Howling, pacing, and barking are normal dog behaviours, right? Wrong. When done excessively, these actions signal anxiety in dogs. Of course, witnessing anxiety behaviours in our beloved fur baby can be scary.
When anxiety strikes, we all need a support system to help get us through it. A dog’s anxiety comes in different shapes and forms. And as a pet owner / fur baby parent, it’s up to you to ease their stress and help your dog feel calm.
Some breeds are more prone to anxiety attacks than others. For instance, Poodle, German shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, Greyhounds, Retrievers and Collies tend to develop anxiety disorders versus other breeds. If you’ve noticed signs of stress or anxiety in your pup, what can you do?
Read on to learn about anxiety treatment for dogs. These solutions will help your pooch conquer their fears to feel calm and relaxed!
What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?
Your dog’s distress may come from specific fears and phobias, the most common form of anxiety being separation anxiety. Separation anxiety causes the pup to feel upset when they’re left alone. This stress can manifest in ways such as scratching at furniture or destroying your belongings. Dogs with separation anxiety often howl, bark, and make messes while you’re away (even if they are house-trained).
While separation anxiety in pets isn’t fully understood, it’s believed that this behavioural disfunction stems from traumatic events in their past. For instance, separation anxiety is most common in pups who have been neglected or who have had multiple owners. Additionally, it could be something as simple as changing your dog’s routine (such as moving house or the loss of another pet) that can trigger separation anxiety in a dog.
Just like people, it’s tricky to pinpoint exactly why an anxiety disorder has developed. The best thing to do is try to understand what triggers your dog’s anxiety, and have remedies on-hand to ease their stress.
Signs Your Pup Is Stressed
Similar to the anxiety attacks we humans endure, there are tell-tale signs your pooch is unhappy. They include:
- Extreme barking and crying
- Excessive panting
- Restlessness and pacing
- Upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Licking and biting repetitively
- Loss of appetite
- Skin conditions
If these tendencies seem to be unusual in your dog, it’s time to pay attention. Firstly, take note of what may have caused the anxiety – loud noises, separation, health conditions, and change of routine are the top stressors. Then, if need be, it’s time to intervene with some anxiety-relieving remedies. As an additional measure, consider setting up a pet insurance plan to make sure your pet is covered in case of emergencies.
Anxiety Treatment for Dogs?
If you’ve identified anxiety in your dog, don’t start to panic as well! There are several medical and natural solutions available to help calm their nerves.
#1 – Create a Safe Environment
Sometimes, helping your dog overcome anxiety can be as simple as rearranging their living space. Creating a safe and cozy environment for your pooch will stress and help them to stay calm.
How to create a safe place for your pup to relax in? Start with a dog bed and a weighted blanket. This will become a safe zone your dog can go if something startles him or her. FYI, weighted blankets releases serotonin and calms anxious thoughts.
Secondly, leave a few toys around that your dog can play with or chew on if they start to experience an anxiety flare-up. And for night time, leave a couple of low-lit lights on around the house.
Lastly, if you’re going out, a great idea is to turn on the TV for some background noise, or play some music. Try something calming, like a news channel or a chill Spotify playlist. The noise will minimise outside sounds and lower the risk of an anxiety attack.
#2 – Keep a Steady Routine
Dogs love routines. For dogs who are at risk of anxiety, and especially those who suffer from separation anxiety, sticking to a schedule is essential.
Feed and walk your pup around the same time every day so they can become familiar with consistent care. If you know the schedule will be disrupted, try to have anxiety remedies on-hand in case of an anxiety flare up.
#3 – Get Your Dog Moving
Just like humans, a little exercise goes a long way in reducing anxiety. Studies show that exercising with your dog helps you both to stress less, stay fit, and it lowers destructive behaviours in dogs. So, if you and your pup are both feeling stressed and anxious, leash up and take a long walk to ease your minds.
A nice long walk or run around the yard stimulates serotonin production. The more serotonin produced, the better you feel both mentally and physically. This applies to humans as well as dogs!
#4 – Hemp and CBD Remedies
CBD is a natural ingredient found in cannabis and hemp. And yes, CBD and hemp treatments are now available for anxiety-ridden pooches.
How does it work? CBD is a safe and natural dog anxiety remedy which works by entering the brain to stimulate serotonin production and relieve anxiety. If your pup is showing signs of stress or is triggered by something specific (such as going to the vet or fireworks), a small drop of CBD or hemp oil can calm them down.
As a bonus, CBD oils can also be used to relieve joint pain in older dogs. A 2017 study by Cornell University found CBD oil given to dogs with osteoarthritis increased their comfort and eased bodily pain.
There are various herbal oils and treats available for dogs of all shapes and sizes. Created by two brothers looking for a way to ease anxiety and pain in their pups, Innovet is the number rated hemp oil on the market.
#5 – Desensitisation Therapy
Desensitisation therapy is used to relieve anxieties and phobias in humans, but it’s useful for dogs, too. The treatment is most effective when administered while the dog is still a puppy.
Desensitisation therapy might sound a little scary, and it should be conducted by a professional dog trainer. During treatment, the dog is exposed to its fears at a low intensity in a controlled environment. The idea is that the pup can safely learn to overcome its stress from the beginning.
This type of therapy is best for dogs with specific anxiety triggers. This includes being alone, being around other dogs, or dark rooms. After completing desensitisation therapy, your dog should be able to stay calm during situations that used to trigger anxiety.
#6 – Anti-Anxiety Medication for Dogs
If your dog has an anxiety disorder that hasn’t been solved by natural or behavioural remedies, then medications are another option. A trip to the vet might result in SSRIs or antidepressants being prescribed. These medications are powerful, so they are best used with caution, and sparingly.
Selegiline for dogs is prescribed for senior dogs with chronic anxiety. Benzodiazepine is administered to dogs with severe anxiety from triggers like fireworks, thunderstorms, and car rides.
Keep in mind that anxiety medications shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole treatment for your pup, but they are helpful in high-anxiety situations when you need a solution quickly. Try to also incorporate natural remedies into your dog’s anxiety treatment, such as using weighted blankets and keeping your dog active.
#7 – Be the Best Dog Parent You Can Be
Anxiety can be scary for a fur parent to handle, but with the right know-how you can create a loving environment where your baby feels safe and secure. Whether it’s sticking to a routine and making sure your dog gets a proper amount of exercise, or administering herbal remedies like CBD and hemp oil, there are a variety of solutions to help your pup feel at ease in high-stress situations.