Anxiety in Dogs, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety in dogs is the expectation of potential future hazards either from unknown imagined origins or known sources. This may result in a physical response from the dog associated with fear. Just like humans, dogs also experience anxiety and worries. Their anxiety may not be exactly like for people. But they result in physical responses and stress for the dogs just like us.

Below is more on the causes of causes of canine anxiety, its symptoms, and treatment. Learn more on the classifications of anxiety and which dog breeds are most susceptible.

Classification of Anxiety in Dogs

There are numerous forms of canine anxiety. Some types are specific to certain breeds while others can affect any dog breed. Effects of canine anxiety mostly depend on the dog’s experience especially when young. Most can be traced back to the first two years of the dog. They include;

Separation anxiety- It’s the most common type of anxiety in canines and is typical of all kind of dogs. The dogs get anxious when it gets left by its owner or when it’s alone.

Confinement anxiety– If the dogs had a traumatizing experience from being locked up in harsh conditions it can lead to this type of stress.

Noise anxiety-Sounds, usually loud noises can bring about anxiety and cause variations in your dog’s behavior.

Social anxiety- If dogs have not been socializing from a young age they tend to have social anxiety. This might make them more aggressive towards different people or even be afraid and hides out when it sees new faces or other animals.

Travel anxiety- Dogs are afraid to move; to new places, with vehicles, on trains and planes. It’s difficult to treat this type of fear.

Common Breeds Affected by Anxiety in Dogs

There are different breeds’ affected by anxiety ranging from large to small dogs. The reasons why some of these dogs are at a higher risk than others is yet not known. Here are the breeds of dogs that are commonly affected by anxiety:

  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Standard Poodle
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Border Collie
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Pekingese
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Bichon fries
  • Labrador Retriever

Some researchers have tried to relate affection and attachment to canine anxiety disorder. Others have associated it with intelligence and high energy. Note that these are still theories that need to be researched on further.

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

There are many a number of reasons why dogs get panic attacks. These depend on the kind of anxiety your dogs has. For example; if its noise anxiety then loud noises are involved. Studies suggest that this disorder may be triggered by traumatic events, significant life change conditions or alteration in the dog’s early life which is between 1-2 years, etc. Here are the factors that can cause anxiety in dogs:

Aging

When dogs age their nervous system changes. Some infectious diseases and contact with harmful substances may affect the dog’s nervous system quickly resulting in phobias, fear, and anxiety.

Illness

There are health problems that can lead to anxiety. They include pre-diabetic dogs, thyrotoxicosis, hearing loss, hypothyroidism, chronic pains or encephalitis. Proper examination by a vet will help tell out some of these problems.

Past Trauma

When a dog is young, it may have experienced trauma like experience leading to phobia and panic. These experiences would influence the state of your dog’s confidence. For example, if your dogs were prone of being locked up in boxes from a young age or being constantly beaten by its previous owner. Canine anxiety caused by trauma is very hard to treat because it takes a lot to try and regain the dog’s trust.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety can be as a result of;

  • A change of guardian or family
  • History of abandonment
  • Frequent change of residence
  • Rehoming
  • Loss of family member or pet companion to the dog
  • Change in the schedule of how long the dog is left alone, etc.

These factors contribute a lot if your dog has separation anxiety.

Dogs Social Issues

Happens if your dog didn’t interact with other pets and animal or other people other than your family.  It’s stripped of environmental and social experience at a young age. This may result in aggressiveness as a symptom of anxiety or might be fearful and shy.

Noisy sounds

Noise phobias may arise if he experiences a loud bang. Such noises that your dog can’t explain what they are or where they’re coming from. Some of the noises can come from guns, cars hooting, machines or, thunderstorms and fireworks.

Female Dogs while Giving birth

Some female dogs tend to hide while giving birth. They may be feeling anxious, shy or even embarrassed.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs

Regardless of the cause, canine anxiety strains your dog’s physical and mental health. There are physical signs that can easily mislead you off the diagnosis. Observe your dog carefully. If you notice any of these symptoms, have him checked by a doctor. He’ll examine, confirm a diagnosis and treat him of a canine anxiety disorder.

So whenever dogs panic or are anxious they engage in displacement habits that may help relieve them of stress. Some of them include chewing on furniture, urinating in the house, etc. That’s why you should be careful because some symptoms of anxiety may mimic other diseases.

Here are the signs of anxiety in dogs:

Non-Stop Barking, Howling, and Whining.

One of the symptoms of Canine anxiety is persistence barking or howling by the dog which does not seem to be set off by anything. But maybe when you leave the dog alone or when the dog hears loud noises etc.

Inappropriate Defecation or Urination

The dog can also urinate or defecate when it panics, or if it’s in fear. This may be an indicator of anxiety. For example, if the dog is left alone and pees on its self or in the house it could be due to separation anxiety.

Hiding

Anti-social dogs or canines with social anxiety prefer staying alone most of the time, hiding, being shy. This is because they are afraid to socialize with other animals even people.

Aggressiveness

If it’s because of separation anxiety dogs might express aggression towards the owner when he wants to leave. In social anxiety, the dog might be hostile to new people or animals. If its confinement anxiety, the dog may exhibit aggression when you want to put him in a box or a cage.

Chewing, Digging and Destruction

The dog might chew and shred on objects, furniture, window sills or destroy household objects. This may be due to irritating noise or when the owner leaves.

Seeking Comfort

Your dog appears to need comfort from the owner perhaps to feel protected or to lose some off some of the anxiety. It an opposite reaction compared to the others like chewing, digging and aggression.

Coprophagia (The Dog Eats His Own Poop)

After the dog defecates it then eats its poop. While this is not common, it can happen and may be telling of anxiety.

Panic

These signs might include out-of-context injurious motor activities or escape behaviors. Panic attacks can last for minutes or even hours and include other symptoms as those described above.

Shaking and Panting

Because of being in a nervous state, dogs may pant and tremble. They also tuck their tail in between their legs.

Other symptoms include:

  • Pacing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive energy
  • Licking
  • Hypersalivation
  • Hypersensitivity
  • History of abuse

Diagnosis

Due to similarities in the symptoms, the vet will need to do Laboratory tests that can rule out diseases and infections that cause similar symptoms. Historical data and signs will also help a lot in the diagnosis of the disorder.

The tests include the dog’s urine tests to measure sugar levels, thyroid test, blood test or biochemistry so as to diagnose your dog of having anxiety disorder conclusively.

Treatment

Treatment of canine anxiety depends if the condition is mild, moderate or if it’s severe. After the diagnosis, the vet will decide what steps he or she will take.  Anti-anxiety medication is also available, but it can only be prescribed by the vet. It’s advised to take this option only if the dog’s anxiety situation is at a high level. So first you need to use the natural remedies treatment method to see if they work first.

 The natural treatments options include:

Distraction

In a situation where your dog gets nervous during thunderstorms, fireworks or when strangers are present. It’s good to distract him using treats, playing catch or also giving them attention. It acts as a distraction maneuver. Hence the dog doesn’t fill frightened by the events making them more tolerable to the conditions.

Normal and Desensitizing Exercises

For regular exercises, you can take your dog for long works or play with it a little. Exercises like these help a lot in reducing anxiety in dogs, enables your dog to become free with the environment and socialize with other animals, pets or people.

Desensitizing Exercises are influenced to help the dog deal with his anxiety issues. Start slowly by gradually exposing the dog to the things that make it anxious. This will take time for it to get used to. Help your dog to get through this stage by giving him treats that he adores and showing him everything will be okay.

Make the sessions fun and remember if the dog gets too uncomfortable stop the exercise. With time your dog will get used to the condition, and the phobias will commence. E.G. Crate training by reducing your dog’s movements and confining it in the cage crate when you are there so that it can get used to being locked up even if you go to work or for a walk.

Build up a routine

A regular fixed routine will help your dog overcome a lot of anxiety. Scheduled leaving hours, feeding, training hours, playing hours and exercise hours. These make your dog more comfortable when it does something because it’s part of the routine. The sad part about this type of natural remedy is that changes in routine due to emergencies can lead to anxiety. You have to live your life around the dogs routine, so new things will be hard to add to your life.

Massage

Dog massage can help your dog become less prone to panic and nervousness. Thus reducing chances of canine anxiety

Thundershirt

This equipment is like a winter coat for dogs that can be used to reduce a dog’s anxiety. The science behind it is that the thunder-shirt exerts pressure on the dog after being wrapped around its torso. This creates a feeling of calmness.

While there is no sufficient evidence to prove this. It is a very popular equipment for dealing with dog anxiety. There are varied reviews on how this works for dogs with anxiety.

Music 

You can utilize use relaxing music from TVs, radios or mp3 to get your puppy. When you leave the radio on or The TV on. It comforts your dog when he is home alone, and it hears the voices.

Pheromone Therapy

Pheromone therapy can also be used. It utilizes pheromone aerosols, collars or diffusers which have pheromone scents. These have a calming effect in the dog’s brains making them less anxious.

Use of Medicine to Treat with Canine Anxiety

Medicine can only be used to deal with dogs anxiety issues if other forms of treatment have not worked. Different Anti-anxiety (anxiolytics) used to suppress anxiety in dogs perform differently in terms of time and effectiveness. Let the vet do the choosing for you because he/ she knows which anti-anxiety drugs will work best for your dog. Here are some of the medication:

Amitriptyline is inexpensive and one of the most effective drugs for treating anxiety in pets. It’s suitable for dogs with mild anxiety, is violence or is uncontrollably urinating

Alprazolam is best suited for dogs with noise anxiety or panic. Its works very fast in making the dog calm. Should be administered to dogs before storms if maybe your dog has thunder anxiety.

Paroxetine is used to treat social anxiety and despair

Clomipramine is best to treat separation anxiety and aggression brought on by separation anxiety.

Fluoxetine is used to treat panic, separation disorder, avoidance disorder, obsessive-compulsive and aggression.

Clonazepam is longer lasting and can be used to control seizures and anxiety.

Side effects

Some of the side effects caused by some of these drugs include gastric upset, dry mouth, loss of appetite and sedation.

Herbal remedies

Some herbal remedies can be used to heal or reduce a dog’s anxiety. They include:

  • Valerian medicinal
  • Passiflora incarnate
  • Chamomile

You can buy this natural health remedies at food stores and herbal stores.

Prevention of Anxiety in Dogs

It’s good to start prevention measure at a young age. Take your dog out to play with other dogs. Dogs too need attention.

Dr. Winnie
About Dr. Winnie 344 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone

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