Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety in dogs can be triggered by change, noises or the absence of the owner or family member. A dog can suffer from emotional problems which may have an impact on his physical health, so it's imperative to identify and treat anxiety and know how to prevent it in the future.

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs are sensitive to change or absence, and anxiety may be triggered by several factors:

  • Changes in the environment: new home, new décor
  • New pets, babies
  • The change of owners
  • The extended absence of the owner (a vacation or even long working hours)
  • Loss of a pet companion
  • Diet changes
  • Flights, car or train travel
  • Noise (i.e., fireworks, sirens, loud music)
  • Disease

If a dog feels a problem, a change or identifies a threat, his body will secrete chemicals that are also secreted when the dog is about to get in a fight. These chemicals lead to anxiety. If left untreated, anxiety and stress will lead to a weaker immune system and the susceptibility to infections and diseases.

Symptoms of Anxiety

A stressed dog will display a few symptoms that range from behavioral changes to physical symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Excessive chewing or licking of the coat, which can lead to hair loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Excessive barking
  • Excessive chewing and scratching of furniture, floor and different objects

Given that these symptoms may also point to other diseases and the fact that anxiety is difficult to pinpoint, the vet will rule out any physical problem before settling for the anxiety diagnosis.

Treating Canine Anxiety

  • Anxiety may be milder, in which case it may not need medication to be treated. Offering more attention and affection to your pet can help your dog overcome anxiety.
  • If the dog has lost a companion, you should remove any object that belonged to the other pet, and possibly get a new pet. Make sure to introduce the new pet gradually.
  • Medication is recommended only if the anxiety is severe: anti-anxiety drugs such as valium or prozac can be given to dogs. Be informed of the side effects of these drugs, which may include personality changes and sleepiness.
  • You can also opt for alternative treatment options such as pheromone therapy, which has been proven to calm dogs and heal anxiety.
  • Herbal remedies are also available: valerianum medicinalis, chamomile or passiflora incarnate can relieve stress in canines. These can be purchased as tinctures that can be administered in your pet's food or placed on your dog's skin or bedding, having a soothing smell.
  • If the anxiety is caused by an underlying medical condition, this should be treated.

Preventing Anxiety

You can easily prevent anxiety in your pet if you know what might trigger it in him. If your dog has anxiety due to noise, make sure to keep your dog away from fireworks or loud TV.

If your dog has anxiety because he feels alone, you should try spending more time with him or get a pet sitter to keep him company.