Stress triggers and how to deal with them

02 March 2019
2 mins read
Volume 10 · Issue 2


There is a growing understanding of the effects that stress has on companion animals at all times of the year — living with humans is not easy! Elaine Henley explains the phenomonen of trigger-stacking and demonstrates how small changes in an animal's environment can have huge benefits.

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness among both veterinary professionals and pet caregivers, that pets may become stressed and therefore exhibit unusual, unpredictable or abnormal behaviours during events such as Christmas, Bonfire Night on November the fifth, or other large family gatherings. What is less known is that at other times of the year, pets may become overexposed to too many mild stressors in short succession, a chronic stressor, or a combination of mild and chronic stressors in which case they may display unusual or abnormal behaviours as their capacity to cope with the stressors is reduced. Behaviourists refer to this phenomenon popularly as trigger-stacking.

A trigger may be an addition to the environment that causes pets to decrease their ability to cope with the presentation of that trigger, or too many triggers which decrease the pets' coping ability further and render them unable to maintain emotional control. While not triggers per se, other changes that pets experience may add an additional layer of stress. For example, these include changes in routine, unexpected caregiver absences, a change to an exercise regimen (too much, or too little), long car journeys, unknown visitors, a sudden change in temperature, and/or the arrival of a new baby or pet into the household, to name a few.

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