Understanding anxiety in dogs

symptoms and types of anxiety in dogs

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 breeds are more likely to have anxiety than others.

If your dog falls in any of the following categories, there is a chance that he or she will experience anxiety at some point:

  • German Shepherd
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Border collie
  • Greyhound
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Bichon fries
  • Vizsla
  • Standard and Miniature poodle


Types of dog anxiety

Dog anxiety, also known as canine anxiety, comes in various forms, and they include the following:

  • Noise anxiety –just like the name suggests noise anxiety may happen when a dog is exposed to unusual sounds or loud noise.
  • Separation anxietythis type of canine anxiety may happen when a dog is left alone or separated from its owner or guardian.
  • Travel anxiety – when a dog is not accustomed to traveling in a car, he or she may become stressed and consequently experience travel anxiety.
  • Confinement anxiety – this one may be triggered by confinement.


Causes of dog anxiety

There are various causes of canine anxiety, but here are some of the most common grounds:

  • A history of abandonment – this one can happen when a dog has been abandoned or neglected in the past.
  • A history of re-homing – when a dog has had multiple owners, he or she may have separation anxiety.
  • Fear – a dog that has gone through a fearful or terrible experience in the past is likely to experience anxiety. Fear-related anxiety in dogs can also be triggered by strange places or new things.
  • Ageing – ageing can affect some dogs the same way Alzheimer’s disease affects some human beings as they age.
  • Underlying illnesses – anxiety in dogs can be a sign of an underlying illness or a medical issue such as pre-diabetes, hypothyroidism, thyrotoxicosis, encephalitis, hearing loss, and lead poisoning.

Symptoms of anxiety in dogs

So, how does a dog with anxiety behave? Here are some symptoms that might give you a hint:

  • Panting
  • Trembling
  • Tail tucking
  • Excessive or non-stop barking
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Defecating or urinating inside
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Sadness or misery
  • Eating his or her own poop
  • Aggression and destructive behavior, e.g., chewing shoes, furniture

Punishing your dog whenever he or she exhibits any of the above symptoms will not help matters.

So, how do you help him or her?


Treatment and prevention

Cuddling, soothing talk, and long walks may help for a while, but this would only treat the symptoms, not the cause. The best way to handle your dog if you have reason to believe that he or she may have anxiety is to take him or her to a veterinarian.

The first thing a vet will do is to perform a blood test to rule out serious or underlying health issues. Based on the diagnosis, the vet will be able to come up with a suitable treatment plan which will most likely combine training and preventative techniques.

If your dog’s case is severe, medication may be prescribed. Lastly, the vet will advise you on the right diet and exercises to manage your dog’s anxiety.

When it comes to the prevention of dog anxiety, it is advisable to expose dogs to various situations and environments early enough to decrease the likelihood of fear and anxiety later in life.