A Complete Guide To Dog Anxiety

A Complete Guide To Dog Anxiety

If you’re looking for a loyal companion to spend time with, there aren’t many options that can rival a dog. Canines have always been there for us since we domesticated them long ago, and they’ve earned the title of man’s best friend. Of course, because of this, we have to return the favor and watch out for our furry friends as well.

While dogs provide us with companionship, they entrust us with things that they can’t manage on their own, like their health. Many pet owners think the limit of their influence on their dog’s health extends to making sure that they get their regular trip to the vet and serving them a quality diet.

In the end, many fail to realize that they will also have to make sure that their pet's mental health is as sound as its physical condition. From depression to anxiety, dogs can suffer from a range of psychological issues. Over the course of this guide, we're going to be discussing the latter condition, however.

Sad Dog on the Floor

Anxiety is crippling for both humans and dogs alike, but we'll dive into more in-depth detail about it shortly. This comprehensive article is going to discuss a wide array of topics that are related to dog anxiety so that owners will have a resource that they can address so that they can better understand the issue.

For example, we’ll be covering some of the signs of anxiety in dogs so you can know whether or not your furry friend is affected by it. We’ll also be looking at some of the distinct types of anxiety that occur in dogs and some of the most common causes.

Finally, you’ll find a section entirely devoted to treating your dog’s anxiety. From natural remedies to medication that you can acquire for your pet, you’ll find the final part of our guide invaluable if your pet is currently suffering from anxiety attacks. However, before we dive into the details, let’s get the basics out of the way.

What Is Dog Anxiety?

As you would imagine, dog anxiety is similar to human anxiety in that it can elicit feelings of uneasiness, fear, and worse. Keep in mind that even though fear is a possible symptom of anxiety, the condition of anxiety itself is much more severe than simply feeling anxious, which leads to some underestimating the effects.

One of the critical issues with dog anxiety is that dogs aren't as socially intelligent as people, so we can't communicate with them and attempt to ease their anxiety using spoken therapy. Minor cases of anxiety can typically be resolved like this in people, but things are a little more complicated with dogs.

Pugs

Of course, you'll also find that the causes of anxiety will vary when it comes to dogs and people since we tend to have more complex issues on our minds than our canine friends. Human anxiety is usually a matter of being worried about future events, but dogs tend to perceive time a little differently.

Where anxiety is the fear of what may occur in the future, fear is used in relation to what is currently happening, and so dog anxiety tends to manifest itself more in the form of fear. In the end, the exact effects of anxiety will vary from case to case, though this is still a critical distinction between the human and canine varieties of the condition.

As with any other mental illness, anxiety can be challenging to manage because of the many different forms that it can manifest in and the varying levels of receptiveness based on the sufferer. This is true for both people and dogs who have to deal with anxiety, so the process is never a predictable one.

Signs Of Dog Anxiety

If you want to be able to help your pet deal with dog anxiety, you’re going to need to know whether or not they’re suffering from the condition in the first place. Over the course of this section, we’re going to cover some of the key signs of dog anxiety that you should try and watch out for.

Panting

Keep in mind that panting is a typical sign of many conditions for dogs, so don't be afraid that your pet is anxious just because of this symptom. For example, dogs will usually pant excessively in the summertime because they're hot and panting helps them lower their body temperature like sweating does for us.

Panting Dogs

You’ll typically want to use panting as a sign of anxiety in conjunction with some of the other symptoms on this list. If you find that your pet is panting too much without a fever or any typical reason, then it may be because of their elevated heart rate, which is a common result of anxiety in dogs and people.

Pacing

If you see your dog pacing around the house restlessly, then they may be too tense to lie down and relax. Excessive tension is another common sign of anxiety in dogs since they’ll feel much more high-strung than usual. While it’s normal for a dog to walk around the house, doing so continuously is a bad sign.

Keep a watchful eye on your pet and ensure that they can get periods of rest without suddenly sitting up and starting to pace again. While some dogs will pace around the house in excessive heat, there are few other reasons for your dog to keep walking around without taking time to relax.

Whining

When you hear your dog whining, you typically know that something is wrong. Keep in mind that some dog breeds will whine much more than others to the point that it’s almost normal. For example, more vocal dog breeds like Malamutes will whine nearly every time their owner leaves the house due to their separation anxiety.

Dog Whining in Nature

On the other hand, breeds that are usually silent won’t whine unless they have serious issues, and anxiety might be one of them. Some dogs will whine because they’re in pain as well, so you’ll usually want to bring your dog to the vet if you notice that they’re whining excessively.

You should also look over your dog for any signs of physical injury because there's a chance that your pet may have stepped on a thorn or cut themselves somehow. Whining is relatively common in the case of minor injuries.

Fidgeting

Some dogs tend to fidget more than others, so this isn't always a sign of anxiety. Small dogs like toy breeds, in particular, will usually fidget from time to time without it being a sign of something negative. Of course, it can also be a sign of anxiety in dogs that don't usually fidget around very much.

Keep a close eye on your dog over the course of an extended period to see whether the sudden movements are a cause of anxiety or something else. For example, some dogs will fidget around because they have ticks or another condition that's causing them slight pain.

Shaking

Shaking can be a sign of many conditions in a dog, and anxiety is certainly one of them. However, shaking can be normal in older dogs, particularly those that are suffering from arthritis. If the shaking has gradually developed with age, you can be relatively sure that it’s due to your pet’s joints.

Shaking Dog

On the other hand, shaking in younger dogs can also mean that they have something in their ear, so you’ll want to make sure that isn’t the case before getting worried. If the shaking persists for an extended period, then you should bring your pet to the veterinarian and find out what’s wrong.

Types Of Dog Anxiety

There are many different kinds of dog anxiety that your pet can be suffering from, and they all have different symptoms and causes. Getting to know some of the more common types of the ailment will make it easier for you to determine what the most likely cause of anxiety is in your pet.

Separation Anxiety

This is the most common form of anxiety that you'll see in dogs, and it is also a widespread fear in people, we just have a better understanding of the situations we're in. When trying to understand separation anxiety in dogs, you have to see that most canines don't know if their master will ever return.

When you imagine canine separation anxiety through that lens, it makes sense that dogs get so worried whenever they see you depart and leave them alone. Dogs feel like they’re part of your family, and every time you leave, they aren’t sure if they’ll ever be able to see that family member again.

Separation Anxiety Dog

The good thing about separation anxiety is that it will be over as soon as you return home in most cases, but the bad thing is that your dog can get unpredictable when you’re away. In severe separation anxiety cases, your dog may take to tearing up your furniture or even doing their business indoors.

There is also the issue that separation anxiety can be challenging to treat since you aren’t in the house and you can’t do much. Thankfully, severe separation anxiety is usually short-lived, and most dogs will typically grow through the phase and will simply resort to whining when you leave.

Noise Anxiety

This is a common cause of anxiety in both people and dogs, and many people don’t know how bad for you loud noises can be. There were many studies undertaken over half a century ago that prove that being exposed to loud noise regularly can be bad for both your mental and physical health.

As you would imagine, the same is the case for dogs, and possibly more so since they can't usually understand where loud noises are coming from as we can. A plane passing by overhead is nothing but a mild inconvenience for us because we can understand it, but dogs will get scared.

Noise Anxiety In Dogs

If you have a dog that's prone to anxiety that's caused by loud noises, you'll typically want to live somewhere that is isolated from louder sounds. Large thoroughfares and other areas that see large amounts of traffic will usually not be suitable for dogs that will end up anxious because of trucks and other loud vehicles.

You also have to keep in mind that dogs have more sensitive hearing than we do, leaving them susceptible to a wide range of high-frequency sounds that we can’t hear in the first place. Of course, smaller things like vacuum cleaners and fire alarms can also cause your dog to suffer from noise anxiety.

Travel Anxiety

Up next, dogs can also get anxious because of longer trips, and many of us would be lying if we said we have never felt the same. Going somewhere far off can elicit feelings of anxiety deep in the pit of your stomach, and it must be doubly terrifying for pets who have no idea where they’re going.

You have to consider that dogs are far less accustomed to motion than we are, so they find car rides and especially plane trips unsettling. If you have a long journey with your pet ahead of you, you’ll typically want to stock up on medicine and other things that you can use to help your dog with its anxiety.

Dog Travel

Of course, the amount of anxiety that your pet has to deal with will depend on the exact method of transportation, how far you’re going and how long it will take. Keep in mind that it will also take time for your dog to get used to the new locale once you arrive, so the anxiety may not end right away.

Remember to take it slow and to get your dog used to the new place gradually as opposed to exposing them to all of the new sights and sounds to the point that they feel overloaded. You’ll want to think about how your pet probably has no idea what’s going on when you travel.

Confinement Anxiety

This form of anxiety tends to go hand-in-hand with travel anxiety, though the two don’t necessarily have to be related. Confinement anxiety is a form of anxiety that is caused by being confined, as you would expect from the term, and there are a few different cases in which your dog can end up dealing with it.

For example, if you’re going on a short trip and you want to leave your dog at a kennel, they may end up having confinement anxiety, even in the nicest of kennels. In these cases, your pet’s confinement anxiety will be mixed with separation anxiety, which can make them feel far worse.

Dog Confinement

If you’re going to be traveling with your pet, you may have to confine them to a cage, so they can also suffer from anxiety in those situations. Even if you have guests over and your pet is being rowdy to the point that they have to be locked in a separate room, they can have feelings of confinement anxiety.

Different dog breeds will deal with confinement in various ways, so you need to know what to expect from your dog when it finds itself in circumstances that it doesn’t enjoy. Some dogs will react with aggression whereas others may submit and simply grow fearful or otherwise upset.

Social Anxiety

Finally, this one might surprise you, but dogs can also suffer from social anxiety, just like people. As you would expect, social anxiety is a form of the condition that arises when a dog is uncomfortable around other people or dogs, and it can cause some pretty severe behavior problems.

When a dog is anxious around others, it can behave very unpredictably, doing things that you wouldn't expect it to when it's calm. The calmest dogs can have unusual reactions, and they can even bite or attack when they're feeling socially anxious, so you'll want to get to the root of the issue as soon as possible.

Dog Anxiety

Social anxiety can be caused by a wide range of factors that are unique from dog to dog, just like in people. For example, some dogs may have had a bad experience with other canines, such as being attacked, and they will then become anxious around other pets until the issue is dealt with.

Other dogs may be socially anxious because they weren’t exposed to social situations until later on in life. If you get your dog as a puppy, you’ll want to be sure to expose it to plenty of other dogs as well as people to ensure that it will be comfortable around humans and canines alike when it grows up.

Dog Breeds Prone To Anxiety

Keep in mind that all dog breeds are different, and they will all have a varying propensity for anxiety. Some pets will have no problems with the condition unless it’s caused by outside factors while others will have a predisposition towards it, and it’s good to know where your breed lies.

Small Dogs And Anxiety

Smaller dogs tend to have more issues with anxiety than larger breeds simply because they're more high-strung and that is more conducive to the condition. If you want to avoid anxious dogs, then you'll probably want to opt for a bigger dog breed, though some small dog breeds are worse than others.

Small Dogs And Anxiety

The reason that smaller dogs have a reputation for anxiety is that toy dogs tend to suffer from it much worse than others. You'll also have Cocker Spaniels and Bichon Frises high up on the list of dogs that tend to suffer from the condition. Greyhounds are another breed that will often have to deal with anxiety.

Larger Dogs And Anxiety

While small dogs have something of a reputation for getting anxious, mainly when their owner is away, this is a quality that is in no way unique to small dogs. You may be surprised by the number of larger canines that turn into big babies when their owner is away or are simply vulnerable to anxiety.

For example, German Shepherds mainly have a reputation as large and fierce dogs, but they tend to suffer from anxiety more acutely than many other breeds, along with their Australian Shepherd cousins. Labrador Retrievers and Border Collies also tend to suffer from the condition more frequently than other kinds of canines.

How To Help Your Dog With Anxiety Problems

Of course, you’re going to want to be able to do everything in your power to help your dog through the tough situation that it’s in, and there are a lot of options available to you. In this part of our guide, we’re going to outline some of the most common paths that owners take to help their pet recover from dog anxiety.

Medication

As you would expect, one of the most common treatments for dogs that suffer from anxiety is medication. Of course, you have to know the situations in which it’s appropriate to medicate your dog for anxiety, because certain types of medicines may have adverse side effects that are best avoided.

Medication for Dogs

For example, you won’t want to medicate a dog over some simple separation anxiety, as there are much simpler ways of dealing with the condition. On the other hand, if your dog suffers from deep-rooted anxiety because of an event in its past, medication may end up being the best option.

You'll want to talk to your vet about all of the medications that are available for your pet's anxiety, and they will help you choose the best option. Anxiety medications for dogs are similar to those for humans in that some are stronger than others, and your vet will likely know the best choice based on your dog's behavior.

Supplements (Chewable)

If you aren’t willing to try out an option that’s as serious as medication, you can instead provide your dog with chewable supplements. Many dog supplements are now available in the form of treats so your dog will be able to get healthier while feeling rewarded, both of which will help with anxiety.

Keep in mind that there is a wide range of supplements available, and the best type will depend on what your dogs needs. Some forms of anxiety will be caused by a lack of specific nutrients, so you should take your dog to the vet and get them a checkup before you decide which supplement will work best.

In the long run, supplements will usually have a less drastic effect than medication, though they will also tend to be a less risky option. If your dog has any pre-existing conditions that can be worsened by medication or if the anxiety isn’t that severe, supplements may be the best option available.

When You Should See A Vet For Your Dog’s Anxiety

Of course, you may also be wondering when you should consult a vet because your dog’s anxiety is getting too severe. A small amount of anxiety when you leave the house or when the vacuum cleaner comes out is normal for a dog, so you shouldn’t panic immediately when you notice signs of anxiety.

Dog at Vet

If your dog is crippled by its anxiety to the point that it can’t leave the house, then you’ll have to bring it in for a professional opinion. You should also take your dog to the vet if you notice that its anxiety it making it impossible for your pet to interact with other animals or people without threatening them.

As the owner, you will typically be able to notice when your dog's behavior strays from normal to showing signs of a severe disorder. When your dog's anxiety starts to impact its daily life, you'll typically want to bring it to the vet so you can see if anxiety is the problem or perhaps there is a deeper issue.

Training

As you would expect, another option is to train your dog to work through its anxiety, much like we do so with people in therapy. Of course, you’re a little more limited when it comes to the ways that you can treat a dog through speech and actions, though some dogs will be more responsive than others.

The amount of an effect that training can have on a dog's anxiety will depend on how socially intelligent the pet is, as they need to be able to understand specific cues. Certain breeds like Malamutes and Huskies will typically be able to comprehend their owners better than other kinds of dogs.

Tranining Dogs

If you've noticed that your dog can typically understand commands or your meaning through speech, then you'll be much more likely to solve your pet's issue through direct training. Some of the best ways to help your dog through their anxiety are to stay by their side and to reassure them.

Leaving your dog to deal with its anxiety alone will make the situation much harder for your pet. Too many people make the mistake of thinking that pets don’t appreciate our company just because they can’t voice the fact, but your presence will reassure your pet immensely, so try and stay close.

What Is Behavior Modification?

If you're hoping to help your dog through its anxiety using training, then you're going to have to get to know how to use behavior modification to your benefit. As you would expect based on the name, behavior modification is a process by which you attempt to change how your dog acts to improve their mental state.

Some forms of anxiety may be caused by behaviors that your pet has gotten used to, so the best way to help them is to retrain them. For example, some dogs may have anxiety because they don’t go out often enough, so you’ll have to modify their behavior and stop them from sitting around all day.

Behavior Modifications

Other dogs may overeat and grow obese because of it, causing them further anxiety problems as well as physical health issues. Behavior modification can help you change your dog's diet for the better without them complaining too much and getting worse anxiety, though you have to be careful.

If you try and change your dog's behavior too suddenly, you'll run a risk of deepening their anxiety, so you need to be careful when you're retraining your pet. You may even want to hire a professional to help you adjust your pet's behavior, primarily if you've never used this technique before.

Natural Remedies For Dog Anxiety Problems

If you don't want to expose your pet to chemicals or other synthesized ingredients, you will also find a wide range of natural options available to help your pet with anxiety. In fact, some of these natural choices can be highly effective in treating anxiety in both people and animals, such as CBD oil.

CBD Oil

When it comes to treating psychological conditions naturally, CBD oil is one of the prime options, and its use is rising steadily. This medicine is derived from the cannabis plant, and it has an unfortunate stigma associated with it because of the marijuana drug, in which CBD is a secondary ingredient after THC.

THC is the chemical that is responsible for the psychoactive effects in marijuana, while CBD is meant to calm the body and treat pain. When CBD is extracted from the plant, the resulting medicine will not get you high, but you’ll still be able to benefit from its healing effects, and so will your pet.

Dog CBDs

Thanks to their natural composition, CBD products are seeing more and more use by veterinarians to help treat pets. When compared to synthesized drugs, CBD has little to no risk of overdose, and it has a high success rate in moderate anxiety cases in both humans and animals, not to mention other conditions.

The dosage of CBD oil will be based on the weight of your pet as well as the strength of the anxiety. You’ll want to steadily build it up over time to ensure that your dog can get used to the effects, which will be soothing. Along with a relatively high success rate, there is little risk to using CBD oil.

Herbs

Some owners may want to consider herbs when it comes to treating a pet for anxiety naturally. Of course, there are many legitimate worries that the herbs you use can be harmful to your pet in the long run, so you’ll have to put some work into the research you do about the particular herbs.

For example, it was long thought that the kava herb was an excellent choice for the treatment of anxiety, but it was then discovered that it could cause liver damage in the long term. It is for this reason that you’ll want to use more moderate alternatives like valerian if you’re trying to treat dog anxiety.

kava herbs

Keep in mind that dogs have similar systems to our own when it comes to herbal remedies for anxiety, so most low- to medium-strength options will work well for them. Chamomile is another excellent choice if your dog has separation anxiety or a similar issue.

Remember that the price of herbs will vary widely depending on where you are, so this option can either be one of the more reasonably affordable ones or unsustainably expensive. Rural areas that are rich in wild herbs are an excellent place for natural remedies, though you’ll need the know-how to pick the right ones.

Homeopathic Remedies

If you're trying to resort to homeopathy to help your dog with its anxiety, then you have a wide range of options at your disposal, but you'll want to be sure that you treat them in the right dosage. Keep in mind that dogs tend to be much smaller than humans, so you'll want to cut down sharply on the amount you give them.

Use a ratio comparing your body weight to your pet's and then use it to cut down your doses to levels that would be acceptable for them. If you have been practicing homeopathy for a while, then you likely already have something to help with your anxiety, but if you're new, we have some recommendations.

Dog Homepathy

Aconitum tends to be an excellent choice for when dogs have had to undergo an uncomfortable experience, like getting their shots done at the vet. On the other hand, you may want to try out Argentum nitricum if your dog is worried about some event that's coming soon.

Ignatia is an excellent choice for dogs that are experiencing anxiety as a result of a loss. If a family member has recently moved or a fellow pet has passed away, you'll find that this Ignatia can work wonders. You have quite a few options when it comes to treating your dog's anxiety using homeopathic methods.

Essential Oils

Another method that can see success in humans as well as dogs when it comes to anxiety treatment is the use of essential oils. If you already use essential oils, then you may already know how they can be highly effective in a wide range of roles, such as the treatment of colds, skin conditions, and much more.

Essential oils are highly concentrated oils that are distilled from plants, and they will have varying effects based on the plant that they’re sourced from. For those of you that may not be accustomed to using essential oils for the treatment of anxiety, you’ll find that there are a few that are more effective in the role.

Essential Oils

For example, lavender essential oil is the more common choice for anxiety relief, and it may help your dog deal with the symptoms. Others will say that rose essential oil is a more effective alternative to lavender, though the effectiveness of individual oils will vary from dog to dog.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to start with low concentrations when you’re treating your dog, and you’ll slowly want to raise them. If you fail to see a noticeable effect, you may want to try an alternative treatment method, as essential oils will not be a guaranteed cure for every dog.

Grooming And Cleaning Anxiety

A common source of anxiety in dogs is when the time comes for either grooming and cleaning, though this is particularly true in dogs that aren’t accustomed to it. Whenever you get a dog as a puppy, you’ll want to be sure to get it used to cleaning and grooming as soon as possible.

Being accustomed to the process from a young age means that your dog won't get upset or scared when they get wet or when you brush their fur or clip their nails. As you would expect, this can cause anxiety in some dogs, and many readers come to us asking what they can do to fix this.

One of the more common options is to give your dog its anxiety supplements or medication before grooming to ensure that they don't end up getting anxious. There are also methods that you can use to train your dog to get used to grooming, such as rewarding them every time you clean or care for them.

Grooming And Cleaning Anxiety in Dogs

In the end, you’ll find that getting your dog used to grooming in the first place is the easiest option, and it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, even though it may end up taking a bit longer. You also have to consider that being clean and well-groomed plays a role in preventing a dog from getting anxious in the first place.

If a dog is stuck with matted fur and filth all over its body, then it will likely end up suffering from anxiety simply due to its poor condition. While dogs may be animals, they don’t like the feeling of being filthy any more than we do. Making sure that your dog is clean can help it feel much better.

Conclusion

Making sure that your canine companion is comfortable and happy is part of being a good owner, and you can be sure that our dogs would do the best for us if the roles were reversed.

We hope that this guide has been able to provide you with all of the relevant information about dog anxiety, and we thank you for your time. Feel free to leave any comments or questions down below.

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