Just like humans, dogs also suffer from anxiety. Just like in humans, anxiety can be hard to handle. If not attended to, anxiety can have significant behavioral consequences in your pet. Dog anxiety affects all breeds and ages of dogs. In some cases, other breeds are more susceptible to anxiety than others. What are the symptoms, treatment, and preventional options for dog anxiety? I hope that by the end of this article I will have addressed all these questions.
Causes of Dog Anxiety
a) Fear: A trip to the vet, new environment, strangers, can all instill fear in your dog. Sometimes, this fear leads to anxiety. Loud construction noises, other dominant animals can also cause fear-related anxiety.
- b) Separation: Dogs are social animals, and when you welcome them into your home or your life, they consider you and all the members in your house as companions in a pack. When separated, anxiety takes over. Separation anxiety can be manifested as urination and defecation on the carpet or furniture (even in a bathroom trained dog), the chewing of furniture, shoes and house furnishings. Consistent barking is also a sign of separation anxiety.
- c) Aging: Aging can cause anxiety. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndromes or CDS is associated with older dogs. CDS is characterized by the decline of memory, learning ability, awareness, and perception. The decline or impairment of these factors can lead to anxiety in older dogs.
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety
Arguably the most pronounced symptom of anxiety, aggression can either be targeted directly or indirectly. Direct aggression is that which is directed against humans or other animals. Indirect aggression comes to effect when someone comes between the aggressive canine and the source of its aggression. When a dog is growling at another animal, and you try to repress its aggregation; there are times when the canine may deflect its aggression from the animal towards you. This behavior is known as indirect aggression.
- Indoor Defacation and Urination
When a bathroom trained dogs start to defecate and urinate in the house, the chances are that it may be suffering from anxiety. They work themselves up to the point that they defecate and pee on the furniture, the floor, and carpet.
- Destructive Behavior
Destructive behavior is typical among dogs suffering from separation anxiety. Destruction is usually concentrated at the entry and exit portals of the house. Scratches on the door bite on the window sills; it is like the dog is trying to reunite with the owners by breaking out of the house. Destructive behavior can also be triggered by strange noises like construction noises or footsteps of strangers in the hallway. Dogs tend to try to relieve anxiety by chewing on furniture, shoes, clothes and other house furnishings.
Common with fear-related anxiety. When the dog fears that it may be attacked at any moment, it will withdraw from social activities and become weary of its environment.
- Other Signs of Anxiety
- Consistent and excessive barking
- repetitive and compulsive behaviors
Treating Dog Anxiety
Before the administration of any anxiety related drugs, important is the suggestion that you seek consultation from your veterinarian. Self-diagnosis could be dangerous as internal deficiencies and injuries could cause some of the symptoms. Your vet will conduct a full body scan and design a treatment plan for your dog. Varied factors cause anxiety. The best way to treat dog anxiety is through a combination of training, preventive measures and sometimes medication.
- Training and Counterconditioning
Counterconditioning is a strategy that involves deflecting the dog's attention from the source of anxiety. You can achieve this by ordering the dog to sit to focus on you.
Desensitization is also an effective counterconditioning tactic. Desensitization is the introduction of the dog to the stimulus that causes anxiety in small doses. Repeated exposure and rewarding positive response can help your dog overcome anxiety.
You can also contact a professional dog trainer to help your dog overcome fear.
- Anxiety Medication for Dogs
- a) Antidepressants: Antidepressants and chemical therapy prescriptions for dogs alleviate symptoms of anxiety; especially when the stimulus is predictable. If the source of anxiety is predictable like thunderstorms, fireworks, or car rides; vets prescribe benzodiazepine with other antidepressants. Common antidepressants used to treat anxiety include Prozac, fluoxetine, and clomipramine.
- b) Cannabidiol (CBD): Scientists are just discovering the endocannabinoid system. The canine body has CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are acted upon by endocannabinoids and regulate cytokine release. CB1 and CB2 give dogs sensations of well being and bliss. CBD stimulates the body to produce its natural endocannabinoids to work on the CB1 and CB2 receptors. When your dog is anxious, it's natural ability to produce serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter) is inhibited. CBD makes the 5-TH1A (hydroxytryptamine) receptor more sensitive to serotonin. CBD helps your dogs feel better and relaxed by promoting the natural process of feeling good.
Preventing Dog Anxiety
- Body Language: Understanding your dog's body language can help you identify and understand why and when your dog is anxious, depressed or sick. It can also help you determine the type of anxiety that your dog is suffering from. Once you can identify anxiety, you can withdraw the stimulus or desensitize the animal toward the stimulus.
- Socialization: Socialization can reduce the occurrence of anxiety. Introduction of dogs to new people, new dogs, animals can reduce the occurrence of exaggerated expressions of anxiety.
- Obedience: Obedience training lays the foundation of acceptable social behavior. A well trained and obedient dog is less likely to express anxiety through aggression.
- Sufficient Exercise and Nutrition: Morning runs, dog walks, and adequate exercise is right for your dog's mental health; and proper nutrition is right for your dog's general health. A mentally stable canine is less likely to express anxiety in destructive and aggressive ways.
- Avoidance of events that lead to anxiety: if your dog gets aggressive or anxious around large groups of dogs, you can avoid taking them to dog parks.
Stand Against Anxiety
An anxious dog can have a direct effect on your life. When you get home from work and find your favorite shoes chewed up, or your house trashed; a massive chunk of joy is chiseled from your soul. Dog anxiety can also be dangerous to the life of your pet. Do not let anxiety take over your household. Visit your vet to find out the root cause of the anxiety.