Sudden, loud noises. Strangers. Traveling. These can all be sources of fear and anxiety, not just for humans, but for dogs as well. While it may be difficult to remove the source of anxiety — such as separation during working hours — there are ways to ease a dog’s symptoms. Below are a few common causes of dog anxiety along with some ways owners can help reassure their furry best friends.
Fear is a normal response to certain unknowns. However, excessive fear and anxiety could be unhealthy and possibly lead to dangerous behaviors or reactions. For these reasons and more, it is essential for owners to understand the signs and do all they can to address the anxiety sooner rather than later. The first step is in identifying the source.
There are several potential causes behind anxiety in our canine companions. They could be very fearful of other dogs after negative experiences or a lack of socialization. They may be anxious around strange children for the same reasons. A survey revealed 32% of distressed dogs were overly sensitive to noise, especially those associated with fireworks.
Another potential source is a fear of abandonment. Dogs who have been surrendered to a shelter or otherwise abandoned often have difficulty when owners leave unexpectedly or even routinely for work. At times referred to as separation anxiety, this response can also develop in puppies after adoption or in seniors when cognitive function begins to decline.
A dog experiencing these fears can show numerous signs or the symptoms could manifest as unhealthy behaviors. According to the one of the world’s largest humane societies, excessive barking, whining, licking or howling are typical signs of anxiety. Others may be shivering, hostility, pacing, destructiveness and attempting to escape. If left unaddressed, it can even lead to a loss of appetite and complete withdrawal. Once the trigger has been pinpointed, owners might better manage it and begin a course of treatment.
What kind of treatments work for anxious dogs? Veterinarians may recommend a few different methods to help soothe or provide a distraction from the trigger. For instance, if they react poorly to separation, it’s advised to exercise them before it’s time to leave. Long walks or playing ball can tire them out and ease their minds. It could also help relieve stress by producing beneficial endorphins.
Another course of action is to provide a pet-specific product to manage the anxiety. With approval from a vet, owners can try CBD oil or a pet-safe supplement before the trigger or as part of a daily routine to potentially address anxiety. Another popular product is a calming vest, t-shirt or coat. These comforting garments swaddle the torso providing constant mild pressure that pets may find soothing. It’s important to keep in mind that each dog is unique and may have different reactions to treatments.
For further information on how to recognize and address anxiety in dogs, please see the accompanying resource.