What You Should Know About Treating Dog Anxiety

Dog Anxiety - The Causes Natural Treatment how to comfort an anxious dog

Natural Ways to Treat Dog Anxiety

It’s not all chew toys and tail wagging for every furry friend. Anxiety is a widespread obstacle that many dogs and owners endure. Some varying causes and stressors may be challenging to avoid, but luckily dog anxiety can be alleviated or lessened. As a society, we have expanded our understanding of anxiety disorders within humans, but what about our pups? They suffer from similar symptoms, which may seem daunting to tackle; however, we have some simple, go-to tips and tricks to keep your pup calm, cool, and collected!

What Causes Anxiety in Dogs

It’s crucial to try and pinpoint a possible origin in which the anxiety is stemming from to find solutions for your dog’s discomfort. Causes can look different for each dog, depending on what their “normal” temperament and habits are. Direct reasons for anxious behavior may vary, and some dogs suffer from more severe anxiety than others. There are multiple potential contributing factors, such as a change in environment, a dog’s existing mental state, or physical vitality. All of these can cause some severe stress for a pup.

There are a handful of common causes known to induce anxiety. Knowing these can help owners identify some factors which may be lending to an increase in stress and discomfort.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the highest reported causes of stress and one of the most avoidable. Owners can lead busy lives, and unfortunately, not everyone has the benefit of taking their pup along for the ride. For many, dealing with this dynamic is just a part of being a pet owner, but it can take a toll on both owner and dog. Due to the language barrier, we don’t always know where a dog’s separation anxiety stems from, but there may be some situations that trigger your pup to lose their cool, including:

  • A change in routine or environment including household changes (i.e., loss of a family member or fellow pet)
  • Particularly for rescues, history of abandonment or extended stays at multiple shelters
  • Deprivation of social interactions
  • Not used to being left alone for long periods

Fear Induced Anxiety

Fear-induced anxiety can lead to an array of headaches, including triggered aggression and outbursts. If a dog has experienced trauma — especially common for rescued animals — the backlash of those memories and events can directly induce anxiety. Whether their owner is sitting right next to them in the living room or stepped out to run an errand, these pups can experience anxiety for varying reasons similar to separation anxiety. 

The severity of fear-induced anxiety in dogs is on a sliding scale, typically depending on the gravity of past trauma. A couple of other common triggers may be:

  • Existing phobias (i.e., fear of confinement/small spaces could cause extreme panicking when being crated)
  • Forced into situations or unfamiliar environments

Physical Illness or Painful Condition

When investigating the cause of a dog’s anxiety, it’s crucial to rule out any illnesses or painful physical conditions off the bat. It’s vital to know a dog’s normal behavior and patterns because if anxious outbursts are out of the blue and sudden, this could point to a disease or ailment-driven cause. 

Consulting with a veterinarian is always the right call if a dog’s behavior changes drastically with no sense of direct cause to rule out any medical issues. Nonetheless, if a pup is feeling down in the dumps, it is highly probable they will exude anxious tendencies.

Aging & Elderly Frustrations

As dogs age, their physical vitality lessens, as well as their mental state. Just as in humans, an elderly dog may suffer from changes within their nervous system, including cognitive dysfunction, which can mess with their behavior and overall demeanor. Having trouble seeing, hearing, or simply moving around with ease are common aging ailments our senior dogs endure, which we all know can be extremely frustrating. Our veteran pups could always use some extra TLC!


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Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety

Every dog has its own set of characteristics, habits, and past experiences, therefore the way they communicate their discomfort can be unique too. The cause of anxiety can also factor into how signs or symptoms present themselves. Owners need to pay attention to any shifts in normal behavior, routines, or habits. Top signs and symptoms of anxiety within canine companions include:

  • Excessive drooling or panting
  • Restless or compulsive behavior such as pacing and over-licking
  • Hiding or avoiding interaction
  • Out-of-character accidents (i.e., peeing or pooing in the house)
  • Abnormal aggression
  • Unusual whining, whimpering and/or barking
  • Destructive behavior
  • Overall depressive, sad, or overly-fatigued state

How to Treat & Ease Anxiety for Your Dog

We all want our furry friends to feel at peace living out their best doggie life. In an ideal world, our dogs would always have plenty of toys, infinite belly rubs, and no anxiety. The reality of the matter is that sometimes, anxiety is an inevitable part of a pup’s life. Whether it’s trauma-induced, driven by fear, separation, or just the tale of time, a dog is more than likely to come into some form of anxious discomfort.

No need to worry, though, because there are some wonderful remedies and tricks of the trade that can keep anxiety at bay opening up room for more fun and treats!

Add in extra exercise and playtime.

That boost of endorphins humans experience while exercising is a great way to ease stress, and the same goes for our dogs! Introducing extra playtime outside with plenty of room to run around or an added loop in your daily walk can help minimize the onset of anxiety.

Always have distractions and toys on hand.

Distractions such as gnawers and other time-consuming treats are a great way to ease anxiety for your dog. Chewing is often misconceived as “bad behavior,” usually because the chewing involves a pair of expensive shoes or our favorite piece of furniture. However, gnawing has been found to provide positive stimulation and is a powerful distraction for canine friends.

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