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Dealing with Anxiety in Dogs

Dealing with Anxiety in Dogs

Does your dog stick to you like Velcro, wherever you go (even when you head to the loo)? Have you ever returned home only to find that your dog has destroyed your living room in an anxiety-induced frenzy? Does your dog shake with fear whenever they reach the vet clinic?

The above scenarios may be signs of anxiety in dogs. Many of you may be aware that dogs - just like humans - can have mental health issues such as anxiety. This article talks about the signs of anxiety in dogs. This article also covers common types of anxiety in dogs, potential causes for each type of anxiety, and how you can deal with each type of anxiety in dogs.

Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

Signs of anxiety in dogs include (but are not limited to):

-Clingy, needy attitude towards their paw-rents (always following paw-rents around)
-Tail-tucking, hiding behavior
-Urination inside the house
-sniffing the ground when nothing new or interesting has happened
-Loss of interest in social activities
-Refusal to eat
-Eating their own feces
-Excessive pacing

And so on.

Do note that some of the above signs (e.g. refusal to eat, urinating in the house) may be due to an underlying medical condition, instead of a behavioral condition. Therefore, if you notice any or all of these symptoms, consult a veterinarian! It’s important for a vet to rule out medical issues before behavioral causes are considered.

Also, as far as body language is concerned, it’s best to interpret the dog’s body language as a whole rather than view each sign in isolation. This is why you should ask your vet about reputable resources that can help you to understand dog behavior better.

Anxiety can impact a dog’s quality of life. It is a given that affected dogs are emotionally affected. However, anxiety can also affect them physically. Anxiety can contribute to chronic skin and gut conditions in anxious pets. Anxiety can also impact the owners adversely. For instance, if a dog is barking anxiously because they have been left alone at home, neighbors may complain. Heartbreakingly, anxious dogs are often surrendered to shelters because their owners are unable to deal with the anxiety. This is why it’s important to manage anxiety in your dog, so that everybody (human and furkid) can lead happy and fulfilling lives!

Types of Anxiety in Dogs

A caveat: this article only aims to give an overview of the different types of anxiety. Always consult a vet before trying any of these strategies on your pets.

Types of anxiety in dogs include (but are not limited to):

1) Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety refers to dogs getting anxious when they’re away from their owners. Affected dogs will stick to their owners like Velcro, be overly affectionate with their owners, and show signs of distress when the owners are about to leave. To check for separation anxiety, your vet may ask you to install CCTV in your house and observe what your pet does when they’re alone

There are several potential causes of separation anxiety, including:

-Previously abandoned pets
-Pets who have moved house
-Recent bereavement
-Change in routine

How to manage separation anxiety:

You can set aside a treat-containing toy for your dog. It will be a great way to keep your dog occupied. Please give this toy to your dog only when no one is at home. When you
It’s also good to leave clothes that contain your scent with your dog. This will comfort your dog.

This will be tough to put into practice, but it’s important to ignore your dog and not make a fuss when you leave the house, and when you return. Fussing over your dog during these times will reinforce his/her belief that your absence is a significant event.

You should also get your dog used to your absences. This will be time-consuming, but set aside some time to “pretend” to go out, then return immediately, Reward your dog for a calm response (with praises and/or healthy treats), then slowly increase the amount of time between heading out and returning. This technique is called sensitization, and will prove useful for different types of anxieties.

2) Environmental Anxiety

Many things in the environment can trigger anxiety in your dog. Thunder is a common trigger amongst dogs. Other common triggers include fireworks, sirens, and so on. Fireworks would stress out animals anyway. However, some other kinds of environmental anxiety occur when a dog has not been exposed to enough sights and sounds as a puppy.

How to manage environmental anxiety: Please keep your pets away from fireworks as much as possible.

Desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques are great ways to handle this problem. Desensitization involves exposing your dog to the triggering stimulus under less intense conditions, rewarding him for calm responses, and slowly increasing the intensity of the stimulus when he calmly responds to lower-intensity stimuli on a consistent basis. An example would be an audio recording of thunderstorms. You can play it at lower volumes, then slowly increase it to louder volumes.

Counter-conditioning involves pairing the triggering stimulus with a stimulus that your dog likes. For instance, when it’s raining, you could bring out your dog’s bed and get your dog to nap.

3) Social Anxiety

Dogs can experience social anxiety when they’re exposed to unfamiliar people and animals. This often stems from a lack of exposure to humans and other animals during puppyhood.

Desensitization through gradual exposure and controlled socialization is an effective way to manage social anxiety. Do speak to your vet for more details.

4) Travel Anxiety

Many dogs experience anxiety when they’re about to enter a vehicle. Some of these dogs experience nausea during car rides - hence, these dogs tend to associate car rides with

As mentioned before, desensitizing your pet to car rides is a good way to manage this. If your dog tends to vomit during car rides, ask your vet about Cerenia (prescription medication) to reduce nausea and the risk of vomiting. Also, avoid full meals for your dogs before car rides.

Travelling on a plane is a whole other matter altogether. Consult your vet AND pet relocation experts for advice on bringing your pet on plates.

The role of behavioral training and medications in anxiety

Most of us may think that it’s best to go to a dog trainer first, and then a vet. However, it’s actually important to go to a vet first. This is because it’s important to rule out medical conditions before physical conditions. No one would want their dog to continue suffering from a painful condition while they go through all sorts of behavioural training. For dog trainers, ask your vet about trainers who’re accredited under the AVS-Accredited Certified Dog Trainer (ACDT) Scheme.

Mild cases of anxiety can be managed with supplements and calming aids, For instance, Thundershirts are great, non-prescription anxiety aids in dogs. At-home Adaptil diffusers are popular too. There’s even an Adaptil diffuser that can be used for transport. If you prefer an oral supplement, you can try the PURINA® PRO PLAN VETERINARY SUPPLEMENTS® Calming Care Canine Calming Probiotic Supplement.

Prescription-only medications like Trazodone, Fluoxetine (Kalmax) and Amitriptyline can help dogs with more severe anxiety. These should only be obtained from a licensed veterinarian, or with a prescription letter from a licensed veterinarian.

We hope that this article has given you an overview on dealing with anxiety in dogs. Anxiety in dogs is a huge topic - yet, it is a tiny subset of the extremely vast topic that is animal behavior. For more information, please consult your vet.
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