Anxiety in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
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Dog anxiety can affect dogs of any age or any breed and produce noticeable changes in behavior. If your furry companion shows symptoms of anxiety, there are plenty of ways to help support them.
From minor episodes of nervousness to excessive anxiety, various management options can help improve your dog's demeanor. Below, this comprehensive guide will explore the symptoms and causes of as well as treatment for anxiety in dogs.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs
Dogs who are anxious may experience symptoms such as panting or trembling, excessive barking or whining, or destructive behavior. In addition, other symptoms may include:
- Hiding or withdrawal: Tense dogs may move behind objects or owners to hide when anxious
- Shedding: Some dogs may shed more than usual when nervous.
- Changes in appetite or water intake: Anxiety makes some dogs lose their appetite or drink excessively
- Whining or barking: Dogs may whine or bark excessively for two reasons. First, they may want to get their owner's attention. Second, they may be trying to create a distraction.
The type of signs of anxiety in dogs they exhibit may depend on specific circumstances. For example, dogs with separation anxiety may howl or whine excessively.
Causes of Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety in dogs can present for many reasons. It's not always possible to determine why your dog experiences it. Seeking a behavioral consultation from a veterinary professional can help to develop a management plan. The Merck Veterinary Manual highlights some common causes, including:
Genetics and breed disposition
Some dog breeds, such as German Shepherds, may be at a higher risk of developing anxious behavior based on genetics.
Traumatic experiences or events
Dogs who have been subject to trauma may experience ongoing anxious behavior as a result.
Lack of socialization or training
Dogs not used to social settings may experience anxious behavior when around new people or pets.
Separation anxiety from owners or other pets
Some dogs experience separation anxiety when their pet parent leaves. Dogs can even feel anxious when away from other pets.
Environmental factors (noise, changes in routine)
Loud noises or other environmental factors, such as traveling in a car, may also trigger anxious behavior in some dogs.
Medical conditions or pain
Pain associated with chronic medical conditions or injuries may contribute to dogs being anxious.
Treating Anxiety in Dogs
Anxious behavior in canines is often caused by more than one factor. A veterinarian will likely suggest a combination of approaches to manage it.
Medication, either prescription or over-the-counter, may be recommended to manage anxiety in dogs. SSRI medications can help improve many types of anxiety seen in dogs. Trazodone and fluoxetine are also popular options used to manage the symptoms in dogs.
Other ways to address anxious behavior in dogs include:
- Natural remedies
- Behavioral modification
- Techniques for calming and soothing
You and your vet will work together to create a personalized treatment plan. Pet owners can learn techniques to soothe their dogs during anxiety attacks. Examples include playing calming music and encouraging exercise.
Calming and soothing an anxious dog
Pet parents wondering how to calm an anxious dog can try petting or massaging their dog gently. Providing distractions, such as a favorite toy, can shift their attention away from anxiety symptoms.
What to avoid when calming an anxious dog
Don't reprimand an anxious dog for barking or howling. Try to avoid or prepare for known triggers of anxiety if and when possible.
Preventing Anxiety in Dogs
While it is not always possible to prevent anxiety in dogs, some approaches can reduce or prevent these symptoms in dogs. For example, proper dog socialization exposes them to other people or animals. In addition, creating a consistent routine and environment helps create a structure for your dog's day.
Adequate exercise and mental stimulation are also important for your dog's health. Regular exercise for your dog is important to their physical and mental health. This could be anything from a daily walk in one of your local dog parks to playing a game of fetch. Pet parents might also pick up on their dog's body language, providing a warning sign of an imminent anxiety attack.
Lastly, owners aware of their dog's anxiety triggers can try to avoid these scenarios. For example, dogs afraid of the rain should be kept inside during storms.
Managing Dog Anxiety with BetterVet Care
Just as you care for your pet's physical health, it's also important to attend to your pet's mental health.
If you suspect your dog may be experiencing this behavior, explore BetterVet's anxiety quiz for dogs as a starting point.
Help support your pet by consulting with a BetterVet veterinarian. During an in-home visit, you and your vet can discuss ways to ease your dog's anxiety symptoms and improve their quality of life. Book an appointment today.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you help a dog with anxiety?
Training your dog with positive reinforcement techniques can help them learn more quickly. Examples include the sit-stay and down-stay commands. These commands help dogs to remain calm and relaxed in one place.
Regular exercise and mental stimulation are also important for reducing your dog's feeling anxious. Creating a safe place & atmosphere can help manage it. Try using pheromone sprays or calming music. Consulting a veterinarian or animal behaviorist can also provide useful advice.
What triggers a dog's anxiety?
Dogs' anxiety is often triggered by abandonment, fear of being alone, loud noises, travel, and unfamiliar people, children, and pets. Identifying the underlying cause of your dog's behavioral issues is the best way to determine an effective treatment plan.
How do anxious dogs behave?
Anxious dogs may exhibit a variety of behavioral problems, including elimination (urination or bowel movements), destructive behavior, and excessive vocalization such as barking or crying. Dogs may also pace, tremble, or pant more than usual. You might also notice that your dog has frequent accidents around the house.
Can I give my dog Benadryl for anxiety?
In some cases, Benadryl may help improve anxiety in dogs. This medication is often used for motion sickness, producing a slight sedative effect that can be useful for dogs having anxiety attacks. However, it's important to always consult with a trusted veterinary doctor before giving your dog Benadryl. The appropriate dose for Benadryl should be based on your dog's body weight.