Anxiety in dogs always results from various reasons. While some breeds have situational anxiety, others have a general disposition towards it. Whatever the cause of the disorder, anxiety in dogs is a serious issue and needs to be looked into with gravity.
Here are a few surefire signs that establish whether your dog is facing this trauma and if yes, to what extent.
Signs of Mild Anxiety
If your pet pooch starts getting fidgety every morning when you’re getting dressed for work, it is a sign of mild separation anxiety. They will follow you around the house and even see out the door and right when you’re about to leave, you’ll see the color drain from the dog too. But you need to observe for more signs:
If you see your dog trembling – ever so slightly even, it is a sign of anxiety. Because dogs usually tend to tremble or shake a little, this sign always goes unnoticed. So look for the telltale signs – like tails tucked in. Feel the dog’s belly or neck area for quivers.
If your usually happy dog suddenly withdraws themselves from situations – you have a catch right there. This will lead you to know what it is that’s bothering your little fur baby! Your dog will go abruptly still, not reacting or responding to any stimuli. If they sit and sulk or mopes in a corner, not wanting to be seen – it is an anxiety situation.
Passive Escapist Behaviour
Dogs are usually very gregarious creatures. They love extending their warmth to others and love being in social situations. But when you see them doing the exact opposite – hiding under or inside things, trying to look for quieter, trying to get inside closets and corners, you know they are feeling negative. Dogs usually do this when they don’t want to be seen and want to be left alone. This is against their true nature and you must look into this as soon as possible.
Signs of Panic
A lot of people find it hard to wrap their head around the fact that even dogs get panic attacks. This is because, in humans, such panic attacks are driven by complex social situations – while dogs don’t even have to face such situations. But then, dogs are super-emotional too!
Their symptoms vary from those of humans, but they are just as traumatic. Here are some signs of panic in dogs.
Excessive barking at nothing, in particular, is an absolutely sure shot sign of your dog being in a panic. They have no other means of expressing fear, so they bark. Even the kind of barking differs and it will take you a little practice to identify the pitch of your dog’s barking. But if you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of your dog barking at a blank wall – you need to consider his/her situation.
Just like humans start biting their nails and cuticles off in a stressful situation, dogs begin to chew on everything around them. This happens especially during the first few months when they are facing separation anxiety. You may come home to find your shoes chewed off, the furniture gnawed on and pillowcases torn all across the floor. They relieve stress by chewing. This is your wake up call!
Scratching walls and digging
These are signs of destructive behavior in dogs – but be mindful of the fine lines that differentiate digging for fun as opposed to digging in panic. This type of digging is more harried. You will feel as if your dog has been pressurized into digging a hole to the other end of the earth! Scratching the walls to create that blood-curdling screeching sound is another sign that your dog is anxious.
Just like humans, dogs also face a loss of bladder control when they are put in a stressful and demanding situation. This is similar to babies wetting their beds after a bad nightmare. If your dog is well-trained and yet is urinating indoors where he knows he isn’t supposed to – you must take it seriously. Instead of punishing him for his behavior, evaluate the behavior to find out more.
Signs of Severe Anxiety
Severe anxiety in dogs can be dangerous and traumatic for the animals as well as the owners. This happens due to multiple reasons, one of them being old age also. When they aren’t getting used to the changes around them, dogs tend to start facing anxiety. If you start noticing the following behavioral changes in dogs, maybe its time to take serious measures.
Growling, flashing their sharp teeth and looking particularly ferocious is a revealing sign of aggressive behavior. If you know your dog well enough, you will also notice that their barking is also getting more hostile. This is sometimes a sign of severe anxiety and your vet may prescribe calming pills.
Active Escape Behaviour
Dogs with milder forms of anxiety will look for places within the house to hide – while dogs with active anxiety will try and run away as far as possible. These are dogs who usually run away from home. You can prevent this from happening if you’re cautious during the first few signs.
If you suspect your dog of having anxiety, check their body for scratches and scars. Dogs who face anxiety issues usually try self-harming, especially when left alone. They bite and scratch themselves in order to relieve stress. This is a chiefly upsetting symptom. If you notice anything of this sort, it will take a lot of emotional strength on your end too, to help your dog get over it.
How to Prevent Dog Anxiety
Anxiety isn’t always situational – as some illnesses, predispositions and other factors can also cause dogs to become anxious. However, prevention is always better than cure.
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent it altogether, and remember that it’s never too late to implement the right routines.
1. Socialize your dog
The best way to get this whole anxiety problem out of your way is to familiarize your dog to your surroundings very early. When your puppy is about 2-3 weeks old introduce them to new vehicles, cafes, people and roads. Show them around your home and familiarize them with the vicinity so that it registers in their brain. Puppies are more likely to adapt to newer systems than older dogs are.
2. Stay Calm
Losing your cool at your dog and getting angry at them is only going to do worse. It will worsen the anxiety that your dog is already battling and also make them trust you a little less in some cases. Bringing up a dog requires a lot of patience and care to understand where the anxiety is coming from and deal with it in a calm manner.
3. Avoid Sudden Changes
Don’t spring new things upon your dog – gradually introduce new pets, people, and places to them. Ease your dog into the process of change and handhold them into it. If there is going to be a new situation, don’t throw it over your dog and expect them to understand and go with the flow.
4. Avoid Loud Noises
Dogs are more susceptible to loud noises than humans are. They have an extremely sharp hearing which is why fireworks, noisy screaming affect them badly. Avoid all the cacophony as much as possible to prevent your dog from feeling anxious.
How to Treat Anxiety in Dogs
If your dog has anxiety, it can really wound them up real bad. While anxiety isn’t directly fatal, it can cause a lot more damage than it seems. Once you have established from the above factors that your dog has anxiety – it’s time to pull up your socks and deal with it.
Here are some products that are proven to help dogs with anxiety.
Sometimes all you need is a soft yet tried-and-true solution – like the Thundershirt. A snug fit cozy shirt made of soft fabric that places gentle pressure on the right points. It is like a baby swaddle but for dogs!
The product aims to relieve anxiety in dogs by constantly simulating the feeling of being snuggled while putting enough stress on the trigger points. While it does work, user-reviews also suggest that it isn’t entirely 100% effective for curing severe dog anxiety. Another downside is that not all dogs are comfy wearing it. On the upside, it does alleviate the symptoms to a great extent and can be used to treat milder forms of anxiety.
If you know your dog’s trigger points, like a car ride or fireworks, you can put the shirt on temporarily, just until it passes.
Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP)
Pheromones are chemicals that imitate actual hormones that are produced inside a living creature’s body. For animals, these pheromones sometimes act as signals or communicators. Dog-appeasing pheromones are artificial pheromones that come in various forms – sprays, diffusers, plugs, wipe, and even collars. These appeal to the dog’s vomeronasal organ – present between the nose and the mouth – to create a calming effect.
These man-made pheromones like Adaptil or DAP simulate the pheromones that nursing dogs release, to comfort their newborns. This is how they help in calming overall anxiety in adult dogs as well. This is a fail-safe method and has no known side effects, either to animals or humans. However, you must be cautious while using collars so that they aren’t too tight.
CBD, Hemp oil and Cannabidiol are often confused with marijuana because they both come from the same source – hemp. However, they are extremely different. For one, hemp oil does not make you “high” and neither will it make your dog high.
In fact, the product reacts with the naturally-occurring endocannabinoid in human and animal bodies and helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety in both. When injected, it reacts with the body’s receptors and secretes more serotonin which has a calming effect. This can help in treating mild to severe levels of anxiety in your dog. The only side effect of hemp oil on dogs is that it might cause mild drowsiness.
Dog Calming Pills
Dog calming pills fall into a grey area when it comes to treating your dog for anxiety. The reason for this is that not every chew or pill suits every dog, so you need to identify what’s best after a certain amount of trial and error.
However, a lot of users have said that their dogs were a lot calmer after taking these, once they found the right kind. It takes a while to get into their system, but when it does, it works like magic. Another reason why most pet parents don’t prefer these is that they have more side effects than the other alternatives available for anxiety. Your dog may experience lethargy, irregular heart rate, reduced muscle control, weakness and in some bad cases diarrhea and vomiting too.
A lot of people are not comfortable administering medicines or using chemicals to cure their dog’s anxiety. For those who are apprehensive about using chemicals and medications, there is a horde of natural remedies. Hemp oil is one option but we’ve gathered a few more for you:
Chamomile – a chamomile concoction helps soothe mild dog anxiety symptoms in dogs just like it does in humans. Chamomile is a herbal sedative that works extremely well in treating motion sickness in dogs too. Not just that, it also helps with a bad stomach when dogs come down with something.
Fruits and Veggies – some people also feed their dogs anti-oxidant foods like blueberries, kale, sweet potatoes for their calming effects. But these only work for mild anxieties.
Essential Oils – essential oils like lavender also work very well for canine anxiety episodes. Simple diffusers will do the trick.
Hydrosol Spray – a blend of neroli, lavender, and chamomile made into a spray is said to help with pet anxiety.
So remember, a little bit of care and lots of patience can go a long way in treating a dog’s anxiety and providing a sustainable dog anxiety relief. Give your pets the secure and happy life they deserve.