New study shows increased levels of anxiety in pets since the COVID-19 pandemic
Green Element published research presenting the increase in pet anxiety since the start of the pandemic in 2020
Green Element, a CBD supply company, has published new original research detailing increased levels of pet anxiety in the United States. The CBD company stated in an organizational release1 that the data showed a particular increase in dogs’ anxiety from the last 2 years based on research comparing 2020 to 2022 in Finland. The company conducted the survey in May 2022, and in total, 1,000 adult Americans ages 18 and up were surveyed (650 dog owners and 350 cat owners).2
Some of the highlights from the study concluded that1:
- Dog separation anxiety jumped well over 700% in only two years.
- Fear of strangers surged, outpacing a fear of loud noises to become the leading cause of anxiety in dogs after a 295% increase since 2020.
- Anxiety caused by other cats or dogs jumped significantly in dogs—from just 16.5% in 2020 to 43.52% in 2022.
The multitude of changes happening over the last two years could be a difficult adjustment for most people, and this is no different for pets. From transitioning into COVID-19 schedules (pet owners and children at home more frequently) to transitioning back out of these schedules, pets have had to readjust multiple times.2
"We've all known the COVID pandemic has had a significant impact on our daily lives, but now it's clear our pets have been suffering over the same period, as well," said Doug McHart, chief executive officer of Green Element in the release.1
Compared to a study released in 2020 on canine anxiety in Finland,3 the Green Element survey conducted in 2022 finds anxiety in dogs increasing anywhere from 40% to over 700% over the last two years alone. The different causes of anxiety in dogs increased in each area. However, the categories that saw the largest increase was “fear of strangers” and “separation-related behavior.”2
Most signs of dog anxiety vary not only in presentation but also in frequency and observability. For example, excessive barking and hyperactivity may go unnoticed when owners are not present, but inappropriate urination or defecation and destructive behavior can be tracked after the fact. Stereotypic behaviors—defined in this survey as “tail chasing, pacing, licking, chasing or snapping at reflections or shadows”2—are similarly difficult to detect without direct observation.
Research from Guide Dogs found that 36% of dog owners can spot the signs of poor mental health, and 24% admitted they did not know that a dog could suffer from poor mental health.4
In the Green Element survey, nearly half of all dog owners reported barking and hyperactivity as it repeated every week, every other day, or more frequently. Symptoms of anxiety in cats are often more subtle yet owners reported signs of tail flicking, avoiding eye contact, and shifting head/body away repeatedly (every week or every other day) or more often than usual.2
Green Element stated, “Additional research is needed to understand the specific reasons for this increase. A comparison of time spent at home prior to covid, during COVID, and post-COVID remains necessary to understand the potential links.”2
- Pet anxiety surges dramatically during COVID, according to study by Green Element. News release. Green Element. May 31, 2022.
- Study: prevalence of pet anxiety in the US, 2022. Green Element. Accessed May 31, 2022. https://greenelementcbd.com/pages/pet-anxiety-2022.
- Prevalence, comorbidity, and breed differences in canine anxiety in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs. Scientific Reports. March 5, 2020. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-59837-z.
- Guide Dogs encourages enrichment to boost dog mental health. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. March 8, 2022. https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/blog/guide-dogs-encourages-enrichment-to-boost-dog-mental-health.