Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
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Anxiety is the anticipation of a fearful event based on a past experience. Anxiety in dogs can affect all breeds, but may affect every dog differently. While it is something that all dogs go through from time to time, if untreated your dog may develop an anxiety disorder which can lead to behavior as well as other issues.
Your dog’s anxiety can be managed by with a little love and care. In this article we will explain everything you need to know about causes, signs, and treatments for your dog’s anxiety.
Causes of Anxiety in Dogs
It is possible to reduce symptoms of anxiety in your dog with the right treatment. By narrowing down the cause of the anxiety your dog is experiencing, you can determine the best treatment for it.
An illness or painful physical condition may increase anxiety and also contribute to the spread of fears, phobias, and anxiety
Separation anxiety is when your dog doesn’t like to be separated from you and this is the most common form of anxiety.
Fear from a bad experience can cause anxiety. This means your dog may have been forced into an unfamiliar and frightening situation and worries it may happen again.
Genetics play a big part in whether or not your dog has anxiety because some dogs are just more prone to it.
Aging changes associated with nervous system changes, and toxic conditions, such as lead poisoning, may lead to anxiety and behavioral problems as a result.
Lack of Exposure
If your dog hasn’t been exposed early on and regularly to new people, places, and experiences, these things can be a huge source of anxiety when exposure does occur.
Signs Your Dog has Anxiety
There are several important symptoms to look out for when determining if your dog is suffering from anxiety.
Some dogs will walk or pace a specific path in a fixed pattern when left alone or separated from their owner. Your dog may move around in circular patterns, while others walk back and forth in straight lines. If your dog’s pacing is caused by separation anxiety, it usually won’t happen when you are present.
Barking and Howling
A dog who has anxiety may bark or howl when left alone or when separated from his owner. If the barking or howling is persistent and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone, it is usually a case of separation anxiety.
Yawning, Drooling, and Licking
Dogs yawn when they are bored, tired or stressed. A stressful yawn is more prolonged and intense than the others. Dogs may also drool and lick excessively when having anxiety.
Changes in Eyes and Ears
Stressed dogs may have dilated pupils or blink very fast. Your dog can even open his eyes really wide and show more of the white than usual, giving a startled appearance. If your dog’s ears are pinned back against the head, he maybe having anxiety.
Changes in Body Posture
Dogs normally bear weight on all four legs evenly. If your dog is healthy, with no orthopedic problems, yet shifts his weight to his rear legs or cowers, he may be showing signs of stress and anxiety. Also, when your dog is scared he may tuck his tail or become rigid.
Dogs have been known to shed a lot when they see the veterinarian. Although less noticeable in outside environments, like visiting a new dog park, shedding can increase when your dog is anxious.
Dogs pant when hot, excited, or stressed. If your dog is panting even though he has not been running or playing, he may be experiencing anxiety from stress.
Changes in Bodily Functions
If your dog is experiencing anxiety he may have the sudden urge to go to the bathroom. If your dog urinates right after meeting a new doggie friend, he may be marking his territory and reacting to anxious feelings. If your pup is refusing food or is having a loss of bowel functions it maybe an indication of stress.
Dogs need mental stimulation, and some dogs can be destructive when left alone due to boredom. This is a sign of anxiety even if your dog doesn’t seem to be stressed.
Hiding or Escape Behaviors
Some dogs will hide behind their owners as a way to avoid something. Your dog may even nudge you to prompt you to move. They may even engage in diversion activities like digging or may move behind a tree or parked car.
How to Treat Your Dog’s Anxiety
It is important that your dog get plenty of daily exercise and playtime, and he needs the appropriate amount of high-quality food. Also, consistent training creates a bond between you and your pup, and sets expectations that that will help relieve any apprehensions your anxious dog may have.
Certain situations may be too overwhelming for your dog to handle. If you know your dog reacts bad to loud noises, then keep them from places with loud music, cars or other sounds that will startle. If the situation is unavoidable, try giving your dog his favorite toy or an old shirt that has your scent on it in order to ease anxiety.
Providing your dog with a little extra love and affection can help him ease the symptoms of anxiety. If your dog is showing signs of stress, cuddle up with him or spend some extra time petting him. Positive reinforcement can help your dog associate new experiences with rewards if you offer treats or pets when he is triggered.
Also understand that your mental health affects your dog’s. When you are able to manage the stressors in your own life you can be fully present for your dog.
Types of Dog Anxiety
There are several types of dog anxiety. Determining which type can help you learn what triggers your dog’s anxiety and allows you to help your dog manage the anxiety.
Separation anxiety occurs when a sensitive dog becomes deeply attached to you and your family. Separation anxiety in dogs can begin as early as puppy hood due to many new dog owners worry when they hear their puppy crying at night and pick him up, or cuddle him, making a fuss. This means your puppy is experiencing his first time alone and away from his mom and litter, yet learns that whining, crying or barking gets your attention. Crate training in puppyhood is an excellent way to prevent separation anxiety. Your pup will quickly learn to self-soothe and settle down inside the crate. The contained space feels good to your pup because it’s a safe and a comfortable zone where he can relax, like his own bedroom.
Noise anxiety is another common type of anxiety in dogs. Some dogs are scared of loud or sudden noises. Fireworks or thunder is enough to send them into a frenzy. Dogs can also sense other physical signs associated with noise like changes in barometric pressure before a thunderstorm. The wind may cause your pup anxiety, since most thunderstorms are accompanied by winds.
Some dogs suffer from social anxiety when playing with other dogs. This type of dog anxiety may come off as aggressive behavior towards other dogs. Dogs suffering from this type of anxiety do not understand the difference between a friend or a perceived threat and dogs tend to fight off any threat. This may be exhibited by a bark, snap, lunge or growl at other dogs or even people. The cause of social anxiety in dogs is believed to be from early weaning or taking puppies away from their mothers too early. This maybe because your pup did not get enough times interacting with litter mates and being around other dogs makes him feel anxious because he never learned that other dogs can be friends.
There are medications that your dog can be given to help with his anxiety. Every dog, fear trigger, and types of behavioral techniques that can be used to alleviate your dog’s fears and anxieties may vary and drugs are not always best. Talk to your veterinarian to see what your options are. There are also homeopathic products that can help your dog with stress and anxiety as well.