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Guide: How to Spot & Treat Anxiety in Dogs

Kunal is a parent to a Shih Tzu and has been writing Pet blogs for 4 years. He is an expert in the Pet niche and a new addition to the Hub.

Table Of Contents

  1. What Are the Signs That Your Dog Has Anxiety?
  2. Body Language Signs of Anxiety in a Dog
  3. More Subtle Signs of Anxiety That May Be Difficult to Recognize
  4. Types of Anxiety
  5. Treatment for Dog Anxiety
  6. What could happen if Anxiety goes untreated?
  7. Things to Remember & Tips


What Are the Signs That Your Dog Has Anxiety?

Out of many possible indicators, its body language is often the best one.
Different dogs would naturally have different symptoms, but their body language would tell us a lot about Anxiety. These include subtle signs like overreactions or unusual reactions when changes in its location, people, or social settings. The symptoms might surface as barking or trembling or can be as simple as the dog not eating its food when it should be.

A dog can also turn to lick its paws excessively as a coping mechanism to soothe itself of the anxiousness that it's facing. Let's go a little deeper and understand anxiety in dogs and how you can spot it and treat it.

how-to-spot-treat-anxiety-in-dogs

Body Language Signs of Anxiety in a Dog:

  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Barking Wildly
  • Whining
  • Ears back and/or tail tucked
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Drooling
  • Not eating on their regular schedule
  • Being uninterested in food.
  • Unnatural Anger/Aggression
  • Defecating or urinating in the house or in places where it shouldn't
  • Destructive behavior (tearing up furniture, carpets, etc.)
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Fight or flight responses
  • Digging


More Subtle Signs of Anxiety That May Be Difficult to Recognize:

  • Looking away.
  • Lip licking
  • Showing whites of the eyes
  • Lifting a paw

These can be milder signs of Anxiety. It is worth noting that you should pay attention and be worried only if the symptoms are regular & repetitive. For example, your dog might not have gotten its regular exercise and might start chewing furniture because of that.

This would be considered a way to burn off the extra energy and not a sign of Anxiety. Regular, repetitive chewing of furniture is considered as one symptom. Your dog does not need all the symptoms to be present. A few signs can also mean that your dog is experiencing anxiousness.

how-to-spot-treat-anxiety-in-dogs
how-to-spot-treat-anxiety-in-dogs

Types of Anxiety

  • Fear-related Anxiety
  • Former Shelter/ Rescue Anxiety
  • Separation anxiety
  • Age-related Anxiety

DoggoTip

Always use a Professional Trainer/Behaviorist's services if the intensity of Anxiety is on the higher side. Anxious dogs are unpredictable and can harm you through aggression while training activities.

This can occur through strange animals or people, loud noises, visual stimuli such as hats or curtains, unfamiliar or strange environments, some specific places or situations — such as going to the Vet's office or during car rides — or on particular surfaces such as grass or wooden floors. Although such exposure happens for a brief period, consequentially, it can have a long-lasting effect on dogs, leading to anxiousness.

➼ Former Shelter/ Rescue Anxiety

Doggos who live in shelters might have experienced traumatic events before going to the shelter or even having frightening memories of being abandoned or left there. Such dogs might develop Anxiety due to the fear of being abandoned or separated. Such dogs lived unpredictable life, and it left a profound impact on them. Developing a predictable, consistent routine and atmosphere is the best way to help such doggos feel safe and home. A professional trainer/behaviorist can also help pinpoint the trigger and can recommend ways to help them calm down.

➼ Separation Anxiety

Around 14% of all dogs are estimated to be experiencing separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety find discomfort when they are separated from their family members or left alone. Separation anxiety in dogs often leads to undesirable actions such as excessive barking, chewing furniture & defecating, and urinating in places that the doggo shouldn't.

Older dogs might be affected with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). In dogs with CDS, learning, perception, memory, and awareness start to decline, just like in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease in human beings. This leads to confusion and then Anxiety in senior doggos.

how-to-spot-treat-anxiety-in-dogs

Anxiety Caused Due To Illness

The illnesses mentioned below can cause Anxiety in dogs that were not suffering from Anxiety before. These are:

➼ Hypothyroidism

Anxiety symptoms & fear responses are coupled with hair loss or lethargy, weight gain. The cause could be a thyroid gland that produces hormones, not performing its functions properly.

➼ Thyrotoxicosis

Also known as Grave's Disease, it is a rare type of thyroid gland affecting Autoimmune Disorder. This illness also causes Anxiety in dogs.

➼ Encephalitis

Causes swelling & inflammation of brain tissue & can lead to anxious behavior. This can also cause seizures, aggression, clumsy gait & also coma.

➼ Pre-Diabetes

When newfound generalized Anxiety is accompanied by weight gain, excessive thirst, or the appearance of cataracts, pre-diabetes may be the issue.

➼ Vision Loss or Hearing Loss

Dogs that are without one of their senses may startle easily and become anxious with their unknown surrounding.

how-to-spot-treat-anxiety-in-dogs

Generalized Anxiety

Unfortunately, the cause for Anxiety is not always determined. It is possible that the leading cause of Anxiety occurred in the past and went by unnoticed.

It is also possible that your doggo is just Anxiety prone & gets upset with the change in environments. Generalized Anxiety is a widespread type and goes unnoticed. Often general Anxiety is shrugged off as typical "breed behavior."

This happens because generalized Anxiety has subtle symptoms and is not as severe as some of the other types.

Dog breeds that are prone to general Anxiety include:

  • German & Australian Shepherd
  • Vizsla
  • Bichon Frise
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Greyhounds
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Border Collie
  • Shorthair Pointer
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Havanese
  • Many toy breeds

Developing a consistent schedule, controlling social interaction, and creating a predictable environment with low stimuli is the best way to help a generally anxious dog.

how-to-spot-treat-anxiety-in-dogs

Treatment for Dog Anxiety

The number one way is to take your doggo to a Vet. Your Vet is in the best position to tell you whether your dog suffers from any Anxiety or not.

Your Vet will also tell you the type of Anxiety your doggo suffers from if any & the possible causes and triggers behind it. Explain the whole situation to your Vet, and don't leave out any details, not even the slightest ones.

Your Vet will also help you with a treatment plan for the type of Anxiety. The types of treatments could vary and could include medication, training, exercises, etc.

➼ Counterconditioning

Counterconditioning means replacing the undesirable behavior of your dog that is triggered by the Anxiety causing stimuli.

The undesirable behaviors such as barking, urinating & defecating wherever & aggression could be replaced with positive behaviors such as focusing on the owner or sitting.


➼ Desensitization

This includes slowly introducing the doggo to the sources or triggers of Anxiety & initially in small doses at a decreased intensity. Doing this and rewarding every positive behavior with repeated exposure would "desensitize" your doggo.

how-to-spot-treat-anxiety-in-dogs

➼ Behavioral Training

Behavioral training includes changing the behaviors of your doggo through training and positive reinforcement.

Training Examples for a Dog With Separation Anxiety

Give your dog something it loves when you have to step out and leave them alone. The dog has a negative association with being "separated."

Your dog needs to associate being alone with positive behaviors and feelings. Giving something it loves would help keep its mind off the "separation" and "anxiety" part by allowing it to stay busy.

Monitor the progress of your doggo and see if this is helping. You can gradually start leaving it alone without the fear of it being anxious if your dog responds well to it.

If your dog is afraid of those car rides, you can break down the process.

The first day or few days, get your dog near your car and reward it. The next day or few days, make your dog sit in the car and reward it. The next step is to drive them around for a little while and then reward them.

➼ Toys or Treats

Give your dog some toys or some of its favorite treats to calm it down. Your doggo loves playtime and loves its treats. This would help in soothing some of the stress and anxiousness your furbaby is facing.

➼ Love & Cuddle Them

You can buy skintight clothes that stick to your dog's body to give them the feeling of being in a warm embrace.

If they are crying or feeling anxious, pat them, massage them & love them. Cuddling will also help in relaxing your dog, and these would become some great bonding moments.

➼ Exercise

Regular exercise is a no-brainer. Exercise releases positive chemicals in the brain that reduces stress.

Your dog needs exercise as much as you do. Your dog will feel good after its daily workout and would calm down as well.

Exercises regulate the mood and are a natural remedy for better spirit and improving Anxiety.

➼ Get Yourself Another Doggo

If your doggo lost a furball buddy, it could be remedied by getting another furball to keep him company. This would ensure that it is not alone when you have to step out. Your dog would stay engulfed with his new buddy, and they can enjoy together. However, if it is due to separation from humans, this would not be as effective.

how-to-spot-treat-anxiety-in-dogs

⚕️Medication for Anxiety

  • If the Anxiety in your dog is severe, then your Vet may prescribe medication that includes SSRIs & Anti-Depressants.
  • For a lesser level of Anxiety, including car rides, fireworks, etc., medication such as Benzodiazepine with an Anti-Depressant could be prescribed.
  • Senior dogs that suffer from Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) could be prescribed Selegiline, reducing CDS symptoms. This drug is used to treat chronic Anxiety in Europe as well.

What could happen if Anxiety goes untreated?

Sometimes it happens that Anxiety is mistaken for "bad behavior," and a series of unfortunate events such as punishing & abandonment occurs. Dogs might start indulging in excessive barking, urinating & defecating all over, destroying furniture, biting & fighting, etc.

It is essential to get your dog diagnosed if you feel something is off. Once you make sure everything is all right, you can take a sigh of relief. If not, get it treated immediately; otherwise, Anxiety is a gradually increasing health issue that could go to a great extent to create problems.

  • Remember that treating Anxiety is not an overnight thing. It requires effort and patience on both your dog's and your parts.
  • Do not lose hope and stay dedicated and consistent. It is in your hands to help your dog overcome its problems & live its life to the fullest.
  • Please don't get angry or frustrated with your dog because of their behavior or actions. Your dog is not doing any of this purposely and is just a victim of a health issue.
  • Your dog is coping with Anxiety just as it knows how. If it doesn't know any better, how could it do better?


Please share with all your doggoparent friends & it just might help some dogs live a better, quality life.

Comment your thoughts below and tell me what you think?



Sources

  1. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/treating-dog-anxiety/
  2. https://www.abc.net.au/everyday/signs-your-dog-is-anxious-and-how-to-treat-it/10952390
  3. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs-separation-anxiety#1
  4. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/behavioral/c_dg_fears_phobia_anxiety
  5. https://www.animalsurgical.com/anxiety-in-dogs/

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2021 Kunal Gupta

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