Dogs may suffer from much of the same problems we do as humans. It's not limited to breed or age and can occur in any dog that you have. Your dog may be suffering from anxiety, but you might mistake it for something else. Misdiagnosis makes it more difficult to pinpoint the problem and suggest solutions. If you don't realize your dog is suffering from anxiety, it may grow, and before you know it, your pet may develop a disorder. How can you tell if your dog has anxiety? How can an owner treat their dog's anxiety? This article looks at some of the telltale signs that can inform you about your dog's anxiety, and offer you simple ways to deal with it.
The Causes of Anxiety in Dogs
Dog anxiety may come from several factors. Among the most common ones you may encounter are:
Older dogs suffer from anxiety related to their advanced age. As dogs get older, they may start losing their cognitive ability. The term for this malady is cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Dogs with CDS become anxious because they don't know why they can't think straight. It's much like humans that are suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Typically, when pets are left alone, they aren't much bothered. However, if a pet became abandoned earlier in life, they develop separation anxiety when they can't see or hear their owner. In such a case, the pet may start displaying all sorts of undesirable behavior, including urinating and aggressiveness towards furniture or other fixtures.
Dogs that are startled by loud noises may demonstrate anxiety as part of their response mechanism. Strange people or animals may also prompt this anxious response. Specific situations such as a vet's office or car rides might also trigger their anxiety. While some dogs might only have minor anxiety episodes, their impact may be longer-lasting and only show up after a long time.
Typical Symptoms of Anxiety
One of the most common ways to spot anxiety in your dog is aggressive. There's no specification as to whether it's targeted aggression or not. They may just lash out at anything in front of them, including your pillows or other household items. Direct aggression happens when your pet aims its ire at a particular person or animal. If you have other pets, you might find that they start acting aggressively towards other animals in your home. Indirect aggression happens when a person gets between the dog and the target of its direct aggression. Both of these situations can be dangerous for the owner.
One of the most common fallouts of separation anxiety is urinating or defecation within the house. Separation anxiety leads to a dog working themselves up about their owner, not coming back for them. This sort of mental anguish can lead to them letting go, the fear causing them to urinate or defecate in their enclosures. Getting a calming pet bed can help them deal with separation anxiety. However, if they keep up this behavior, it may be more deep-seated than simple separation anxiety.
Destructive behavior also happens with separation anxiety. As an owner, you're likely to see this destruction near the entry and exit points of your home. While you might not care if your pet destroys some of the less critical stuff near your doors, there's something else to worry about here. Dogs that engage in destructive behaviors are also a danger to themselves. When they're kept in dog crates or enclosures, they might try to break out of them and injure themselves in the process.
Treating Anxiety in Dogs
The first step to treating your dog's anxiety is checking in with your veterinarian. They'll be better suited to diagnose the type of anxiety your dog suffers from and suggest potential ways to help them cope with it. A trained vet will spot what's triggering your pet's anxiety and help you deal with the root cause. Between counterconditioning and medicine, your dog will be back to its regular self in no time.
Counterconditioning is a type of training that replaces the anxiety response with something else. Instead of acting aggressively when the trigger prompts them, their response behavior might be something like sitting or focusing on their owner. Desensitization is another method of helping your dog cope with anxiety. This method sees the owner introducing the stimulus for the anxiety in small doses. Over time, the dog becomes desensitized to the trigger and doesn't pay it any mind. Obviously, these training techniques are only useful in some cases. Aging anxiety, for instance, may require medicine to help soothe the dog's emotions.
The drug selegiline is the most commonly used medication for dogs suffering from CDS. It reduces some of the symptoms of the disease and is even used extensively to treat anxiety in Europe. If your dog suffers from a severe anxiety disorder, then you may need to look at SSRIs and antidepressants. If your dog only acts up during certain events, such as thunderstorms, your veterinarian may prescribe benzodiazepine alongside other antidepressants to help them deal with the stress. Some dog owners have stated that they've seen some improvement in their dogs' condition while using CBD oil. While the therapy is still new and experimental, anecdotal evidence suggests some validity in its use. However, owners should be aware that CBD products are not yet regulated, so you're unsure what your furry friend is getting per dose.
Do What's Best for Your Dog
Most owners see their dogs as significant members of their family. Helping them deal with their anxiety is essential to keep them healthy throughout their lives. As a responsible owner, it's up to you to determine if your dog's suffering from this problem and how you can help them get over it. Pet anxiety is something that they can only overcome with your help. With training and the right medication, you'll both see an end to this problem.