Is Your Dog Showing Signs of Anxiety?
Does your dog seem more on edge than usual?
Have you noticed any worrisome behavior changes recently?
Anxiety is surprisingly common in dogs, but the symptoms can be subtle. This article will cover the most common signs of anxiety in dogs, from physical symptoms to behavioral changes.
Read on to find out if your pup may have anxiety and what you can do to help them feel more comfortable.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs
An anxious dog may exhibit various physical symptoms that indicate they are feeling stressed or uneasy.
Here are some of the most common physical signals that your dog’s anxiety levels may be elevated:
- Excessive Drooling – If your dog seems to be drooling more than usual without a clear trigger or stimulus, anxiety could be the cause. Excessive drooling is thought to be a self-soothing behavior in dogs.
- Panting – Rapid breathing or panting when your dog is at rest could point to anxiety, especially if it occurs outside their normal temperature regulation. Panting helps dogs release stress.
- Yawning – Frequent yawning for no reason can also be a sign of anxiety in dogs. Like panting, yawning may help them self-soothe.
- Shaking or Trembling – If your dog is shaking, shivering or trembling for no apparent reason, it is likely a stress response. Trembling and shaking occurs when adrenaline is released.
- Pacing – Repetitive pacing behavior or appearing unable to settle is common with dog anxiety. They may walk fixed paths repeatedly. Pacing helps anxiously dogs burn nervous energy.
If your dog is exhibiting physical symptoms like drooling, panting, yawning, shaking or pacing with no obvious trigger, anxiety could be the underlying cause.
But behavioral changes are also important to watch out for.
Behavioral Changes to Look Out For
In addition to physical symptoms, anxious dogs often display behavioral changes as well. Here are some of the most common anxiety-related behaviors to keep an eye out for:
- Aggression or Reactivity – Dogs may act out if feeling anxious or insecure. This includes unusual aggression toward people or other animals.
- Destructiveness – Anxious dogs may engage in destructive behavior like chewing, digging or shredding items when alone. This helps them relieve stress.
- Excessive Barking or Howling – Frequent vocalizations for no clear reason can indicate anxiety in dogs. The barking may get worse when left alone.
- Hiding – Dogs may hide or retreat to small spaces to feel more secure when anxious. This can include under furniture, in closets or behind furniture.
- Attention Seeking – Excessively following the owner, whining or clingy behavior may signify separation anxiety. Dogs try to prevent being left alone.
- House Soiling – Anxious dogs, especially those with separation anxiety, may urinate or defecate when left alone or around departure cues.
Take note if your dog shows aggression, destruction, vocalizing, hiding or other behavioral changes without an obvious trigger. These are often tied to anxiety in dogs.
Common Triggers for Dog Anxiety
There are many potential triggers for anxiety in dogs. Some of the most frequent causes of dog anxiety include:
Dogs with separation anxiety become very distressed when left alone. Signs include:
- Distress behaviors like vocalizing, pacing or destruction shortly after the owner departs
- Excessive greetings upon the owner’s return, like jumping, whining or barking
- Following the owner from room to room to prevent being left alone
Loud noises like thunder, fireworks or construction can trigger anxiety responses in noise-sensitive dogs:
- Hiding, shaking or attempting to escape when loud noises occur
- Showing signs of a stress response before noises even start in anticipation
- Destructiveness, salivating or house soiling during loud events
Some dogs experience high anxiety around car travel or being in carriers:
- Heavy drooling, panting or pacing in the car or carrier
- Vomiting during or shortly after the ride
- Trembling during transit or while being secured in a carrier
Dogs with social anxiety may be fearful of unfamiliar people, dogs or environments:
- Unusual shyness, fear or aggression around strangers coming to the home
- Reactivity or aggression when encountering unfamiliar dogs or people
- Resistance to entering new environments like the vet’s office
If your dog shows anxiety mainly in certain situations like being alone, during loud noises or around strangers, pinpointing the trigger can help. But some dogs have more generalized anxiety.
Seeking Professional Help for Dog Anxiety
If your dog is displaying signs of anxiety, especially if it is severe or impacting their quality of life, it’s important to seek professional help. Here are some professionals who can assist with dog anxiety:
Start by taking your dog to their veterinarian for a thorough exam. This will rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing the anxiety symptoms. Your vet can also discuss prescription anti-anxiety medications that may help.
Certified Dog Trainer
A certified dog trainer can design a customized behavior modification plan. This may involve counterconditioning and desensitization techniques to change your dog’s emotional response to triggers.
For more severe cases, a veterinary behaviorist can prescribe anti-anxiety medications. They can also work closely with your family to tailor a detailed behavior modification program for your dog’s unique needs.
Getting personalized guidance from a veterinary professional ensures your dog’s anxiety is managed safely and effectively. Make sure to choose an experienced trainer or behaviorist.
At-Home Tips to Reduce Anxiety in Dogs
In addition to professional help, there are many things you can try at home to help create a calmer environment for an anxious dog. Here are some tips:
Maintain a Consistent Routine
Sticking to regular schedules for feeding, walks, playtime and other activities helps anxious dogs feel more secure. Minimize changes to their routine when possible.
Limit Exposure to Triggers
If you know certain noises, places or situations cause anxiety for your dog, avoid exposing them when feasible. For example, play white noise during storms or leave them at home instead of taking them to crowded events.
Provide Plenty of Exercise and Enrichment
Giving your dog adequate physical and mental stimulation helps prevent boredom and burn off nervous energy. But avoid pushing them beyond their comfort zones.
Use Calming Aids
Consider using calming supplements, anxiety wraps, pheromone diffusers or calming music/TV made specifically for dogs. These can help lower stress levels at home.
With some lifestyle adjustments and calming aids, you can start helping your anxious dog feel more relaxed. But seek professional support if home solutions aren’t resolving the problem.
When is it Time to Seek Professional Help?
If your dog’s anxiety is severe, chronic, or not improving with solutions tried at home, it’s definitely time to seek professional help. Here are some signs that your dog’s anxiety requires more assistance:
- The anxiety happens frequently and intensely
- It is hugely impacting their quality of life
- Your dog is causing harm to themselves, others or property
- At-home management efforts have not made a noticeable difference
You should also seek veterinary guidance right away if your dog’s anxiety leads to:
- Loss of appetite or dramatic weight loss
- Lethargy, depression or other signs of illness
- Self-mutilation, excessive licking or hot spots
- Anti-social behavior like unprovoked aggression
Getting customized treatment plans from certified professionals can make a world of difference for anxious dogs. They have the expertise needed to get anxiety under control and improve your dog’s wellbeing.
The Takeaway: Recognizing and Managing Dog Anxiety
- Anxiety is common in dogs and can show up through physical and behavioral symptoms
- Triggers like separation, noise, travel or social situations often spur dog anxiety
- Veterinarians, trainers and behaviorists offer specialized treatment for anxiety
- At home, maintain routines, limit triggers, exercise your dog, and use calming aids
- Seek professional help right away if your dog’s anxiety is severe or not improving
While living with an anxious dog can be challenging, there are many ways to help them feel more secure and comfortable.
Pay attention to any anxiety symptoms so you can intervene early.
Common Questions About Dog Anxiety
What causes anxiety in dogs?
Dog anxiety can be caused by genetic factors, lack of socialization, trauma, major life changes, and experiences that have sensitized the dog to specific triggers. Common triggers include separation, noises, travel, and social situations.
At what age does anxiety develop in dogs?
Anxiety issues can show up in dogs at any age, but they often begin 6 months to 2 years old as dogs go through key socialization periods. Separation anxiety typically appears between 6-18 months of age.
Can dog anxiety go away on its own?
In mild cases, some anxious dogs may adapt over time and become less reactive to triggers. But anxiety usually won’t resolve on its own. Professional treatment is needed for lasting improvement in most cases.
What medications help dog anxiety?
Veterinarians may prescribe anti-anxiety medications like fluoxetine, clomipramine, or benzodiazepines for dogs with severe anxiety. Supplements like melatonin, L-theanine, and CBD oil may also help reduce anxiety.
How can I comfort my anxious dog at home?
Use a calming vest or diffuser, provide a safe space, stick to routines, exercise them regularly, use puzzles/chews to relieve stress, play calming music, and avoid exposing them to triggers unnecessarily.
When should I seek veterinary help for my dog’s anxiety?
See your vet if your dog’s anxiety is severe, chronic, or not improving with at-home solutions. Also seek help if the anxiety is impacting their quality of life or leading to other behavioral issues.