Understanding Dog Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Understanding Dog Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

As a Fur Parent of a 7-year-old Lab mix named Wrigley, I understand how overwhelming it can be to see your furry friend struggle with anxiety. While dogs can experience anxiety for a variety of reasons, there are several ways to help manage their anxiety and improve their quality of life.

So first let's start by addressing the issues. What exactly are some common causes of dog anxiety? Dogs can experience anxiety for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes of dog anxiety include:

Separation Anxiety: This is one of the most common forms of anxiety in dogs and occurs when a dog becomes distressed when separated from their owner or family. Symptoms can include destructive behavior, excessive barking or whining, and house soiling.

Fear and Phobias: Dogs can develop fears and phobias of specific situations or objects, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or unfamiliar people or animals. Symptoms can include trembling, hiding, panting, and trying to escape.

Lack of Socialization: Dogs who have not been adequately socialized as puppies may develop anxiety in new or unfamiliar situations, such as meeting new people or other dogs.

Medical Conditions: Some medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders or cognitive dysfunction syndrome, can cause anxiety in dogs.

Trauma: Dogs who have experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, may develop anxiety as a result.

Aging: As dogs age, they may experience cognitive changes that can lead to anxiety, confusion, and disorientation.

How to Identify Anxiety in Your Dog

It's important to be aware of the warning signs that may indicate your dog is experiencing anxiety. Some common signs of dog anxiety include:

Excessive Panting or Drooling: Dogs may pant or drool excessively when they are feeling anxious.

Destructive Behavior: Dogs with separation anxiety may chew on furniture or other objects, scratch at doors or windows, or dig at carpets or flooring.

Aggression: Some dogs may become aggressive when they are feeling anxious or scared, either towards people or other animals.

Excessive Barking or Whining: Dogs may bark or whine excessively when they are anxious or distressed.

Trembling or Shaking: Dogs may tremble or shake when they are feeling anxious or scared.

Hiding or Avoidance: Dogs may hide or try to avoid situations or people that they find stressful.

Pacing or Restlessness: Dogs may pace or be unable to settle when they are feeling anxious.

Changes in Appetite: Dogs may lose their appetite or refuse to eat when they are feeling anxious.

Ways to Help Them Deal with Anxiety

             

Exercise

Regular exercise is essential for your dog's physical and mental health. Not only does it help to release pent-up energy and reduce stress levels, but it also provides mental stimulation and can promote a sense of calm. Walking your dog daily, playing fetch, or engaging them in interactive games like tug-of-war can be great ways to keep your dog active and reduce their anxiety.

Create a Calm Environment

Dogs can pick up on our own stress and anxiety, so creating a calm and peaceful environment can help to ease their own anxious feelings. Provide your dog with a comfortable, quiet space where they can retreat when they need to. This could be a crate, a cozy bed, or a designated room in your house where they feel safe and secure.

Practice Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement training is a powerful tool for building your dog's confidence and reducing their anxiety. Rather than punishing your dog for bad behavior, focus on rewarding them for good behavior. This approach can help to establish trust and promote positive associations with new experiences. Consider enrolling your dog in obedience classes or working with a professional trainer to learn positive reinforcement techniques.

Use Calming Aids

There are a variety of products available that can help to calm your dog's anxiety, such as calming collars, pheromone diffusers, and natural remedies like CBD oil. Talk to your veterinarian about which options may be best for your dog. Some dogs may benefit from a combination of different calming aids, while others may find relief with just one.

Seek Professional Help

If your dog's anxiety is severe or interfering with their quality of life, it may be time to seek professional help. Your veterinarian can help to determine the best course of action, which may include medication or working with a veterinary behaviorist. A behaviorist can help you understand your dog's anxiety triggers and develop a personalized plan for managing their anxiety.

How I’ve Dealt with Wrigley’s Separation Anxiety

As mentioned in the beginning of this blog I am a Fur Parent to a 7-year-old Labrador mix (Wrigley) who also suffers from separation anxiety which is why I can relate to the challenges of managing this condition. By implementing the tips and tricks mentioned above, I have been able to keep my furry friend's anxiety at a manageable level.

For instance, regular exercise has been key in helping Wrigley cope with his anxiety. I make sure to take him on daily walks and engage him in games like tossing his plush toys back and forth (he loves shredding those) and a safe fun game of tug-of-war to release his pent-up energy and reduce his stress levels.

Additionally, creating a calm environment for Wrigley has been crucial. I provide him with a comfortable, quiet space where he can retreat to when he needs to, which has helped him feel safe and secure even when I'm not home. Wrigley also has blankets in areas of the house such as beds, couches, etc. This allows him to feel nurtured and cuddled throughout the day when I cannot be at home.

Positive reinforcement training has also been incredibly effective in building my dog's confidence and reducing his anxiety. By rewarding him for good behavior rather than punishing him for bad behavior, I've established trust and promoted positive associations with new experiences.

By implementing these strategies and being consistent in my approach, I've been able to keep my dog's separation anxiety at a manageable level. While it's not always easy, the rewards of seeing my furry friend live a happier, calmer life make it all worth it.

             

Are There Certain Breeds of Dogs That are More Prone to Anxiety?

While any breed of dog can develop anxiety, some breeds have a higher likelihood of experiencing anxiety due to their temperament and genetics. But, yes there are certain breeds of dogs that are more prone to anxiety than others.

Some of the most common dog breeds that are prone to anxiety include:

  1. Toy Breeds: Small toy breeds such as Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and Pomeranians are known for being anxious due to their nervous disposition and tendency to become attached to their owners.
  2. Sporting Breeds: Certain breeds of sporting dogs, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, may be prone to separation anxiety due to their strong attachment to their owners and social nature.
  3. Herding Breeds: Breeds such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are known for being highly intelligent and energetic, which can make them prone to anxiety if they are not given enough mental and physical stimulation.
  4. Working Breeds: Breeds such as German Shepherds and Dobermans are known for their loyalty and protective instincts, which can make them prone to anxiety if they are not properly socialized and trained.

Certain breeds may have a higher likelihood of developing anxiety, but every dog is unique and can experience anxiety regardless of their breed.

Long-Term Effects of Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety in dogs can have long-term effects on a dog's physical and mental health if left untreated or poorly managed. Chronic anxiety can lead to increased stress levels, behavior problems, physical health problems, decreased quality of life, and an increased risk of depression. These effects can have a negative impact on a dog's overall well-being and may cause problems for the dog and their owners.

The thought of our dogs experiencing chronic anxiety, and the potential long-term effects, can be truly heart-wrenching. As Fur Parents, we want nothing but the best for our furry family members, and it can be tough to see them suffer. It's important to remember that there are ways to manage anxiety in dogs, and that seeking help from a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist can make a huge difference in your dog's well-being.

By taking steps to address your dog's anxiety early on, you can help prevent long-term effects and ensure that your furry friend is happy and healthy. Whether it's through training, medication, or a combination of both, there are options available to help manage your dog's anxiety and improve their overall quality of life.

Difference Between Anxiety in Humans and In Dogs

Anxiety in dogs and humans share many similarities, but there are also some important differences.

Firstly, anxiety in dogs is often related to specific triggers or situations, such as separation anxiety or fear of loud noises like thunder or fireworks. In contrast, anxiety in humans can be triggered by a wide variety of factors, including work stress, relationship problems, or financial worries. 

Additionally, while humans can communicate their anxiety through language, dogs rely on body language and behavior to communicate their emotions. This can make it more challenging to identify and treat anxiety in dogs, as their symptoms may be more subtle and difficult to recognize.

Another key difference is the treatment options available for anxiety. While therapy and medication are commonly used to treat anxiety in humans, these options are not always effective for dogs. Instead, training and behavior modification techniques, along with natural remedies and supplements, are often used to help manage anxiety in dogs.

Despite these differences, the underlying mechanisms of anxiety are similar in dogs and humans, and many of the same principles of management apply.

             

Remember, managing your dog's anxiety is a process that requires time, patience, and lots of love and understanding. It's important to be consistent with your approach and to celebrate even small victories along the way. With the right approach and a lot of dedication, you can help your furry friend live a happier, more peaceful life.

 

Back to blog

Leave a comment