Dogs that experience anxiety may display their stress in very different ways. Some symptoms, like panting or shaking, are subtle and can be easily missed or dismissed because they are normal in other circumstances. Other more noticeable symptoms include aggression and excessive barking. Pet owners may mistake such symptoms as their pet simply acting out due to boredom or other behavioral causes. But if these symptoms occur in common situations, like during a thunderstorm or when pet owners leave the house, it can indicate that the dog is responding to anxiousness and stressful feelings.
Subtle Symptoms of Anxiety
Some of the less obvious symptoms of anxiety manifest as a slight change in behavior. These symptoms can go unnoticed by pet owners as they are not disruptive. These symptoms include:
Hiding or solitude:
Some dogs want to be alone when they are experiencing anxiety. They may hide out of fear, or move away from people and other pets.
Other anxious dogs will have the opposite reaction, and seek more attention or affection. They may jump in their pet parent’s lap or require more attention.
Shaking and panting:
Dogs that shake or pant, or act generally nervous may be experiencing anxiety. While panting after exercise is normal, panting during a loud fireworks display is likely not.
Excessive licking or chewing:
Anxious dogs may compulsively lick or chew at their fur.
Overt Symptoms of Anxiety
The more noticeable symptoms of anxiety are hard to miss. Depending on the cause of the anxiety, these behaviors may only appear when dogs are triggered by their phobia.
Excessive barking and howling:
One of the most obvious signs of anxiety is excessive noise. If a pet starts to bark because of a loud noise or interruption and cannot be easily calmed, even after the disruption stops, they may be feeling anxiety.
Anxious dogs may become suddenly aggressive, even to their pet parent. Anxious dogs may suddenly snap, growl, or show signs of aggression.
Try to escape:
Dogs that feel trapped or enclosed may start digging or running. Enclosing dogs in crates may worsen their anxiety in these situations.
Anxious dogs sometimes display a surge of energy and appear hyperactive.
House-trained dogs may suddenly defecate indoors when they are under duress.
A common symptom of anxiety is destruction of furniture or other objects that they normally do not chew or shred.
Dogs that experience any number of these symptoms may start to have panic attacks. Panic attacks can last from minutes to hours, and can involve any number of the above symptoms.
Symptoms of anxiety, like destruction of objects and high energy, can result in self-injury. The mental and physical stress that dogs endure while suffering from anxiety is also taxing, and should not go untreated.
Managing an Anxious Dog
As a pet parent, you need to act when your dog is suffering from anxiety. Avoid punishing or scolding your dog when it is having an attack. You should also avoid praising or patting because that may lead your dog to believe that you are encouraging its anxious behavior. The first step is to identify the stimulus that’s causing the reaction. Controlled exposure to the stimulus and giving rewards for positive behavior is a popular way of desensitizing the dog. It’s also advisable to seek help from a canine behavioral expert. If the problem persists, consult a vet. There are more than a few anti-anxiety medication and nutritional supplements that can help control the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you calm anxiety in a dog?
There are a few things you can try to help calm an anxious dog. Provide a safe and comfortable space for your dog. This can be a crate or a room with plenty of soft bedding. Engage in calming activities with your dog, such as slow walks, gentle massages, or playing with toys that require mental stimulation. Try using calming aids, such as pheromone collars or diffusers, or natural remedies, like chamomile and lavender. Consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer for additional guidance and support. They may be able to recommend specific techniques or medications that can help your dog feel more relaxed. It's important to remember that every dog is different and what works for one may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the best approach for your dog's specific needs.
What does an anxiety attack in a dog look like?
An anxiety attack in a dog can manifest in a variety of ways, and the specific symptoms your dog displays may depend on the type of anxiety they are experiencing. Some common signs of an anxiety attack in a dog include panting, heavy breathing, trembling/shaking, restlessness, or rapid pacing. Your dog might be hiding or seeking out a small, enclosed space. It could be barking excessively, whining, licking, or chewing excessively. Your dog might even be urinating or defecating indoors. Additionally, you may notice a loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it's important to try to stay calm and provide them with a safe and comfortable environment. If the symptoms persist or worsen, it's a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer for additional guidance and support.
What triggers my dog's anxiety?
There can be many different triggers for anxiety in dogs, and it's important to remember that every dog is different and may have their own unique triggers. Dogs can become anxious when their routine is disrupted or changed, such as when their owner goes on vacation or when there is a change in the household. Some dogs may experience anxiety when separated from their owner, which is known as separation anxiety. Dogs may become anxious in response to loud noises, such as fireworks, thunderstorms, or construction work. Dogs that do not get enough exercise or mental stimulation may become anxious or restless. Dogs may become anxious due to physical discomfort or pain caused by an underlying health issue. Dogs that have not been adequately socialized may become anxious in new or unfamiliar situations. Some dogs may be more prone to anxiety due to their breed or genetics. If you are concerned about your dog's anxiety, it is important to talk to a veterinarian or a qualified animal behaviorist. They can help you identify the specific triggers for your dog's anxiety and develop a treatment plan to manage it.
What dog breeds have the most anxiety?
It is difficult to say which dog breeds are more prone to anxiety, as every dog is unique and can be affected by anxiety for different reasons. However, some breeds may be more prone to anxiety due to their genetics or breed traits. For example, herding breeds such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds may be more prone to anxiety due to their high energy levels and need for mental and physical stimulation. Similarly, terrier breeds, such as West Highland White Terriers and Scottish Terriers, may be more prone to anxiety due to their high energy and strong prey drive. It's important to note that any breed of dog can experience anxiety and that it is not limited to certain breeds. If you are concerned about your dog's anxiety, it is important to talk to a veterinarian or a qualified animal behaviorist.
What are the critical signs of stress in dogs?
There are several signs that may indicate that a dog is experiencing stress. These signs can vary depending on the individual dog and the specific situation. Dogs may pant or breathe heavily when they are anxious or stressed. They may shake or tremble when they are stressed or afraid. Some dogs may whine or whimper, while some may lick their lips when they are feeling anxious or stressed. Dogs often yawn excessively and may also avoid eye contact or look away. Some dogs may adopt a tense or rigid body posture. Dogs may exhibit changes in behavior, such as becoming more aggressive or withdrawn, when they are feeling anxious or stressed.
More on Common Symptoms to Watch For in Dogs
The 7 Unsuspected Pet Dangers of Summer
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Dogs
Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats and Dogs
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.