Like humans, dogs feel anxiety and stress when they learn to fear triggers or certain stimuli. Whether it's a reaction to firecrackers exploding outdoors or extreme dread when they see their owner leave the home, there are numerous factors that can cause pets to become anxious and fearful. Some fears worsen with age, and if these anxieties go untreated, they may become a health issue over time.
Separation anxiety is a common behavioral problem due to the social nature of dogs, though there are numerous other causes that can bring on anxiety. Pet parents will observe disruptive or atypical behavior when their dogs are in duress due to anxiety. Some of these symptoms may be subtle, while others will be disruptive and obvious.
Dog phobias range in variety, from common fears like loud noises (like thunderstorms or fireworks), to very specific triggers like shadows or riding in cars. Some breeds are genetically disposed to anxiety disorders, but all dogs can develop anxiety from a fear of immediate or future dangers. These fears may be associated with past negative experiences, or have been formed during their socialization period. The cause of canine fears can be imagined or real.
Canine anxiety can manifest in a number of behaviors and symptoms. Some dogs show anxiety in subtle ways that can be interpreted as odd but not abnormal behavior, such as excessive yawning, licking, panting, shaking, or hiding. Other symptoms, like incessant barking, aggression, whining, and defecating in the house, are more disruptive, and can be misinterpreted as unruly behavior.
Pet parents must observe their dogs' symptoms closely and try to determine the root of their pet's fears. There are ways pet parents can positively reinforce their dogs to reduce stress or desensitize them to the anxiety trigger. Professional dog trainers can help determine the best behavioral modifications strategies. But in more severe cases, consultation with a veterinarian, who may run tests to look for larger medical issues or prescribe anti-anxiety medication, is recommended.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.