Humans are not the only ones who suffer from anxiety. Anxiety is an emotional disorder that affects humans and dogs in many of the same ways, but because it’s more common for people to know about human anxiety disorders than canine ones, it can be difficult to identify what causes a dog’s anxiety.
Being able to identify the causes of your pup’s anxious behavior is important because without intervention, life with chronic anxiety can become very uncomfortable for both you and your dog. In this post we will discuss the most common types of anxiety in dogs, how it affects them, and how to treat it using natural therapy methods that are safe for animals of any age or size!
So what is anxiety? Anxiety is a mental health disorder that causes unfocused thoughts and physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, shakiness, hypervigilance, and difficulty concentrating.
The most common types of anxiety in dogs are post-traumatic stress (caused by events like being in and out of dog shelters), separation anxiety (when a dog panics when their “person” is not with them), social anxiety (caused by the fear of new situations), ageneralized anxiety (due to an unknown trigger or difficult to determine trigger or the simply prone to anxiety), and illness related anxiety (due to the emotional and mental toll an ailment causes).
Let’s break each of these down.
Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) in Dogs
PTSD is caused by a trauma, like being put in and out of dog shelters. Dogs who have been abused or abandoned can develop PTSD after a traumatic event such as neglect, abuse, or abandonment.
Separation Anxiety (SA) in Dogs
Dogs with separation anxiety panic when their person is not around to provide the love and reassurance they need from them in order to feel safe. Separation anxiety can be very frustrating for humans because it can be difficult to break a habit.
Social Anxiety in Dogs
Dogs who are socially anxious have many of the same symptoms as humans, including avoiding social interactions or situations that make them feel nervous. This is common
in dogs who were abused by their owners when they were young and shy away from any new people they meet.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
This type of anxiety is often the most difficult to determine and understand. This is because these dogs don’t have any specific triggers and go through periods of both hyperactivity or lethargy.
Ailments That Cause Anxiety in Dogs
There are many ailments that can cause anxiety, from emotional distress to a neurological disorder like epilepsy. These conditions make it hard for the dog to feel safe with new people or animals.
Signs that Your Dog May Have Anxiety
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive barking
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
How to Tell If Your Dog’s Maladaptive Behaviors are Due to Anxiety
It’s hard to know if your dog has anxiety, so it is important to pay attention to any signs of stress or agitation in the animal that could indicate an ailment. The first step is understanding what causes them to feel this type of discomfort. When you notice any of the above behaviors, try asking yourself the follow questions:
- What is the environment around my dog like (what do they see, hear, smell)?
- What happened just before the behavior (the antecedent)?
- How do you typically react to the behavior and is it productive?
Dog anxiety can be debilitating. It is a serious disorder that should not be taken lightly. The first step to treating it is finding out the root cause and then deciding on an appropriate treatment plan based on what was found, such as medications or natural therapies like calming supplements.
Anxiety Treatment: Medical
While most people prefer to use holistic
remedies to treat anxiety, it is not always in their dog’s best interest. It is important to visit your vet to rule out any underlying
medical problems that could be causing the behavior and decide as a team what treatment is best.
If your dog has a serious anxiety disorder, the veterinarian may recommend natural therapies or medication. Sometimes SSRIs
and antidepressants are prescribed for dogs with an anxiety disorder including fluoxetine and clomipramine.
Anxiety Treatment: Preventative
It is important to understand that not all anxiety in dogs is caused by a medical condition, and that many can be treated more naturally. For example, it is often a common misconception that separation anxiety in dogs can be solved by simply leaving them alone. However, this creates more stress on the dog and will only worsen their symptoms.
Instead of isolating your pup when you leave home, consider crate training, getting a second dog as a companion, or leaving them with something that has your scent on it.
Here is a fairly basic list of ways to support your anxious pup:
- Do not make a big deal when arriving home, likewise, do not make leaving a big deal
- Behavioral training
- Special outings with just you and your dog
- Massages (for your dog)
To learn more about each in more detail, follow the Dog Training Santa Rosa blog, where professional trainers break down these anxiety disorders in more detail.