Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”. That is the human definition of anxiety but it also fits well for dogs.
When we talk about canine anxiety, we are generally referring to dogs that are displaying behaviors of anxiety that are inappropriate to the circumstance. For example, a dog that is anxious because the fire alarm is going off and everyone is running out of the house has clear reason to be anxious. Most of us would be anxious as well. But a dog that chews up part of the door when the owner goes to work is demonstrating an inappropriate response to a situation.
Many dog owners wonder if their dog is normal or has anxiety. Does your dog have anxiety? Learn more about anxiety with this article Is Your Dog Suffering from Anxiety?
Below we will review signs of canine anxiety, natural treatment options, dog anxiety medications, sedatives including the popular drug Trazodone for dogs, and sedative options for grooming.
How to Help With Anti-Anxiety for Dogs
Signs of anxiety in dogs can vary and include pacing, restlessness, inability to relax, inability to sleep, digestive problems, aggression, destructive behaviors, and/or even self-mutilating behaviors.
There are several questions to consider when dealing with an anxious dog. Your veterinarian may ask you these questions and the answers can lead to discussions about what else you can you do to help your dog or if your dog needs anti-anxiety medications.
- What behavior is appropriate and what is inappropriate for your dog?
- What behavior is tolerable to a dog owner and what is not? Some dog owners put up with a lot and others do not.
- When does the anxious behavior occur? Is it constant or intermittent?
- What is causing or contributing to the anxiety? Are there triggers? It is not always possible to answer this question but it is important to look for the underlying cause. Eliminating the source of the anxiety can be paramount to successful treatment.
- What has already been done to treat the anxiety? What has worked or not worked for your dog? Has anything made it worse?
If you have a dog with anxiety, and you believe his behavior to be inappropriate and want to help, the best recommendation is to see your veterinarian. Veterinarians have different backgrounds, interests, and skill sets when it comes to dealing with behavioral issues in dogs. It is possible, depending on the veterinarian and your situation, that they could refer you to a trained behaviorist.
Generally, medication is the last resort for treating dog anxiety. Most veterinarians prefer to treat it without drugs if possible. However, sometimes medications are prescribed as we will discuss below.
Next, we will review various treatments for canine anxiety from natural treatments to drug therapy. What will work best will depend on the behaviors your dog is exhibiting and your individual situation.
Eliminate the Underlying Cause for Your Dog’s Anxiety
The most natural way to try to treat canine anxiety is to look for and eliminate any underlying causes. For example, if the anxiety is due to boredom, then the treatment of choice is to make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise. For most healthy dogs, this means at least 20 minutes of nonstop activity twice a day.
In this particular case, the recommendation to ensure your dog gets plenty of exercises may involve you creating a fenced in yard, getting another dog to play with, frequent trips to a dog park, taking long walks, hiring professional dog walkers, and/or enrolling in doggie daycare. These are all great ways to ensure your dog gets lots of stimulation and is not “bored”. A tired dog is often a happy dog.
Behavioral Modification & Training
Some behaviorists have success with treating canine anxiety by using positive reinforcement for good behaviors and ignoring bad behaviors. Another recommendation is to seek obedience training. This can help instill independence and confidence in your dog. There are many books available on training as well as available trainers in most areas. Here is an article that covers some training basics – go to Guide to Training Your Dog.
Natural Treatments for Canine Anxiety
Holistic treatments for anxiety such as “calming treats” work in some dogs. Examples include Composure by VetriScience®, Zukes® Calming Dog Chews, Pet Naturals Calming Treats, Sam’s Yam Calmly Chamomile, Rescue Remedy, Animal Essentials Tranquility Blend, and Ark Naturals Happy Traveler.
Plug in adaptors called “Dog Appeasing Pheromone or DAP” have been shown to calm dogs. These adapters are liquids that are diffused when you plug them into an electrical outlet, similar to those diffusers you commonly find at stores such as Bath and Bodyworks. DAP is used to treat separation anxiety, neophobia (extreme or irrational fear or dislike of anything new, novel, or unfamiliar), noise phobia, and fear of transportation. Check out this article written by behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman who gives you tips and insight on using DAP in dogs.