Life is full of situations that are beautiful, fun and sometimes anxiety-inducing. As humans, we recognise that anxiety is common, but what about our pets? Do dogs have anxiety too? Well, the answer is YES.
If you’re concerned that your four-legged friend shows signs of frustration and anxiety, then look no further! This article will review the physical and psychological symptoms of canine anxiety and how you can help.
What Is Dog Anxiety?
In dogs, anxiety is the anticipation of an unknown or imagined future danger. This can be fear or phobia related to something that hasn’t happened yet. Typically, when a dog feels anxious, they display physical symptoms often associated with fear.
What are the Signs?
The clinical signs of canine anxiety depend on the pet and its unique personality. However, the majority of dogs will display similar behaviours and symptoms. If your dog is suffering from anxiety, you may see them showing the following signs:
- Trembling, tail-tucking and passive escape attempts will be made. These are typically fear-related symptoms that can be seen when a dog is scared and anxious.
- Obvious panic, excessive panting, pacing, darting and active escape attempts will be made. Many of these dogs have the potential to lash out and cause injury to themselves or those around them.
- Urinating or defecating on themselves when a stressful event occurs.
- Self-trauma or lesions secondary to excessive licking.
- Restless behaviours such as tail-chasing, circling or restlessness.
What is the Difference Between Separation Anxiety and General Anxiety in Dogs?
As the name implies, separation anxiety is where a dog only feels negative and anxious emotions when their favourite person leaves them alone. Sometimes this reaction is simply because they do not want to be left alone. In other situations, this response only occurs regarding a specific individual leaving the house.
General anxiety can be caused by anything: a noise, an object, a phobia and sometimes we have no idea why our pups are feeling anxious.
For more information about separation anxiety, read Separation Anxiety: Tips for Pet Parents with Clingy Dogs and Clingy Dogs: Is Your Dog a Velcro Dog?
What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?
Several things can cause anxiety in our furry friends, but most commonly, it’s a lack of socialisation at a very young age or past traumatic events.
- Old age: As they grow old, dogs can develop dementia. Confused and overwhelmed by these changes, they could feel disoriented and anxious.
- Fear of abandonment: Dogs with a history of abandonment will often display symptoms of separation anxiety. These typically manifest in the form of destructiveness, escape attempts and self-trauma.
- Past trauma: When a dog has anxiety because of a fear response, this is often due to a history of a negative experience or simply unfamiliar with someone or something, resulting in anxiety behaviours.
- Lack of socialisation: When a puppy hasn’t had proper socialisation before 14 weeks of age, they will often display fear and anxiety when around new people, places or things. As they age, this fear will only escalate to potentially dangerous levels if it is not corrected as soon as possible.
Why Do So Many Dogs Have Anxiety?
Anxiety is a real issue, and the Covid pandemic didn’t help anyone. Our dogs included!
As Covid restrictions have lifted, many of us returned to working from an office full-time or part-time. For pets who have enjoyed our company 24/7 during the lockdown, our return to the old life did not go unnoticed! The post-pandemic anxiety amongst our dogs is not something we thought would happen.
The number of dogs that are being diagnosed with anxiety is continuing to go up. So much so that according to one study done in 2021, over 70% of dogs that participated in the research showed fear and anxiety symptoms. The leading causes identified were noise sensitivity (fear of thunder, fireworks, loud voices, etc.) and fear of everything novel and unfamiliar (strangers, other dogs, new environments). The study also discovered a strong genetic contribution to the high prevalence of anxiety-related traits due to selective breeding.
How Can You Help Your Anxious and Timid Dog?
When a dog is displaying symptoms of anxiety, it is crucial that you attempt to identify the cause and correct it. Remember that anxiety is frustrating and emotionally crippling for many dogs and their owners. You must stay patient and consistent when it comes to your pet’s anxiety and working through it.
Speak with your vet. If you do not address these behaviours early on, they will only become more difficult to change later.
Now, let’s explore how you can help your dog’s anxiety at home!
- Mental stimulation: to help combat anxiety in your dog, they need to be adequately socialised and keep their minds actively engaged. If you can’t arrange human company, have them join dog walking groups or occasionally take them to the doggy daycare, where they can meet and play with other pups.
- Desensitization: This is a common goal that many behaviourists suggest starting with first. Desensitisation is the process where there is a repeated and controlled exposure to the anxiety-inducing stimulus.
- Counter-conditioning: This is the process of training your dog to have a positive response or behaviour instead of a negative one. If the anxiety symptoms are severe, ask your vet to recommend a board-certified veterinary behaviourist.
- Medication: In strong anxiety cases, your veterinarian might recommend CBD oil (hemp oil) or some other anxiety medication.
- Calming aids: some people use pheromone sprays, collars, and weighted coats like Thundershirt to help calm their dogs, reduce anxiety and provide physical comfort.
Hemp Oil for Dog Anxiety
Look into hemp oil, if you want a natural product to help manage anxiety symptoms.
Hemp seed oil has been shown to reduce anxieties and disorders like PTSD through a combination of effects of the anti-inflammatory actions of the fatty acids and the anti-depressant actions of phytosterols.
Hemp CBD oil works on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a network of thousands of receptors all over the body, including the brain and central nervous system. It regulates various functions such as sleep, mood and pain. All animals have highly developed ECS, so treating stress and anxiety symptoms with hemp CBD oil has become increasingly popular with pet owners.
Try BUDDYPET Marley, 100% raw, organic hemp seed oil from Tasmania. Add directly to food or if your pet prefers, have them lick it straight off a spoon. Many of our customers report improvement in their pet’s mood within a couple of weeks.