If you or a loved one has ever dealt with anxiety, then you know that it can be physically and emotionally exhausting to get through the day. The same is true for dogs. The many different causes of anxiety in dogs, if not addressed, can cause long-term fear throughout your pup’s life. Knowing which form of anxiety your dog suffers from is the first step to providing your furbaby with relief.
It’s important to keep an eye out for outward indications of an anxious dog in order to communicate with your vet and find the best options for treatment. These could include excessive barking, licking, panting, destroying household items, aggression, or diarrhea.
Behavioral and Situational Anxiety
Dogs typically experience two main types of anxiety: behavioral and situational.
Behavioral anxiety is a constant anxious feeling about something. Separation anxiety, for example, is one type of behavioral stress that many pet owners witness at home. You’ll notice these dogs, also known as “velcro dogs,” act up while you are gone (chewing furniture, having accidents inside, etc.) due to the stress of being alone.
This type of anxiousness is thought to be more common (though it is not always the case) in shelter pets who have been to multiple homes, been abused, or have lost someone close to them, as well as very human-dependent breeds who tend to rely on our companionship more than others.
Situational anxiety, on the other hand, occurs during unusual situations that prevent your pup from calming down. These can include thunderstorms, vet visits, car rides, or holidays (especially the Fourth of July and Halloween).
Anxiety also comes with old age. Similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, senior dogs tend to develop Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)or “doggy dementia” as they grow older. A study performed at the Behavior Clinic at the University of California, Davis showed that 28 percent of dogs 11-to-12 years old, and 68 percent of dogs 15-to-16 years old, showed one or more signs of cognitive impairment.
Signs to watch out for include pacing, disorientation, staring incessantly at one spot, and changes in sleep schedule. It is always important to talk to your vet if you notice any of these symptoms, as they could be something else entirely.
How to Ease Your Dog’s Anxiety
During bouts of anxiety, there are things you can do as a pet owner to help ease your dog’s nervousness:
- Create a Safe Environment: When you go out, or an event like a thunderstorm causes your pup to hide in a corner, turn on relaxing music or the TV for your dog. There is even music out there made explicitly for relaxing dogs! Daily exercise and mental stimulation (such as a puzzle toy) can help tire your pup out before you leave. You can also create a safe space like a crate or bed. Leaving items with your scent, such as clothing, can relax your pet even more—especially when you are not home.
- Ask for Help:There is no shame in asking for assistance! If you have to leave for long periods, have someone come over to walk or play with your dog. You can also work with trainers who specialize in fearful and anxious dogs to help you find a routine that works for you and your four-legged family member.
- Talk to Your Vet: For severe cases of anxiety, do not hesitate to ask your vet for help. Your dog may need anxiety medication or solutions that require professional assistance such as massage or acupuncture to help ease the stress.
- Natural remedies: Natural alternatives can also be beneficial instead of, or in conjunction with, medication. For events such as a loud party or storm, many pet parents use weighted blankets or thunder shirts designed to add gentle pressure that has a calming effect. Using essential oils in a diffuser, such as lavender or lemongrass, is also said to bring a calming sensation.
Here at JustFoodForDogs, our Calm supplement, which is a blend of three natural ingredients (valerian root, passionflower, and magnesium), can safely reduce stress in situations that commonly cause tension such as separation anxiety, mood changes, and irritability.
Please note: always talk to your vet about any new supplements, medications, or remedies you would like to try for your dog!