Over recent years, the conversation around mental health has become much less stigmatized. The public has continuously provided support for those experiencing depression and anxiety. However, animal mental health is a far less common topic of conversation and is just as severe of an issue. As a pet owner, it is important to take into account your pet’s physical health and mental well-being. At Spot Pet Insurance, we want you and your pet to live happy and healthy lives, physically and mentally. We’re here to help you navigate these medical issues that can need more complex treatment than a simple visit to the veterinarian.
Although it is extremely common in dogs, anxiety can often be harder to diagnose in animals than humans. Because we do not have the ability to verbally communicate with our furry friends, figuring out why your pup has been acting differently can be quite a challenge. However, there are several signs that can be a dead giveaway that your dog is experiencing a stressful or difficult time, as well as multiple easy ways for you to help your canine ease these feelings of anxiety.
Types of Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety is a broad term: there are many specific categories of disease your dog may be experiencing. For example, the most common type of anxiety that many pups deal with is separation anxiety. Dogs often tend to associate their owners with food, play and exercise. When their owner is not nearby, they can panic. Teaching your pup to be okay alone is key when they’re young to avoid separation anxiety from developing as they grow older.
Another common form of anxiety in dogs is the fear of loud noises. You’ve probably heard to keep your dog in a safe and secure area on the Fourth of July when loud fireworks will be set off all night. This is a natural fear for canines. Some are more frightened than others. Be sure to keep an eye on your furry friend during thunderstorms or if there is construction happening nearby.
A change in dogs’ environments can also trigger extreme anxiety in some cases. Just like most humans, dogs learn to thrive in a routine. If that routine suddenly changes, it can stress them out. This is why some pups are nervous when taken to the vet, during travel or when you move houses.
Signs Your Dog is Experiencing Anxiety
It is important to note that many of the common signs of canine anxiety can be attributed to a variety of causes and do not automatically mean your dog is experiencing anxiety. Be sure you consult with your vet before diagnosing your pooch to figure out the best route of treatment and to make sure the symptoms you’re observing in your dog aren’t due to a different underlying health condition. If your pup does have anxiety, you may notice he or she has been experiencing one or a combination of the following symptoms:
Excessive barking, whining, or whimpering
Trembling or shaking
Lack of appetite
Inability to relax or stay put in one place
Excessive licking or chewing on themselves
Tendency to escape
Avoidance of or hiding from humans
A lot of these symptoms start very subtly. Try to be extremely observant about your dogs’ behavior so you can catch unusual activity and prevent the anxiety from worsening. Not every dog expresses their anxiety in the same way. You may just see one of the above symptoms show up when your dog is feeling anxious.
Treatment and How You Can Help
Like we said, the earlier you discover your pup’s anxiety, the better. You will have far more success in treating the anxiety if you catch it while they’re a puppy or as soon as it begins to develop. There are several options for treating pet anxiety, one of which being behavioral training. Change their negative association of you leaving to a positive one. This is easier said than done and takes a lot of time and practice, but if done correctly is extremely effective.
The recommended for the treatment of separation anxiety is by giving your dog something positive, like a toy, when you leave the house.
Just as you would cuddle a child when they’re crying, holding or petting your pup when they’re anxious has proven to be quite effective in some cases. As simple as it sounds, a tight hug is extremely comforting to some dogs and can help ease their panic. However, some experts argue that this method can reinforce their behavior and teach them to continue their anxiety-induced symptoms.
Simply planning ahead can be one of the best treatments for your dog’s anxiety. This could mean finding a great doggy day care to preoccupy your pet in while you go away for work to deal with separation anxiety. Regular exercise and a relaxing home environment are wonderful remedies for anxious pups and are key to keeping their minds happy and healthy.
In more extreme cases when behavioral, at-home training does not seem to be enough for your pooch, consider seeking medical treatment to help ease your dog’s anxiety. Just as many humans choose to take medication to help manage their anxiety, dogs have the same option. Some vets will prescribe dogs with a severe fear of loud noises anti-anxiety medication if there is a thunderstorm in the forecast to avoid a panic attack. Speak with your vet to figure out the best option for your furry friend based on their personality and the severity of their condition.
Spot Pet Insurance’s top priority is helping keep you and your dog’s physical and mental selves happy and healthy. If not dealt with correctly, anxiety can take over your pup’s life and create some pretty poor habits.