CFAES Give Today
Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


PetPALS Stress in Animals

Stress in Animals

Each animal will react differently to changes in its environment, just as each person reacts differently to the stresses in his or her life. Some people deal better with stress than others, as do some animals. It is essential for 4-H’ers to know their pets well enough to be aware of their stress signals to avoid any unhealthy levels of stress. 

The following situations or environments may stress pets during animal-assisted activities: 

  • Meeting strange animals and strange people
  • Unusual smells
  • Loud or strange noises, including alarms
  • Strange equipment and machines
  • Being touched, hit or run over by chairs and equipment
  • Walking on strange flooring, such as textured, smooth, carpeted, slippery 
  • Being petted by strange people or people they don’t like
  • Being petted incorrectly
  • Being in very cold or hot rooms
  • Being in areas of high activity or crowds
Signs of Stress in Dogs
  • dog stressShaking or shivering
  • Scratching
  • Excessive dandruff (exfoliate)
  • Excessive shedding
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive blinking
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Use of calming signals 
  • Sweating through pads of feet
  • Frequent or inappropriate urination or defecation
  • Panting 
  • Salivating
  • Biting or licking self
  • Whining, barking, howling
  • Hiding or trying to leave
cat stressSigns of Stress in Cats
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Unusually passive, lethargic
  • Dilated pupils
  • Exfoliate
  • Abnormal shedding
  • Nervous, irritated
  • Low, growling tones
Signs of Stress in Rabbits
  • rabbit stressNictitating membrane covers eye
  • Rigid body posture
  • Ears up 
  • Exfoliate
  • Growls, squeaks or screams (frightened)
  • Tries to avoid petting
  • Rapid respiration
  • Hiding or trying to leave