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Table 1

Most commonly recognized signs of nonspecific anxiety/distress in dogs and cats11–22

  • Urination
  • Defecation
  • Anal sac expression
  • Panting
  • Increased respiration and heart rate
  • Trembling, shaking
  • Muscle rigidity (usually with tremors)
  • Lip licking
  • Nose licking
  • Grimace (retraction of lips)
  • Head shaking
  • Smacking/popping lips or jaws together
  • Salivation/hypersalivation
  • Vocalization (excessive and/or out of context)
  • Frequently repetitive sounds, including high-pitched whines, like those associated with isolation
  • Yawning
  • Immobility, ‘‘freezing,’’ profoundly decreased activity
  • Pacing, profoundly increased activity
  • Hiding or attempted hiding
  • Escaping or attempted escaping
  • Body language of social disengagement (i.e., turning head or body away from signaler)
  • Lowering of head or neck
  • Inability to meet a direct gaze
  • Staring at some middle distance
  • Body posture lower than normal (in fear, the body is extremely lowered or tail tucked)
  • Ears lowered/possibly droopy because of changes in facial muscle tone
  • Mydriasis
  • Scanning (i.e., moving eyes and/or head across the environment to
    continually monitor all activity)
  • Hypervigilance/hyperalertness (may only be noticed when touched or interrupted, but pet may hyperreact to stimuli that otherwise would not elicit this reaction)
  • Shifting legs
  • Lifting paw in an intentional movement
  • Increased closeness to preferred associates
  • Decreased closeness to preferred associates
  • Profound alterations in eating/drinking (acute stress is usually associated with a decrease in appetite and thirst, whereas chronic stress is often associated with an increase)
  • Increased grooming, possibly with self-mutilation
  • Decreased grooming
  • Possible appearance of ritualized/repetitive activities
  • Changes in other behaviors, including increased reactivity or increased aggressiveness (may be nonspecific)