If you’re reading this article, it’s more than likely you suspect your beloved pet pooch is suffering from some form of anxiety. Read our guide to find out more about the different types of canine anxiety, signs to look out for and tips for managing it.
Can dogs suffer from anxiety?
The answer is yes. They absolutely can.
Anxiety in dogs is common and can be attributed to countless psychological, physical and environmental factors, manifesting itself through various signs and symptoms which can ultimately result in destructive behaviours. The most common forms of canine anxiety are typically born through separation, fear, and ageing:
● Separation Anxiety – Separation is the most common form of anxiety in dogs, affecting an estimated 1.8 million dogs in the UK, according to research from the Dogs Trust. As social animals, separation anxiety is caused when dogs become extremely anxious and distressed when they’re away from their owner.
● Fear-related Anxiety – Like humans, dogs can develop fears and anxiety relating to specific noises, visual stimuli, and/or situations. Common examples include loud noises, fireworks, strangers, other dogs, and even the dreaded car ride to the vets.
● Age-related Anxiety – It’s also worth noting that older dogs can develop anxiety, largely caused by pain associated with joint problems like arthritis, or neurological diseases, which can affect the nervous system. Like with separation and fear-related anxiety, this can trigger a number of physical symptoms and serious behavioural issues.
Signs of canine anxiety
So, how can you tell if your dog has anxiety? As there are various dog stress symptoms, many of which are slight variations or extremes of normal canine behaviour, diagnosis can be difficult. However, some common signs to look out for include:
● Constant barking and/or howling
● Excessive licking or grooming
● Escape behaviours
● Aggressive chewing, scratching and the destruction of furniture
● House training accidents
Whilst stressful, the good news is that for every stressed dog there is medical and psychological help available through veterinarians and specialists.
Treating canine anxiety
The source of anxiety will ultimately dictate the best treatment, so the initial diagnosis is crucial. For example, playing calming music may help a dog with separation anxiety, but would have very little effect on a dog suffering with a fear of crowded places. As such, a trip to the veterinarian is a great place to start, who will also be able to rule out any other medical conditions which could be contributing to the dog’s symptoms.
Your vet will determine a treatment plan, typically involving a combination of the below tactics:
● Calming actions (depending on the source of anxiety, this could include human contact, massage, exercise, providing additional stimuli, etc.)
● Natural remedies, aimed at relaxing your pet
● Behavioural training and counter-conditioning, often provided by dog training specialists who aim to change the canine’s reaction to the source of the anxiety
● And in extreme cases, prescribed dog anxiety medications
Whilst it is hard to predict if your dog will develop anxiety, there are a number of ways to help your new pet avoid anxiety-related problems including; socialising with other dogs, regular exercise, stimulation, and obedience training. Also, avoiding potentially stressful situations (e.g. leaving your pet alone for extended periods of time) can reduce the likelihood of your pet developing anxiety issues in the future.