Anxiety is a common behavior in dogs, though each dog will have its own trigger. For some, loud noises such as thunderstorms and vehicles are the trigger, while for others, experiences such as being left home alone are. Below is a guide to what anxiety looks like in dogs, how you can help, and when to see a veterinarian.
What Anxiety Looks Like
Similar to humans, dogs experience and exhibit anxiety in a number of ways and what may be anxious behaviors for one dog may not be for another.
Anxious behavior can be as harmless as pacing and whining to as destructive as chewing and scratching. If you're unsure whether your dog is exhibiting signs of anxiety, look for a possible stimulus. Is there a vacuum cleaner running or a thunderstorm brewing? Are you about to walk out the door and head off to work for the day? If your dog is exhibiting unusual behaviors at times such as these, these behaviors are likely linked to anxiety and can usually be treated.
If you know your dog's triggers, working on reducing the fear and anxiety at home is a great first step.
Desensitization is a common technique, though it can worsen symptoms and needs to be practiced with care. If your dog fears thunderstorms, for example, playing a video on low of a thunderstorm so as to expose your dog to the noise but not overwhelm them is the first step in treatment. During this treatment process, you'll need to be aware of all signs of anxiety. When the signs begin to decrease, that's when the stimulus can be made stronger, such as bringing the volume up on the thunderstorm video. This gradual increase in the stimulus can lead to fewer anxious behaviors as your dog becomes aware that there is no real harm to them.
When It's Time to See a Vet
While at-home treatment works for some, other dogs are just too anxious and destructive and may need a professional's help.
If your dog's behaviors are extreme or they exhibit signs of self harm, it's time to bring them to a vet immediately. Sometimes desensitization and counterconditioning don't work and medicinal treatment or behavioral training by a professional may be necessary. While some owners would like to avoid medicine at all costs, for some dogs, medicine is the only thing that will give them a normal, non-stressed life and should be considered in extreme cases.
If your dog is dealing with anxiety and fear, it may be time to seek treatment. To learn more about anxiety in dogs and common treatment options and techniques, consult with your veterinarian or a facility like Beaver Lake Animal Hospital.