histamine receptors and can have sedative effects, helping to calm anxious dogs.
  • Usage: Often used for mild anxiety or as a supplement to other treatments.


  • Example: Propranolol
  • Mechanism: These drugs block the effects of adrenaline on the body, reducing physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart rate and trembling.
  • Usage: Used in specific cases where physical symptoms are prominent.

Atypical Antipsychotics:

  • Example: Trazodone
  • Mechanism: Trazodone works by inhibiting serotonin reuptake and blocking serotonin receptors, leading to anxiolytic and sedative effects.
  • Usage: Often used for situational anxiety and as an adjunct to other treatments.

Alpha-2 Adrenergic Agonists:

  • Example: Clonidine, Dexmedetomidine (Sileo)
  • Mechanism: These drugs work by reducing the release of norepinephrine, which can help to calm the nervous system.
  • Usage: Used for situational anxiety and as part of pre-anesthetic protocols.

Nutraceuticals and Supplements:

  • Examples: L-theanine, Zylkene, Adaptil (DAP, dog-appeasing pheromone)
  • Mechanism: These products work through various pathways to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
  • Usage: Often used as part of a multimodal approach to anxiety management, especially in mild cases or in combination with other treatments.

The Role of Pet Sitters and Animal Care Professionals

A Dog Trainer kneeling next to two dogs, practicing Anxiety Training.Professional pet sitters and animal care providers can help pet owners navigate the complexities of anxious animals. By enlisting the services of trusted pet care professionals, owners can ensure that their furry companions receive the attention, exercise, and reassurance they need, even when their schedules preclude them from being present.

One primary method by which pet sitters and animal care providers mitigate pet anxiety is by establishing a consistent routine. Both dogs and cats thrive on predictability, and a structured schedule for feeding, playtime, and litter box maintenance can instill a sense of security and stability in anxious pets. Furthermore, regular exercise and mental stimulation are essential for managing anxiety, and pet sitters and animal care providers excel in providing the necessary enrichment for their charges.

Beyond routine, pet sitters and animal care providers offer companionship and emotional support to anxious pets. Many animals find solace in human presence, and the familiar company of a caregiver can assuage feelings of loneliness and insecurity. Whether engaging in play, grooming sessions, or simply providing a comforting presence, pet sitters and animal care providers cater to the individual needs of each anxious pet.

Summer Plans: Looking Ahead

As summer approaches, pet owners eagerly anticipate vacations, weekend getaways, and outdoor adventures with their animal companions. While these excursions promise excitement and relaxation, they also present challenges for anxious pets. Loud fireworks, bustling beaches, and unfamiliar surroundings can trigger anxiety in both dogs and cats, necessitating careful planning and consideration from pet owners.

For owners of anxious pets, the assistance of professional pet sitters or animal care providers can prove invaluable. Entrusting their pets to experienced and compassionate caregivers allow owners to embark on summer adventures with confidence, knowing their furry friends are in capable hands. Whether embarking on a brief getaway or an extended vacation, pet sitters and animal care providers deliver the care, attention, and routine necessary for anxious pets to thrive.

Not only that, establishing a relationship with a professional dog walker or sitting service allows a relationship to grow and become second nature to the pet and sitting team. They will know the triggers and signs of anxious dogs just like you the owner. They will know when to incorporate familiar items such as bedding, toys, or even pheromone diffusers into the temporary living space can provide a sense of comfort and security for anxious pets while away from home. These familiar scents and objects can help mitigate stress and promote relaxation, easing the transition into new environments and minimizing the impact of potential anxiety triggers.

By taking proactive measures, thoughtful preparations, and establishing a relationship with a pet sitter or dog walker, pet owners can ensure that their furry companions not only endure but also enjoy their summer escapades to the fullest extent possible. And as you prepare for your own summer escapades, proactive planning is essential to guarantying availability. Contacting your preferred pet care providers well in advance to secure reservations ensures peace of mind and guarantees attentive care for pets in need. With the support of trusted pet care professionals, owners can relish a worry-free summer, secure in the knowledge that their anxious pets are well looked after and enjoying their own seasonal adventures.