Managing Pet Anxiety
Pet owners can become concerned if their pet experiences anxiety; however, it is essential to realize that anxiety in dogs is a normal and healthy emotion. The symptoms of anxiety in dogs can vary from dog to dog. If your pet is experiencing disproportionate levels of anxiety, and it is not treated, your dog can develop an anxiety disorder along with behavioral problems.
Dogs can experience anxiety for several reasons. The most common causes include:
- Changes in routine (taking your dog on a trip, working a different shift, etc.)
- Loud noises
- New environments
- Visual stimuli, i.e. hats, boots, umbrellas, etc.
According to the American Kennel Club, approximately 14 percent of dogs experience separation anxiety. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety become uncomfortable and stressed out when left alone. The common symptoms of separation anxiety include destroying furniture, urinating, or defecating inside the house, or barking.
As a dog ages, he can experience age-related anxiety. Older dogs can experience cognitive dysfunction syndrome that affects their perception, learning, and memory. This syndrome is similar to Alzheimer’s disease and can lead to confusion and anxiety in older dogs.
If your dog is experiencing anxiety, the first thing to do is speak with your dog’s vet. The veterinarian may help you identify the type of anxiety your dog is experiencing and determine the triggers or causes of your pet’s anxiety. Furthermore, your dog’s vet will rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing your pet’s anxiety.
Once medical conditions have been eliminated, the vet will determine the best treatment plan based on the cause of your dog’s anxiety. Typically, pet anxiety is treated using several preventative strategies and training. In certain situations, your dog’s veterinarian may prescribe medications to help relieve pet anxiety.
Training Strategies for Pet Anxiety
Dog training can help your pet overcome his anxiety. The trainer will use counter-conditioning training. This type of training changes your dog’s response to whatever stimuli are causing your dog’s anxiety. Aggressive or anxious behavior is replaced with a desirable behavior like sitting or focusing on the dog’s owner.
Desensitization can also be used to help with pet anxiety. This type of training introduces the dog to the source of his anxiety slowly. Repeated exposure, along with rewarding positive dog behavior can help teach your dog how to manage his anxiety.
Medications to Treat Pet Anxiety
If your dog is experiencing severe anxiety, your vet may recommend a pet medicine like an antidepressant or SSRI to help your pet overcome his anxiety. Additionally, if your dog experiences anxiety during car rides, fireworks, or thunderstorms, your vet may prescribe benzodiazepine along with an antidepressant to help your dog cope with anxiety.
Elderly dogs suffering from cognitive dysfunction syndrome may be prescribed selegiline to reduce his or her symptoms. This prescription medication increases dopamine levels to help control the symptoms associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome.
Anxiety in dogs can cause aggressiveness, fear, and trembling. Learning how to manage your pet’s anxiety can ensure he has an enjoyable life. There are several reasons why pets experience anxiety, including illness, new places, and separation anxiety. Luckily, dog training and medications can help your dog overcome his anxiety.