13 Signs That Your Dog May Be Suffering From Anxiety and How to Help
By Judith Aleguen | Updated on Jan 14, 2023
Anxiety in dogs can affect any breed, though the severity of symptoms may vary from dog to dog. All dogs feel anxious occasionally, but it can cause various secondary problems if unchecked. Here, we'll discuss the most typical signs of anxiety in dogs and the reasons for and methods of alleviating this condition. In this way, you can be prepared to help your dog if it ever experiences anxiety. Here are some signs of anxiety in dogs!
1. When the dog exhibits excessive barking or whining.
Dogs' bark is a form of communication when they try to alert you of possible threats or express happiness, sadness, excitement, and fear. However, excessive barking or whining may indicate something is wrong with your dog.
The best way to help an anxious dog barking or whining excessively is to determine what triggers this kind of behavior. Using bark collars and other anti-barking devices can also help discourage excessive barking. Still, these things should be used as a last option and with caution and only after consulting with a qualified trainer or behaviorist.
2. When the dog shows destructive behavior, such as chewing or digging.
To relieve boredom, express frustration, or vent stress, dogs often dig or chew at exciting things around them. However, if it becomes destructive or excessive behavior, it may indicate that your dog is feeling differently.
If your dog tends to chew and destroy furniture, giving it some safe toys and bones to chew is one of the things that can help. If your dog enjoys digging, give it time outside or provide a sandbox in your backyard or an enclosed area where the dogs can explore. In addition, providing your dog with enough mental and physical exercise can also help prevent boredom-related and destructive behaviors.
3. The dog becomes overly aggressive.
Another symptom of dog anxiety to look out for is overly aggressive behavior, such as biting and nipping. Please note that minor aggression in dogs is pretty standard, especially in some breeds, since it is their way of expressing various emotions, including territorial defense, self-defense, or even plain stress.
However, unprovoked or excessive aggression may indicate that your dog is experiencing severe anxiety or stress. If you have a dog acting out aggressively due to anxiety, your first step should be to consult a vet or a professional dog trainer to ensure there isn't a more serious medical issue at play.
4. When the dog is panting or drooling excessively.
Dogs' panting and drooling can serve various purposes, including controlling temperature and signs of excitement, fear, or pain. Some dogs are known to be droolers; however, if it becomes excessive, consult a vet immediately to rule out more serious causes, like a fever, infection, or dental issues.
5. Your dog loses their appetite or changes their eating habits.
When dogs become anxious, they sometimes lose their appetite, stop eating, or start eating differently. It could also be due to fear or the side effects of certain medications. It is best to consult a veterinarian to ensure the problem isn't caused by something more serious medically, like gastrointestinal distress, dental distress or pain, infection, or organ failure.
6. When a dog becomes so restless and won't stop pacing around.
Separation anxiety and other environmental changes can also trigger restlessness and pacing in pets. Your dog can feel less anxious and spend less time restless and pacing if you give them plenty of physical and mental stimulation opportunities, like daily walks or exercise and playtime with interactive toys or puzzles.
Always check with your vet to ensure there aren't any hidden health problems or conditions like hyperthyroidism, dementia, and chronic pain, which can also lead to restlessness and pacing.
7. When your dog hides or avoids people or other animals.
The environment, recent changes, and traumatic experiences can all trigger this kind of behavior, and to help the dog, it is crucial to determine the root cause. Your dog can gain confidence and trust through gradual socialization and positive exposure to new people, places, and animals. Always check with your vet to ensure there aren't any underlying health problems like extreme pain, loss of hearing or vision, or cognitive decline.
8. The dog loses interest in activities it once loved.
When dogs feel anxious or overwhelmed, they may lose interest in their usual activities like playing, going for walks, and interacting with their families. Several factors may have contributed to this behavior, including recent environmental or routine shifts. Giving your dog plenty of exercises and mentally engaging toys, for example, can help to reduce anxiety and increase their enthusiasm for play.
9. When the dog urinates or defecates anywhere in the house.
When dogs experience negative emotions like stress and anxiety or feel overwhelmed, they might have potty accidents inside the house. It's possible that alterations to their routine or environment are to blame for this behavior. Other medical conditions, such as urinary tract infections, incontinence, and diarrhea, can also lead to accidents in the house. Always check with your vet to ensure there aren't any underlying health problems.
13. When dogs have dilated pupils or wide-eyed stares.
When dogs are experiencing intense emotional states such as stress, anxiety, or excitement, they may exhibit a physiological response manifested by dilated pupils. Physical and mental stimulation, such as daily exercise and interactive toys, can help reduce anxiety. You can also aid your dog's adjustment by making their living space pleasant and secure and rewarding good behavior. Always check with your vet to ensure there aren't any underlying health problems like tumors, head trauma, or even eye conditions.
11. The dog is shivering or trembling.
A dog's trembling or shaking could be a sign of anxiety, so finding out what's making them nervous is the first step in helping them. It can be reduced by giving it plenty of opportunities to exercise its body and mind through playtime with interactive toys and puzzles. Hypoglycemia, fever, and hypothyroidism are other medical conditions that can cause shivering and trembling, so always check with your vet when these cases persist.
12. When they try to flee or escape.
When dogs are overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed, they may try to flee. Inadequate confinement, a lack of socialization, or traumatic experiences in the past are other potential causes. Keeping your dog mentally and physically engaged through playtime and exercise can help reduce anxiety and the need to run away. It's also crucial that you keep your dog from being confined for too long and that the area in which it is kept is secure.
13. The dog has difficulty sleeping or staying asleep.
Mood, anxiety, and exhaustion can interfere with a dog's ability to fall or stay asleep. Several factors may have contributed to this behavior, including recent environmental or routine shifts. If your dog is having trouble falling or staying asleep, it may be anxious about something. Other medical issues, such as pain, thyroid problems, or chronic diseases, can also contribute to a lack of sleep or an inability to stay asleep.
How to help your dog when they have anxiety?
Employ positive reinforcement training.
Anxiety is just one of many behavioral issues that can be helped by positive reinforcement training for dogs. Any item or behavior the dog values can be used as a reward for behaving calmly and quietly. In addition, it can foster an amicable relationship between you and your dog.
Use counter-conditioning and desensitization.
Counter-conditioning is when owners can alter their dog's negative reaction to a given stimulus by associating it with a pleasant experience. Doing so will help the dog associate with pleasant memories rather than scary ones.
Desensitization is another method used in training where the owner gradually, safely, and positively exposes them to scary or potentially threatening stimuli. Although these methods are not a quick fix, and the dog's emotional response must be changed gradually, they can be very useful in assisting anxious dogs when applied correctly.
Provide a consistent daily routine for them to look forward to.
Dogs benefit greatly from having a regular, predictable routine because it gives them a sense of safety and stability. Meal times, exercise sessions, bathroom breaks, and playtime are just some of the activities that can be built into their daily routine.
Create a safe and comfortable space for your dog.
If your dog suffers from anxiety, you can help him feel more at ease by providing him with a secure and relaxing environment. There should be a soft bed, some fun toys, and a quiet corner where the dog can get some peace if they ever get overwhelmed by the world around them.
Ideally, this area would be situated in a secluded, low-traffic part of the house where the dog would feel safe and comfortable. It must be large enough space to move around but not so large that it causes anxiety or stress and has adequate space to lie down, stand up, and turn around.
Use calming pheromone sprays or diffusers.
Dogs, like many other animals, produce chemical substances called pheromones, which can influence the actions of other dogs. These synthetic pheromones are released into the air, and if a dog breathes them in, it may experience a mellower disposition.
There are various ways to administer calming pheromones, including sprays, plug-in diffusers, and collars. If your dog has a preexisting medical condition or is currently taking medication, you should consult your veterinarian or a qualified dog trainer before using any of these products.
Use anti-anxiety medication prescribed by a vet.
Anti-anxiety medication can help alleviate the dog's anxiety, making them more receptive to positive reinforcement training and other forms of behavior modification. These medications should be used under the supervision of a veterinarian due to the possibility of adverse effects and drug interactions. Furthermore, remember that anti-anxiety medication is not a long-term solution to anxiety and should be used with other methods like positive reinforcement training, providing a consistent daily routine, and making a safe and comfortable space.
In summary, if anxiety in dogs goes untreated, it can lead to several negative consequences for their physical and emotional well-being. So, it's essential to deal with a dog's anxiety as soon as possible and work with a vet, professional dog trainer, or behaviorist to come up with a treatment. Once anxiety is out of the picture, you can surely have a happy and healthy life with your amazing pets!