Understanding Changes in Your Pet’s Behavior

One minute they’re happy, another they’re sad. While mood swings are something pets just like their pet parents are guilty of, long term changes in a pet’s attitude could also signal stress or an underlying ailment.

Sudden changes in the environment can be stressful regardless of age. And as pets get older, they become less flexible in adjusting to these changes. The introduction of a new housemate, baby or absence of the pet owner can trigger changes in a pet’s behavior. These might all be natural reactions but becomes a concern when displayed for long periods of time.

Common Pet Behavior Problems

  • Excessive Barking
  • Aggression
  • Biting
  • Destructive Chewing
  • Howling
  • Food Guarding

It is essential that pet parents establish a basic understanding of their pet’s behavior. This makes it easy for them to identify any sudden changes in their pet’s behavior.

Aggression is characterized as a series of dangerous or harmful activities directed toward another individual or pet. These include snapping, biting, lunging and growling. In pets, aggressive actions can be a natural reaction towards attacks and perceived threats. This sudden change in behavior becomes a concern when it is directed toward familiar pets and individuals.

Common Causes

  • Boredom
  • Anxiety
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Separation anxiety
  • Sickness
  • Protection of property
  • Puppy teething
  • Not enough mental stimulation

A pet’s behavior influences how it interacts with its environment and the people around it. Understanding your pet plays a major role in preventive care. Early detection of any changes in behavior makes it easier to manage the problem.

Early Signs and Symptoms to look out for

Changes in behavior can also be traced to an underlying illness. Your pet can be suffering from chronic pain caused by a medical condition. If your pet exhibits a sudden change in behavior, be on the lookout for these symptoms. Early detection can save you an expensive trip to the vet in future. So be sure to keep your pet healthy and have your pet insurance ready just in case.

  • Sudden change in weight
  • Red, dry or cloudy eyes
  • Drooling
  • Soreness
  • Stiffness
  • Coughing
  • Excessive panting
  • Changes in bowel movement
  • Itchy and dry skin
  • Change in appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Increased drinking/urination
  • Bad breath
  • Shaking
  • Loss of bladder control

Preventing Pet Behavior Problems 

Behavioral issues can be controlled and resolved with early detection. Pet owners must be sensitive to any changes in behavior. A solid foundation of obedience training will go a long way in preventing or treating pet behavior problems.

Positive Reinforcement and Training

  • Establish clear rules and limits
  • Encourage good behavior by offering rewards
  • Correct bad behavior by providing alternatives (If you’re pets like to chew slippers, give them a toy bone)
  • Slowly expose new pets to other people, environments, and animals
  • Keep pets away from certain environments and situations that trigger poor behavior
  • It is not advisable to discipline your pet physically or force them to follow your commands because it can lead to aggression and fear
  • Spend more time playing and training with your pet to avoid boredom

If your pet continues to show serious behavior problems, seek the services of a vet or pet behavior counselor. There are four main classifications of professionals who practice pet behavior counseling:

  • Veterinarians and Veterinary Specialists in Behavior (Diplomats ACVB)
  • Applied Animal Behaviorists, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs
  • Trainers
  • Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs)


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