Understanding and preventing aggression between pets

pygmy goat butts pig

Lately on my days off I’ve been lost in the world of photography which provides me a sanctuary of peace, relaxation, and fun. Last week I went with my friend Abby to the farm of my cousin Nicole. We were on a mission to capture some great photographs of the farm and of the farm animals. After four hours with the horses, pigs, and goats, as we were walking back to the car, I noticed that Abby was quite distraught. Apparently she became upset when she noticed a defenseless pig being chased around by some goats that occupied the same pen. “Every time he gets up to walk around they attacked him and pushed him back down–how can he live like that?” Abby asked with a cracking voice and tears welling in her eyes. Even though Abby has two cats that sometimes fight, there was something about this particular situation that she found very disturbing. With that, we turned the car around and drove back to the farm. However before we got the chance to speak with anyone there, we noticed that the pig and the goats were already separated. We were then told that the enclosure that the pig was in was not his permanent home but was simply a temporary test which had obviously failed big time.

Back in the car we began discussing reasons that animals fight and ways to prevent them from fighting. This week I decided to put some of the ideas that we came up with here in the blog.

There are many reasons why pets may fight

Animals sometimes fight for territory, for food, and for dominance. Generally, two animals fight when there is some sort of conflict in interests. All the possible reasons that animals may fight are too numerous to list, and sometimes not even well understood. Fights between animals of the same species may seem pointless and counterproductive since these animals need to be preserving their strength for hunting. Some have even suggested that fights break out in the wild as a way for the “stronger” specimen to survive, therefore strengthening the whole species over time. When it comes to our pets, however, we don’t generally concern ourselves so much with the reasons why, but more importantly with how to prevent a fight from occurring in the first place.

In a home that already has animals living there, it is best to make sure that any addition will be able to get along with the rest of the family members before making a commitment. Similar to the situation of the goats and the pig, sometimes it is heartbreaking to see an animal constantly getting picked on by other animals. Another important way to promote harmony amongst the household pets is getting them involved in early and frequent obedience training. Obedience training not only helps the pet learn a few basic commands but also reinforces you as the pack leader. Even in animals that don’t respond well to obedience training, it is still important for everyone to know that you are in charge and not them. When there is no conflict as to who is the pack leader, all the animals in the home are generally less stressed because they trust you for their wellbeing, protection, and care. This trust takes much of the pressure off the animals themselves and decreases the chances of them fighting.  Frequent exercise may also be beneficial for burning off access energy.  This energy is best burned running and playing rather than fighting.

If all efforts to get the pets to stop misbehaving and fighting are failing, an appointment with an animal behaviorist could make a world of difference. These specialists usually know how to evaluate situations involving aggression and know how to include the whole family as part of the treatment plan which often leads to a high success rate.

Sentry Stop That! is available at PetMeds

There are also some over-the-counter products that contain pheromones which may be helpful in calming aggressive behavior in cats and dogs. Comfort Zone for Dogs and Comfort Zone for Cats are plug-in diffusers that release natural comforting pheromones which help stop stress-related behaviors. Another correction spray product called Sentry Stop That! behavior correction spray combines the synergistic effects of pheromones and noise together. This combination usually stops the bad aggressive behavior right then and in time stops it from recurring altogether.

Fluoxetine affects chemicals in the brain that can cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

If the pet keeps getting into fights, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see the veterinarian who can check and make sure nothing else is wrong. Sometimes an animal may be uncomfortable or in pain and in need of medical attention. The veterinarian may also want to prescribe other medication that help calm the pet or treat any underlying medical conditions. A prescription medication called Fluoxetine which belongs to the group of products called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors has been used at times to treat obsessive compulsive behaviors and other behaviors that often lead to fighting. Other prescription medications such as amitriptyline and acepromazine are also often prescribed by the veterinarian to treat certain other behavior problems. With enough work and patience there usually aren’t that many problems that can’t be solved or behavior issues resolved so that everyone can finally live happily under the same roof.

As always if you have any medication related question please call one of our 1800PetMeds pharmacists who would love to help answer those for you.

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