How to spot dog anxiety symptoms, and what to do about them
Dogs are just as capable of feeling anxiety as people. Indeed, dog anxiety might even be more unpleasant than human anxiety, because it’s so difficult to explain and rationalise to a dog what’s going on. As a result, dogs can feel anxious in a whole host of situations where people wouldn’t.
Whether it’s during a storm, a fireworks display, a trip to the vet, or because their master has left the property (separation anxiety), their master has left the property (separation anxiety), it’s common to see dogs exhibit some of the Physiological symptoms of dog anxiety.
Those symptoms include, but are by no means limited to, vomiting, diarrhoea, and skin problems.
What are the physiological symptoms of dog anxiety, why do they occur, and how can you tell the difference between anxieties and other ailments that might be affecting your pet? Read on to find out more about the symptoms of dog anxiety.
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Anxiety symptoms in dogs to watch out for
Anxiety kicks the body into a fight or flight mechanism. A person or a dog who experiences anxiety is in a state of hyper-attention, responding to a perceived threat. This is an excellent evolutionary development if you need to get away from a predator — but it’s rather less helpful if there is no threat, and it is experienced over a long period of time. In fact, it can even result in harmful impacts on health.
Anxiety doesn’t just result in behavioural changes for a dog. There may also be physiological symptoms, too. Here is what to look out for, and why it might be impacting your dog’s health and wellbeing:
Vomiting and diarrhoea: Anxiety floods the body with chemicals, and this can cause tummy trouble for dogs. Increased adrenaline can cause spasms in the gastrointestinal system, and this can result in vomiting and diarrhoea.
Skin problems: Stress has been linked to several skin problems in dogs, from excessive licking and biting themselves, breaking out in rashes, and fur falling out.
Losing weight or gaining weight: Changes in appetite and weight is a symptom of anxiety in dogs, just as it is with people. There are functions of the body that kick into overdrive when hit by stress. The heart rate goes up, breathing speeds up, and blood pressure rises. This can cause a suppression of appetite. Conversely, an animal that is experiencing chronic stress may seek to comfort eat (just like a person) and end up gaining lots of weight.
Getting sick: Stress hormones decrease certain white blood cell production rates. This can inhibit the creation of antibodies and make it harder for a stressed out dog to fight off illness.
Dogs which have a history of trauma, like a rescue dog, might be more susceptible to anxiety and its symptoms than other dogs. However, there are still many positive steps you can take to alleviate the anxiety that your dog feels. These methods don’t necessarily even have to involve drugs; there are many natural methods for relieving dog anxiety as well.
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How not to confuse dog anxiety with another ailment
Diagnosing anxiety in a dog isn’t quite as easy as diagnosing a person with anxiety. Often, a human patient will say something helpful like ‘I have anxiety, and that can really speed the process of diagnosis along. Dogs, however, who are yet to master human speech, won’t actually literally tell their doctor that they have anxiety.
With some of the physiological symptoms of anxiety in dogs, like vomiting, diarrhoea and skin problems, there are many other problems that could be at play. It could be a mistake to see your dog vomiting and having diarrhoea over an extended period of time and simply chalk that up to anxiety.
Other issues might be afflicting your pet, such as:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
You don’t need to rush to the vet every time your dog exhibits the symptoms of anxiety, but if it is happening regularly, or it is happening at times where you wouldn’t usually consider your dog to be having an anxious time, it might be time to bring your pet into the vet and see if something else is going on.
Anxiety attack symptoms and signs in dogs
We’ve looked at the effect that long-term anxiety can have on a dog, but what about an anxiety attack? Sometimes anxiety can come on quickly, and take your dog’s emotions to an extreme place. Dog anxiety symptoms and signs include:
- Becoming restless
- Barking excessively
- Repetitive and/or compulsive behaviours
- Panting and drooling
- Defecating and urinating
- Depression, listlessness
- Destructive behaviours
Symptoms of dog anxiety in a car
If your dog becomes anxious in a car, this can be dangerous. While a normal bout of anxiety at your home may merely be unpleasant, a full blown anxiety attack in a car can potentially cause an accident, which may result in injury to either yourself, your dog, or both.
Be on the lookout for the symptoms of dog anxiety in your car. These are similar to the signs of anxiety outside of your car, but the fact that you’ve got your dog constrained in a small space may amplify them. For example, you might find that your dog:
- Excessive reluctance to get into the car
- Pacing or wanting to move around the car
- Scratching at doors or windows
- Shaking, trembling
- Whining, barking
If you think that your dog is suffering from car-related anxiety, take some additional steps before transporting them in your automobile. If one of the symptoms of their anxiety is that they start moving about the vehicle in a dangerous way, consider having them in a crate in your car.
If your dog is making a distracting amount of noise while you’re driving, you might try giving them something to eat, or some treats to distract them. Ideally, if you can travel in the car with another person — somebody who your dog trusts — they may be able to soothe your dog by giving them lots of pats and reassurance.
These tips don’t only work for car-related travel anxiety experienced by dogs. Dog travel anxiety symptoms may be found in other methods of transport as well. Whether it’s a van, a plane, or even a boat, the important thing is to be prepared and provide your dog with the support it needs, so that you can make your journey safely together.
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What is dog anxiety, and why do some dogs feel anxious?
For thousands of years, academics have pondered the question of anxiety. Much of their work went into describing and exploring the feeling of anxiety (The existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, for example, once wrote of anxiety that it was ‘the dizziness of freedom’).
However, with the scientific breakthroughs of the modern age, we can now speak scientifically about how anxiety works, and the physical toll it takes on the body — including the bodies of dogs.
For example, when anxious, adrenaline is released into a dog’s body. This ups heart rate, and blood pressure, and frees fatty acids – an important source of fuel for the body — as well as upping blood sugar levels.
How can you treat dog anxiety?
Of course, diagnosing dog anxiety is only half the battle. After you’ve established that your beloved pet does, indeed, suffer from an anxiety disorder, then begins the work of treating it. Depending on the kind and severity of the anxiety that your dog suffers from, there are several ways to remedy dog anxiety. To remedy the physiological symptoms of anxiety, you can try things like:
Feeding your dog supplements with herbal and vitamin rich ingredients Feed your dog foods that have been shown to help with the body’s reaction to anxiety, like beef and blueberries Improve your dog’s overall mental health by involving it in meaningful and engaging activities, and taking it for exercise regularly Buy an anxiety coat. These coats essentially work like weighted blankets for people, and release some of the chemicals in your dog’s brain that would be released when being hugged, which can be good for dealing with anxiety
If your dog is suffering the symptoms of anxiety, there is a solution. Here at Bondi Vet, we’ve got years of experience helping animals with all sorts of trials and tribulations. Check out our guide to calming dog anxiety naturally.