We all love our pets and care about their well-being. Did you know that they are able to experience anxiety, just like we do? While their anxieties may be caused by simpler situations than our own, they experience it nonetheless. This can cause behavioral issues, as well as major health issues if untreated.
In the age of the internet, there are plenty of resources to help identify your pup’s anxiety, as well as help to treat it. If you suspect your dog may be having anxiety issues, check out our quick guide on dog anxiety, the causes, and possible treatments. And, of course, if you think that your dog may be having these issues, be sure to consult your vet for diagnosis and assistance!
How To Tell If Your Dog is Experiencing Anxiety
There are a number of behavioral signs that your pup may be experiencing some anxiety. It may not be one sign but multiple over time. The following behaviors are indicators of anxiety:
- Destructive behavior
- Heavy or consistent panting
- Excessive licking
- Whining or whimpering
- Dilated pupils
If your pup is exhibiting any of these behaviors consistently, there is a chance that they may be experiencing issues with anxiety.
What Are the Types of Dog Anxiety?
There are many triggers for anxiety in dogs, some of which include but are not limited to abandonment, loud noises, traveling, or being around strangers, both human and animal. These triggers can be categorized into four main types of anxiety; separation, generalized, social, and environmental.
Separation anxiety occurs when your dog is away from you or any other people that they are comfortable with. This kind of anxiety can be triggered by a change in schedule that keeps you from your pet at times that they aren’t used to or by going on a trip and leaving them with another caretaker. Dogs only have a basic understanding of object permanence, which can cause them to believe that once their owner has left, they aren’t coming back.
Generalized anxiety is the hardest to determine, as there may be no clear reason that explains your pup’s distraught behavior. Generalized anxiety tends to display itself unexpectedly and often won’t be due to the same trigger twice.
Much like people, dogs can suffer from social anxiety, where they become anxious and uncomfortable around strange people or animals. This occurs most often when dogs aren’t socialized at a young age or after a dog has been rescued. While shelters and rescues are doing good work with dogs, the social atmosphere at these places can cause trauma for your furbaby.
Environmental anxiety consists of stressors in the dog’s environment, as well as specific environments that can cause fear and anxiety. Loud noises can be a part of these stressors, like fireworks or sirens. More specifically, places that cause this anxiety can be the vet or even another person’s house.
What Can Cause These Types of Dog Anxiety
Oftentimes, the four umbrella anxieties that dogs can suffer can overlap. Here are a few situations where that may happen:
- Any changes to the home environment may cause an anxiety attack in your pup. This is not limited to just moving, but can also be attributed to renovations or home improvements. Environmental and social anxiety can come into play here.
- Changing work schedules can cause a separation anxiety issue to arise, and adding in a new caretaker can pile on a social anxiety issue if you’re not careful!
- If your pup experiences any sort of generalized anxiety, any of the other three anxieties may arise and compound the issues that they’re having as they’re already in a tense state.
How can I Help My Dog’s Anxiety?
Thankfully, there are many options available to help your pet. Knowing your dog is important in identifying these issues as they arise. With this information, you’ll be able to consult with your vet. When it comes to anxiety, your veterinarian is your best resource for diagnosis and treatment options. They may suggest one or some of the following.
If your dog’s anxiety diagnosis is severe, they may have to take medications. Just like for people, there are many options of medicine available in different strengths. Some anti-anxiety medications your pet could take are versions of the same medication available to people but in appropriate dosages and forms.
Minor anxiety can be a lot easier to deal with. Simple training or behavioral modifications may be all that is necessary. Distracting a dog is sometimes all that is needed to avoid anxiety issues. If you know your dog well and start to notice unusual behavior, call them over and occupy all of their attention. While it is a simple technique, it is often an effective one.
Desensitizing a dog is another simple behavioral modification that can be remarkably effective. This requires you to figure out the source of your dog’s anxiety, then slowly introduce them to it in small doses. This is essentially a “Facing your fear” approach.
There has been some recent exploration into oils and other natural dieting treatments that have yielded positive results. Small amounts of these oils in your dog’s food have been known to work, and there are specific wellness products on the market that are designed to achieve what these oils do.
It is important to keep in mind that overall health can play a massive part in your dog’s anxiety. Something as simple as walking with your pooch more often or switching food brands can have a noticeable effect on your four-legged friend’s mood. Again, check with your vet, know your dog, and be ready to hire a trainer if necessary.
It’s essential to note that not all essential oils are safe for dogs. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your dog’s diet.
Is My Dog Breed Prone to Anxiety?
Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to anxiety than others. One thing you always must consider is heritage. Referring to your dog’s breed can determine how prone they may be to particular types of anxiety. If you are considering adopting a dog and know the breed ahead of time, it may be a good idea to speak with your vet and make yourself familiar with any anxiety-induced issues that may come down the line.
Often, purebred dogs face the most issues with anxiety, which we have outlined below. This being said, mixed breeds often do not inherently share the same anxiety issues that a purebred counterpart will. Mixed breeds are often not sought after, leading to longer times in shelters, which makes them more prone to social anxiety, though.
If getting a rescue dog from a shelter, try to get as much information about the dog’s past as you can. Detailed information about what a particular dog considers “normal” will help you predict future anxieties and abnormal behavior you might have to deal with.
What Breeds Are More Prone to Anxiety?
- Labrador Retriever - Labradors are family and working dogs. Their personality traits include loyalty, intelligence, and friendliness. Labradors love to be around people and other pets. To help them avoid developing anxiety and depression, always keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
- Bichon Frise – These lap dogs love to snuggle with you. The problem is that when they are left alone, they tend to become more hostile and even destructive.
- German Shepherd - As with most shepherds, these pups are easily trainable, smart, and obedient dogs. However, extended times of separation can cause anxiety. To prevent stress, they require humans or other pets around them and enough physical activity.
- Basset Hounds – These are very social dogs. Unfortunately, this makes them prone to anxiety. They are a great breed due to being loyal, though because of this, they are prone to developing separation anxiety and need plenty of attention.
- Border Collie – Border Collies are high-energy and brilliant dogs. This being the case, they tend to get bored very quickly, which may result in destructive behavior. They also are prone to separation anxiety when left alone.
- Cocker Spaniels – Originally bred for hunting, cocker spaniels tend to have a reputation for being high-energy and needing a lot of attention. They are particularly prone to separation anxiety, and if not socialized, have issues with social anxiety.
Calming Your Canine
There are many causes of anxiety in dogs and even more ways that they show it behaviorally. From generalized anxiety to social anxiety, it’s a situation to take seriously and monitor for the overall health of your pet. While there are simple ways to help prevent and treat it, some severe cases do exist, and professional help from your vet is recommended to make sure that your pooch can maintain a happy, stress-free life.