Most pet owners are unaware that anxiety in pets is a common condition in many cats and dogs. Thankfully, anxiety is a condition that you can treat with some patience, consistency and a lot of love.
If you suspect your dog or cat may be suffering from anxiety, or you want to know more about it, then look no further than this blog! We will break down what anxiety in pets looks like and how you can help your Aurora and Newmarket pets.
Types of dog anxiety
There are a few types of anxiety disorders that your pets can suffer from. Here is a breakdown of different types of anxiety:
This type of anxiety occurs when your dog becomes separated from you. Our pets become very attached to us. We are their family and their entire world. So when you leave them, it can be a huge deal for some pets. If you confine your dog to an area while you’re away, they may try to do everything possible to escape. This can have significant consequences as they may hurt themselves in the process. They may also bark incessantly, destroy furniture and whine or cry until you return.
Our dogs are so intelligent. They know when we are preparing to leave. They pick up on cues like putting on your shoes, picking up a bag or even putting on a jacket. From the moment they see this, their anxiety will kick in.
Generalized anxiety is a disorder in which a dog displays fear of everything. This type of anxiety surfaces regardless of the situation your animal is in. They could be inside with you sitting on the couch watching tv but still seem uneasy. The feelings of anxiety may become stronger when your pet is exposed to certain stimuli. In some cases, owners may describe their dog as constantly seeming unhappy. With this type of anxiety, it is essential to be well-versed in canine communication and understand their body language. This will help you determine in what situations your dog is the most uncomfortable.
This type of anxiety is linked to dogs or cats being afraid of leaving the house or going to a specific location such as the vet. Your pet may also have environmental anxiety from sounds that come from outside, such as thunder, sirens, alarms, and fireworks. Since dogs have very sensitive hearing, these loud noises can be very troubling. Hearing other dogs crying at the vet can also set your dog off.
Social anxiety occurs when a dog or cat is afraid of other people and other dogs or cats. This could happen to dogs or cats that come from rescue centres. Rescues can be very stressful environments for animals. Other dogs are barking, crying and whining. Being around all that noise for a long time can affect your pet.
Social anxiety can also occur in different environments like the dog park, walking through crowds with many people, and even at the veterinarian.
Signs of anxiety in dogs
There are a lot of general signs of anxiety, but the way your pet displays them will differ since all dogs and cats are different. The most important thing to do when trying to spot signs of anxiety in pets is to look at their body language. Since our pets don’t have the luxury of using words to communicate, we have to decode their body language.
This can include subtle signs, like overreactions or unusual reactions when there are changes in location, people, or social situations. It might show up as barking or overreactive but can also be as simple as not being interested in food when in a new environment.
Here is a list of behaviours you might see if you suspect your pet is suffering from anxiety:
- Pacing or general restlessness
- Ears back and/or tail tucked
- Shaking or trembling
- Not eating on their normal schedule or being uninterested in food.
- Urinating or defecating in the house/where they shouldn’t
- Destructive behaviour (tearing up furniture, carpets, etc.)
- Excessive barking
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviours
- Constantly looking for an escape (fight or flight)
- Ex: continually hiding in a crate or corner, behind furniture, etc.
- Digging or trying to escape enclosures
Causes Of Anxiety in Pets
The cause of anxiety can depend on your dog. It can usually come about during changes in their environment or routine.
Dogs are creatures of habit. They do not like changes. So do your best to keep things as consistent as possible to reduce the risk of anxiety developing.
After almost two years, your dog is used to you being at home all the time. It is a significant change for them to no longer have you around as often anymore. Unfortunately, separation anxiety is more prevalent now since many people obtained pets during the pandemic and are now returning to work.
Treatment of dog anxiety
If your pet has been formally diagnosed with severe anxiety by your vet, they may want to prescribe medications to help calm down any severe symptoms. Any medications or supplements given to your dog to help curb their anxiety should also accompany proper training methods.
Most of the time, proper training methods can treat anxiety disorders. The most widely known training methods are Desensitization and counter-conditioning.
Desensitization is a method that helps your dog associate a trigger or an action that makes them anxious as something that isn’t a big deal. For example, if your dog starts to whine or cry whenever you pick up your keys, you can do this and then walk around your house for a bit to show them that getting your keys isn’t a big deal. You can also feed them a treat so they create a connection between you picking up your keys and getting something yummy!
Counter conditioning is pairing their triggers or something negative with something positive. This is another excellent way to help them see that the things that give them anxiety aren’t so bad!
You need to give them something nice when the trigger comes around, so they try to enjoy it instead of fearing it.
For example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, and they love kongs or chewing on bully sticks, give them something to do during that time! It will keep them distracted, and eventually, thunderstorms won’t seem too scary.
To treat separation anxiety, you can give your dog something to do while you’re not around, like a puzzle toy or a kong to chew on.
How to prevent dog anxiety
In some cases, dogs might just be born with/innately built to be a little anxious. In this case, prevention isn’t possible, but the treatment options above will be great ways to mitigate the issue.
Training your dog early can prevent separation anxiety by teaching them that being alone isn’t a bad thing. Crate training is another great way to help your dog stay comfortable while alone. With a lot of patience and consistency, you can set your dog up on a healthy path to independence.
Exercise is also an amazing option to help combat anxiety. If you will be out running errands or working late, York Professional Pet Sitting is here to help! We can take your dog out for a couple of walks per day to get them exposed to some fresh air and get their minds stimulated!
Morag is the owner and founder of York Regions most trusted premier in-home pet care and dog walking companies. In 2000 she saw a need for an alternative to kennels, catteries for family pets in the area and has always believed that pets are much happier and less stressed staying in their own familiar environment. Morag and her team are all certified in Pet 1st Aid and CPR, she also offers continuous training to her team members through online and hands on pet care and pet behaviour and care courses. Morag has earned her certificate in Professional Pet Sitting, Professional Dog Walking and Canine Attendant training. She has lived in the Newmarket/Aurora area since 1991 is a wife, a mother of 2 adult children and a grandmother of 2 delightful little balls of energy. She has also been owned by fish, birds, mice, rats, cats, dogs, gerbils and guinea pigs and is an advocate for all living creatures. In her spare time she likes to be involved in her community and events travelling, reading and cooking.