Does your pup shake like a falling leaf or aggressively bark every time they meet another dog? Are you unable to leave your dog alone in fear that they will scratch up your doors? Does your usually-sweet pup nip at strangers when you are nearby? Your pet may be suffering from anxiety. But what can you give your dog for anxiety?
If you have an anxious dog, you likely already know. Their anxiety is probably giving you anxiety. You may be at the end of your rope.
Your vet will be able to determine the cause of your pet’s anxiety and address it appropriately. Medication prescribed by your vet may be able to help, but it’s not the only answer.
Read on to learn about the different types of anxiety, what might be causing your pet to feel anxious, and some potential solutions.
What Might Cause Anxiety In Dogs?
Canine anxiety is usually caused by either one or a combination of these factors:
Fear-Related Anxiety In Dogs
A certain amount of fear is a normal emotion for both humans and dogs. In healthy amounts, it can keep us safe and alerts us to threats. But it becomes an issue if your dog’s level of fear is extreme or inappropriate given the situation.1
If your dog runs and hides at the sight of a snarling canine jumping up on a fence, you wouldn’t think much of it, right? Sounds pretty reasonable. But if your pet goes nuts when they walk by a friendly stranger or watch you sweep the floor with a broom, their fear may be at an extreme level. They may have fear-related anxiety.
Let’s take a look at some common triggers that might cause your pet to feel anxious or afraid. Talk to your vet to determine whether or not these triggers are cause for concern.
Common Fear-Based Anxiety Triggers
- Unfamiliar dogs or dogs that appear threatening or aggressive.
- Strange people, especially ones that act, look, or sound different than the humans they are used to.
- Unusual loud noises, like the sound of a loud truck.
- New environments, like going to a friend’s house for the first time.
- Unfamiliar surfaces, like slick vinyl floors or carpet.
- Items they’ve never seen before, like tall hats.
- Stressful scenarios, like a visit to the groomer.
- A combination of stressful stimuli, like visiting the vet for the first time.2
Some anxious dogs may have one specific trigger: like fireworks or thunderstorms. Other dogs may have “generalized anxiety,” which makes it hard for them to ever relax and put their guard down. Fear-based anxiety can lead to destructive or even aggressive behavior, so you’ll want to talk to a dog trainer or veterinarian to address it.
What Can Cause Fear-Based Anxiety In Dogs?
If your pet is anxious due to fear, it may be for many reasons. Here are a few:
- A lack of socialization, which introduces a dog to different humans, environments, sights, and sounds in a calm way
- Trauma early in life, like being abandoned or abused by a previous owner or separated from their mother too early on
- A previous traumatic event, like a car accident
What Are The Symptoms Of Fear-Related Stress In Dogs?
Mild fear reactions:
- tail tucked
- Actively trying to escape and/or abnormally hyperactive activity
- Inappropriate urination
- Licking or biting themselves, which could lead to skin lesions on the dog’s body4
If your dog is showing signs of anxiety, you should schedule an appointment to see your vet. In the meantime, here are some ideas that might help.
Separation Anxiety In Dogs
According to the American Kennel Club, separation anxiety affects 14 percent of all dogs.5 Most dogs are not thrilled when their human leaves, but canine separation anxiety goes beyond a brief period of barking or a deep sigh.
Dogs with separation anxiety are acutely stressed when pet parents leave. Here are some signs and symptoms of separation anxiety:
- Excessive barking or howling. A dog with separation anxiety may bark the entire time their owner is gone.
- Destructive behavior, like tearing up furniture or chewing inappropriate things.
- Desperate attempts to escape, including scratching, digging, or chewing by windows and doors.
- Your pet follows you from room to room when you are home and is visibly agitated when you are close to the door.
- Excessive salivation, drooling, or panting.
- Your dog is excited to the point of hyperactivity when you get home.
- Urination or defecation when left alone.6
Dogs who have separation anxiety will panic every time their human leaves them home alone. To study their symptoms, watch their actions as you’re planning to leave. Observe through a window or a puppy cam after you leave your house. If your pet is panicking, call a trainer or your vet right away.
Why Might Some Dogs Get Separation Anxiety?
- An abrupt change in schedule, routine, or residence.
- A change in owner, or the loss of an important person.
- A change in family dynamic, either due to death or someone moving away.7
Anxiety Caused By Illness
If your pet unexpectedly becomes anxious and fearful, call your vet to help rule out a medical condition. Internal inflammation or some thyroid issues can cause anxiety in an otherwise calm dog.8 Your vet can help determine if there is a medical issue.
Another health-related area to look into is your dog’s gut health. Believe it or not, the bacteria that live in your dog’s gut can profoundly affect their mood and behavior.9 When your dog’s gut is imbalanced, they may not feel like themselves. Ask your vet about a dietary supplement.
As dogs age, they are more prone to anxiety. This is tied to their health and changes in their body. Their once-acute sense of smell, sight, and hearing may be getting duller. This can lead to discomfort and fear in some dogs.
Symptoms Of Age-Related Anxiety In Dogs
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Clingy behavior
- Urination in the house10
To make things easier on your senior dog, maintain their regular routine. A predictable schedule can be calming for your furry friend. At this phase in their life, don’t force older dogs to do things that make them anxious, like going to the dog park or meeting strangers.
What Can I Give My Dog For Anxious Behavior?
If your pet suffers from anxiety, you may be wondering, “How can I help?” You may want to consider a natural remedy. Ask your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet or routine.
Natural Remedies For Anxiety
Here are several natural and safe ideas that might help with your pets anxiety:
- Probiotics can support a healthy gut, mood and immune system.
- CBD oil and treats may help your pet to feel a better overall sense of wellbeing and happiness. It’s important to note that CBD (cannabidiol) comes from the hemp plant, and it contains no THC or psychoactive properties.11 Ask your vet whether or not recommend it for your pet.
- Essential oils like lavender, cedarwood, and frankincense may help relax dogs. Try an essential oil diffuser. You can also dispense a few drops in your hands and give your dog a massage.12 Just be aware that some essential oils are toxic to dogs if ingested by mouth or spread on the skin. Always ask your vet before trying essential oils to calm your pet. They can help you choose a dog-safe oil.
- Herbs like St. John’s Wort, chamomile, Rescue Remedy, and valerian can act as mild sedatives that might help your dog relax. If your vet gives you the go-ahead, these herbs can be made into a tea and added to your dog’s diet, used as a tincture, or given in capsule form.13
- Homeopathic remedies, may be able to help with fear-based phobias. Ask your vet whether its a good idea or not. You can also seek out a certified dog naturopath.14
- Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is a synthetic chemical that mimics the hormone produced by female lactating dogs. You can put this in an essential oil diffuser.15
- The Thundershirt is a popular solution for dogs who have a fear of loud noises. It basically acts as a swaddle – hugging your dog tight and encouraging them to relax.
The Importance Of Behavior Modification Training For Anxious Dogs
You may want to bring in an experienced positive reinforcement trainer.
Your trainer will likely interview you and then assess your dog to find out their triggers. Once they understand your dog’s unique personality, they will likely work on things like:
Desentization. Your trainer will work with your dog to get them comfortable with the specific things that make them anxious.
Counter conditioning. Your trainer will help your dog form positive associations with stressful stimuli. This helps the dog form a new relationship to previously stressful situations.
Separation anxiety training. The trainer will work with you and your dog to help them gradually learn how to be alone without feelings of anxiety.
It might be best to leave this type of training to a professional. If not performed correctly, you might worsen your pets anxiety. Make sure the advice you’re following comes from a trainer who is experienced and respected in the field. Your vet may be able to recommend you to someone. If a professional dog trainer isn’t in your budget right now, you can watch YouTube videos or pick up a book and then try it yourself.
It’s always a good idea to use positive reinforcement when dealing with dogs with anxiety. Many phobias are learned. With proper behavior modification training, they can be “unlearned.” Stay positive and never punish your pet for feel anxious or afraid.
You Can Help Your Dog Overcome This
Once you understand the source of your dog’s anxiety, you’ll be better equipped to make a plan that’s right for your pup. Get your vet’s help with this. They might also recommend you talk to a dog trainer. Sometimes it takes a professional to understand the nuances of dog anxiety. You don’t have to deal with this alone.
If your dog has an underlying medical issue, like imbalanced gut bacteria, you’ll want to solve this first. Supporting your dog’s health through better food and supplements may help ease their behavior issues.
From there, you may want to try using an oil diffuser, a Thundershirt, or a mix of a few different remedies. Whatever you plan to do, keep your dog’s vet in the loop so they can help guide you.
Above all else, approach your dog’s anxiety issues with love and understanding. Living with anxiety is tough for your dog – and it’s hard on you, too. Focus on the things you can control and remain calm. Your energy can help set a positive example.
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