Have you ever returned home only to find that your pup clawed your favorite curtains to shreds? Or maybe your dog trembles uncontrollably on car rides, turning a leisurely trip into a panicked outing? Does every visit to the vet begin with cowering and whining, leaving you and him overwhelmed?
Well, just like humans, our fur friends can experience anxiety. As pet parents, there’s nothing more painful than seeing our pups suffer in fear. My dog, Chilly, struggles with noise aversion. It broke my heart to watch his panting and whining due to the sound of thunder, escalate to more destructive behaviors. And he’s not alone– an estimated 50% of pets suffer from fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS).
In addition to noise anxiety, there are many different types of anxiety that pet parents may not be aware of. If your dog is suffering from anxiety, it’s important to recognize the symptoms, learn the causes, and start reducing stress in your pup. That’s why I founded Pet Anxiety Awareness Month, so that pet parents would have the tools they need to help their furry BFFs regain peace and happiness.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs
If your dog suffers from FAS, the first step in helping him is to understand what’s triggering him. Anxiety symptoms in our fur friends are surprisingly varied and often include behaviors that you might not normally associate with canine anxiety. Here are some common symptoms to be on the lookout for:
- Urine marking or defecation
- Barking or howling
- Chewing/destroying things
- Trying to escape
- Attempting to prevent you from leaving
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive licking
- Avoiding interactions
- Displacement behaviors: yawning, lip licking, air sniffing, “shaking it off” like a wet dog
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, he is truly suffering! His problems won’t resolve on their own. It’s important to get help and understand what’s causing his anxiety.
Types of Anxiety in Dogs
Not all anxiety is the same! It’s important to identify which type (or types) of anxiety your dog has because the treatment for each is different. My dog, Buck had two kinds of anxiety, and each required a different approach.
1) Social Anxiety: Is your dog perfectly fine around their human and fur family members, but feels panicked when meeting strangers? Whether due to a lack of socialization or a traumatic experience, many dogs experience anxiety when exposed to unfamiliar dogs or people. This may result in the dog barking, lunging, or trying to get away. Worse yet, it may result in fear aggression.
2) Noise Anxiety: Also known as noise aversion, our fur friends can be triggered by a variety of noises. And sadly, an estimated 67% of dogs have at least one symptom of noise anxiety. My dog, Chilly, has been diagnosed with noise aversion. It became so severe that he once tried to break down a closed closet door to hide from the frightening noise of thunder.
Like Chilly, some dogs are sensitive to loud or out-of-nowhere noises like fireworks or thunderstorms. But everyday noises such as the smoke alarm, a dropped pan, or even the beep of an alarm clock can also send our dogs into a panic attack. Common triggers are:
- Construction noise
- Garbage trucks
- Indoor home improvement
- Noise from parties
- Shooting ranges
- Sporting events
- Traffic sounds
- Vacuum cleaners
3) Separation Anxiety: As much as we would love to spend every waking minute with our dogs, there are times when we must leave them at home. For some pups, being left alone causes extreme anxiety, leaving them terrified and unhappy. Just like other forms of FAS, separation anxiety affects dogs in different ways and to different degrees. Watch for any of these signs of separation anxiety:
- Destructiveness (clawing, chewing, etc.)
- Clinging to you
- Barking or howling
Buck, mentioned previously, would actually chew the drywall down to the studs and mangle door handles when his separation anxiety was at its worst. It got to the point where we just couldn’t leave him home alone.
4) Veterinarian Visit Anxiety: Not surprisingly, this is one of the most common anxiety triggers for pets. Just the sight of the crate they ride in on the way to the vet may be enough to send your pup cowering to the nearest corner with his tail between his legs. Then, when he arrives at the office, all the unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells, perhaps combined with some not-so-great vet experiences in the past, can result in fear, anxiety, and stress.
4 Things That Cause Dog Anxiety
It’s important to understand that anxiety in dogs is a physiological response. It’s not something they can turn off and on any more than a human can with a panic attack.
Yet, just like humans, each dog may have a different source or cause of their anxiety.
Yes, genetics play a big part in whether or not your dog has anxiety. Some dogs are just more prone to having anxiety. And while you can’t change your dog’s genes, you can alleviate the symptoms of how those genes are expressed.
Past experiences that have left your dog traumatized can feed anxiety. Traumatic events include:
- Being surrendered to a shelter
- Loss of a family member
- Sudden change in routine or surroundings (like moving to a new house)
Dogs are creatures of habit and when things in their world change, it can be quite traumatizing.
As dogs get older, the risk of developing a cognitive disorder increases. This decline in cognition can cause anxiety in many dogs, much like a person who develops Alzheimer’s or dementia.
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 major source of anxiety when exposure does occur.
Even though your dog’s anxiety may be deeply ingrained, it’s possible to reduce symptoms with the right treatment. And by narrowing down the type of anxiety your dog is experiencing, you can use targeted therapies that will work for him.
How To Reduce Anxiety in Your Dog
Once you’ve discovered what’s causing your dog’s anxiety, you can find the best way to treat him. Here are five excellent solutions to reduce anxiety in your dog and help your pup regain his peace.
1) For social anxiety, try the Adaptil Calming Collar:
This pheromone collar will put your dog at ease. It’s so easy to use. Simply put the collar on and your dog’s body heat will activate the calming pheromones.
Adaptil is the one I use since it’s the #1 veterinarian recommendation!
2) For mild noise aversion, choose Zylkene:
This over-the-counter treatment is great for treating mild cases of anxiety. Plus, it has no contraindications and can be used long-term.
Check out my blog post to see all the reasons why I love Zylkene for dog anxiety.
However, if your dog is suffering from severe noise aversion, like my Chilly, a veterinary-prescribed medication might be the best treatment. You can learn more about that in this article about helping your dog with noise anxiety..
3) DOGTV is perfect for separation anxiety:
These programs are specifically designed with your dog’s particular needs in mind. My dogs, Chilly and Tulip, are kept calm with this while I’m working. Even if they’re not actively watching, the soothing sounds keep them relaxed and happy.
4) For anxious visits to the vet, I love Thunderworks:
I have had great success with Thunderworks products. Their Thunderease calming diffuser is great for keeping your dog calm at home.
Also, give Thundershirt a try! It has been proven to be 80% effective in treating various types of anxiety in dogs.
5) For general anxiety, try The Anxious Pet:
These veterinarian-formulated CBD products are a must-have in my household! My dog, Tulip, loves their hemp oil, and it helps her keep calm when she’s feeling separation anxiety. Their products are great for use with social, noise, or general anxiety. A word of caution: It may not be a good idea to use this before a visit to the veterinarian, as it could interact with anything your pup’s doctor gives him.
If your dog is suffering from anxiety, don’t delay in getting him help! The top reason why pets are surrendered to shelters is because of behavioral problems that their family can’t manage – behavioral problems that are often caused or exaggerated by FAS.
If you suspect your pooch is struggling from one of these causes of anxiety, please consult your veterinarian and try my tips for reducing anxiety in your dog and help him enjoy a calm, happy life!
This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions and anecdotes are my own, and I never promote any products or brands I don’t believe in. ~Petfully yours, Kristen