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Is Your Dog Suffering from Anxiety?

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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In a high-paced world with high-stress jobs and lifestyles, everyone is learning the effects of stress and anxiety. Appetite and weight changes, headaches, depression, digestive problems, nervous behavior, and loss of sleep are a handful of symptoms human anxiety-sufferers experience. Do dogs have anxiety? Is it similar to human anxiety? Can it be prevented?

The answers: Yes, Yes, and Yes!

Dogs absolutely experience anxiety. It is the owner's responsibility to be in tune to the dog and pick up on changes that might indicate that their dog is struggling with stress. Dogs experience anxiety because of psychological, physical, and environmental struggles. Without intervention, the results of a dog's stress may have detrimental affects on your home, your family, and the dog's overall health.

Signs of Dog Anxiety

Every dog shows signs of anxiety in his own way. If you are noticing a change in your dog's behavior, it is important to evaluate the situation, put yourself in your dog's collar, and determine if something is bothering him. Some possible signs of anxiety are listed below:

  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Excessive vocalizing
  • Changes in elimination habits
  • Self-mutilation (Excessive licking or chewing, lick granulomas, etc.)
  • Disobedience
  • Aggression
  • Health changes
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • New destructive behaviors (such as chewing)
  • Trembling
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive panting

    If your dog is showing signs of stress and anxiety, it is extremely important to see your veterinarian to rule out medical problems. If your dog is physically healthy, your veterinarian will help you take the next step in treating his stress.

    Parallels to Human Anxiety

    As you know, being stressed and anxious is unpleasant. If you feel your dog or cat is having a psychological struggle, relate it to your emotions and work hard to help your dog through his problem. As with human anxiety, without intervention your dog's immune system can become compromised, he may become severely depressed, and / or develop behavior problems. Eliminating the cause of the stress or helping your dog handle the situation is the key to relieving the anxiety.

    Causes of Dog Anxiety

    Determining the cause of your dog's anxiety can be a difficult task, as dogs cannot communicate to us what is bothering them. Begin by evaluating your dog's daily life. Could any of the following be a problem for your dog?

  • Separation from family
  • Boredom
  • Lack of exercise / play
  • Fear (Loud noises, other dogs, certain people or objects, etc.)
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Health problems / pain
  • Inadequate living quarters
  • Changes to daily routine
  • Loss or addition of family member or dog

    Prevention and Treatment

    There are several things you can do to minimize stress and anxiety in your dog. Making your dog's well-being a priority is the first step to preventing anxiety. For example, turn your dog's mental wheels through toys, games, and obedience and trick training. Exercise your dog's body through walks and / or playtime. Offer emotional support by giving your dog your time and love. Nurture his body by providing a high-quality, nutritious dog food, fresh water, and the shelter of your home.

    Treating anxiety in your dog can be a long, tedious process, but be persistent and you WILL help your dog find relief. Rule out medical causes of stress, eliminate other potential causes, enrich your dog's life with all the essentials, and explore PetPlace for articles on helping your dog handle the situations that make him anxious.

    Like humans, some animals are naturally prone to stress and some have serious struggles with past traumas. These dogs may need the assistance of a veterinary behaviorist or anti-anxiety medications prescribed by a veterinarian.

    The bottom line is that animals DO experience emotional stress, and it IS something to be taken seriously.

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