Dogs with Anxiety - Best Information, Tips and Products
Unfortunately, a dog’s life isn’t all about chasing one’s tail, waiting to be fed, chew toys and long leisurely walks. A loud thunderstorm or a ride in the car can have an unexpected reaction on your pet. To some dogs, loud noises represent danger and their reactions will be exactly the same each and every time. Just like us, dogs have anxieties and fears, and they all deal with them differently. They may not be the same as our own anxieties, but they can cause stress and physical reactions just the same.
According to experts, the three most common causes of canine anxiety are Fear, Separation and Aging. Let’s explore the signs and symptoms and how owners can help their pets.
Fear related anxieties can be caused by:
- Loud noises
- Graphic stimuli like umbrellas, hats
- New environments
- Particular situations like the vet’s office, car rides, shiny floors.
These situations may seem insignificant to us but can cause great anxiety in our dogs.
Fourteen percent of dogs are estimated to suffer from separation anxiety. This occurs when they are left alone or separated from their family resulting in unwanted behaviors like destruction of furniture, constant barking or urinating and defecating in the house or their crate.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) can be associated to anxiety in aging dogs. Similar to the early stages of Alzheimer’s in humans, there will be a decline in memory, learning, perception and awareness leading to anxiety in senior dogs.
Diagnosis of Fear and Anxiety in Dogs
First and foremost, the best treatment for your dog’s anxiety is to discuss your concerns with your vet. He will want to eliminate conditions such as brain or thyroid disease that could be the cause of anxious behavior. These conditions may be because of a response to a toxic substance, such as lead. This can be confirmed by blood tests.
If your vet detects a phobia such as anxiety or fear, he may prescribe medication. But he will more than likely make a recommendation based on what triggers the fear and provide advice on methods to implement to lessen your dog’s anxieties and fears.
Some common dog anxiety problems include:
- Separation anxiety: Your dog gets anxious when left on its own.
- Noise anxiety: Loud or unusual noises like thunder make your dog fearful.
- Travel anxiety: Cars were never designed with dogs in mind. They’re not used to the constant movement. Planning ahead will make travel more relaxing for you and your dog, whether it’s a quick trip to the vet or going on vacation.
- Confinement anxiety: When you confine your dog, it’s to keep them out of trouble. If your dog is not happy being confined, confinement anxiety may be the result.
Why is anxiety so common in dogs?
My dog Oscar suffers with anxiety. I know when he’s becoming anxious just by certain behaviors that he displays to relieve his stress. He’ll pace and groom himself repeatedly, and sometimes even become aggressive to our other dog and other people.
Some dog anxiety behaviors may lead to property damage, harm to the dog itself or even behavior that you think is unacceptable. Examples of this may include:
- Non-stop barking.
- Chewing up furniture, walls, shoes, garbage, and other property.
- Defecating and urinating in the house, crate, or other confinement areas.
- Eating his own poop.
- Aggression toward people, dogs, or other animals.
What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs
It is the most common anxiety amongst domestic dogs. When they are left alone they will exhibit extreme distress.
Abandonment, multiple ownership or neglect are situations that are common amongst dogs that suffer separation anxiety. The dog may have been abandoned or rehomed numerous times because it suffered from separation anxiety. This would result in a worsening of the condition.
How to Treat Separation Anxiety
Many phobias and anxieties can be helped through dog training. Separation anxiety (the fear of being left alone) is particularly common among dogs and can often be noticeably improved or even eradicated completely by regularly being left alone with positive reinforcement.
Doggy treats, praise or rewards (i.e. games, car rides) can be used effectively as positive reinforcement to train your dog, and are great methods for preventing separation anxiety in puppies.
Getting rid of extra doggy energy every day with long walks, runs, a game of fetch, or some other favorite activities can go a long way toward reducing separation anxiety or nervous tension. There’s a saying that goes, “a good dog is a tired dog”.
Punishment or positive punishment techniques to treat separation anxiety will not benefit your dog. It doesn’t tackle the source of the problem, which is the anxiety. In fact, pain and dominance will make the problem worse, because pain and uncertainty will increase stress in dogs.
Natural Solutions to Help Your Dog’s Anxiety
Nonetheless, some dogs are simply anxious, and they may need help quietening down before beginning dog training. For these dogs, there are a handful of natural solutions that may be beneficial. Dogs still need training, too; there is no magic remedy to cure fearfulness and anxiety permanently. However, natural solutions can help a dog cope while desensitization, conditioning and long-term therapy dog training takes place.
Desensitization is the process of subjecting the animal to a stimulus starting at a very low intensity. To be effective, counter-conditioning and desensitization need to be applied together. Both are often used to change fearful and aggressive behavior in dogs and cats.
A Fixed Routine is Best for Your Dog
It’s crucial that your dog understands that you are the alpha male or pack leader in the household and learns to respect and trust you. A fixed schedule for feeding, walking, playtime, leaving the house, coming home, and more helps your dog understand what to expect. Set rules and consistency will reduce anxiety and stress.
How Staying Calm Can Benefit Your Dog
Dogs are excellent at picking up on the energy of people around them and will be sensitive to what you are feeling. If you get stressed or anxious, your pet will pick up on that energy immediately and become anxious himself. However, their anxiety will be amplified a hundred times more! Therefore, it is important for us to stay calm and in control. Desensitization exercises and a fixed calm routine work best. Creating a calm and regulated environment for an anxious dog is important.
It’s important to know the source of the anxiety when considering the treatment. Is your dog anxious about being left alone? Being confined? Is the anxiety caused by loud noises or travel, or unexpected changes in routine or environment? Some dogs have phobias about people (men particularly), specific situations (bath time) or certain objects (vacuum cleaner). The cause of the phobia determines the management of the treatment. For example, calming music might comfort a dog with separation anxiety, but it won’t be much benefit for a dog that gets anxiety being in crowded places. For extreme cases there are treatments available, but before medicating your dog, try some of the options below.
Exercise is the Best Way to Relieve Stress in Your Dog
An anxious dog can benefit greatly from exercise. It’s great for relieving stress in humans as well as dogs. Exercise achieves two things when helping a dog deal with anxiety. Firstly, it encourages the production of serotonin, the feel-good chemical that we as humans get from exercise. Secondly, it gets rid of built-up energy and pressure that can aggravate anxiety. Thirty minutes of exercise every day is ideal. Chewing is also great for dogs with anxiety.
Best Ways to Distract Your Dog
If your dog is nervous in certain situations such as fireworks or thunderstorms, a distraction can work wonders. By engaging your dog’s brain on work, it will help him focus on you and things he knows, rather than on the unfamiliar that’s scary for him. It’s a great time to practice tricks your dog knows and can earn rewards for. Reward your dog with treats for simple commands like sit, stand, roll over, sit up, lie down, shake and other tricks he enjoys. Distracting your pet with puzzle toys like a frozen Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or a treat ball or tug jug is particularly good for dogs that are highly food motivated. By associating things that arouse fear with highly valued rewards, will make the event less scary.
The Thundershirt looks like a winter coat for a dog. It’s a popular answer for dog anxiety and is a snug fitting garment that wraps around the torso of your dog and works by exerting constant pressure on its body. It will help to calm a dog’s nerves for noise anxiety and travel anxiety. The success of the Thundershirt may depend on when and how it is used, and the particular personality and needs of the dog it is used on. Supporters argue it could be beneficial if used alongside other natural solutions with each helping to boost the benefits of the other.
Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP)
Odors can also help calm a dog’s anxiety, and DAP is a popular choice. It’s a synthetic chemical developed based on a hormone produced by nursing mother dogs that helps keep puppies calm and establish a positive bond with their mother. Scientific studies have shown that DAP does work, and it can be one of numerous tools used to help an anxious dog. It comes as a plug-in diffuser with vials that last about 30 days. DAP cannot be smelt by humans. There are also a variety of natural calming scents, including lavender, and other herbal dog medications.
It also comes as a calming collar that is triggered by body heat to provide constant comfort for dogs indoors, outdoors or on-the-go.
We’re not the only ones that can be calmed by soothing music. Many pet owners leave a TV or radio on when they leave the house to help their dog feel calm. But there is also specific music particularly for anxious dogs. Through a Dog’s Ear is a selection of music precisely targeted at calming nervous dogs. The music can help with separation anxiety and travel anxiety. Collections to help desensitize a dogs with noise phobias are also available.
A popular herbal supplement to treat anxiety is Rescue Remedy, a mix of natural herb and flower extracts that can calm the nerves. Used widely by humans, it is also available in a pet-specific blend. A couple of drops can be added to a water dish or add a drop to a treat.
Even though we are targeting natural remedies for dog anxiety, you should still consult your vet before trying supplements, even natural ones.
A great way to calm and bond with an anxious dog is through massage. It’s also a great way to check for potential health problems. We all love a good massage, and dogs are no exception. Using long, slow gentle strokes all over the body can calm your dog and make him feel relaxed and feel comfortable. Regular massage can help by:
- Reducing anxiety
- Helping with digestion
- Encouraging a feeling of well-being
- Reducing pain and swelling in joints and muscles
- Lowering blood pressure
- Strengthening the immune system
- Reducing muscle spasms
- Helping relieve tension and stiffness in muscles
- Stimulating breathing.
Medication for Pet Anxiety
Do not medicate your dog with over-the-counter human drugs. Humans and dogs have very different physiologies, and dosage is very dependent on weight. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen which are human medicines are not designed for dogs and should never be given without a vet’s approval.
Always consult your vet before giving your dog any medication.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress or a stressful situation, and just like humans, dogs too do have anxiety disorders. According to The American Kennel Club, anxiety in dogs affects all breeds. In spite of this, certain dog breedsRead more
You’ve taken Lucky to the vet because you think he may have anxiety issues. The veterinarian carried out testing which ruled out thyroid or brain disease, and did a blood workup to see if poisoning was an issue. So, LuckyRead more
An extensive range of supplements for dogs Supplements are available that help to produce feelings of calm and relaxation. They’re available in powder form or as chewable treats. You may consider pheromone spray products that emit a canine calming pheromone,Read more