Do your dogs get upset when you leave them alone? Maybe they howl or bark or even destroy furniture while you’re away. Do loud noises, such as fireworks, cause your pup to run away in fear? These are all signs your beloved pet could be experiencing a form of anxiety. Dogs experience anxiety the same way that humans can.
“Dogs typically experience one of three main types of anxiety: general fear such as noise sensitivity or a fear of strangers, separation anxiety, and stress due to aging and health concerns,” says Danielle Bernal, BVSc, MRCVS, a Massachusetts-based veterinary professional with WHIMZEES Daily Dental Treats.
When it comes to treating dog anxiety, there is a lot to consider including implementing changes to your pet’s environment, providing plenty of opportunity for play and exercise, removal of triggering stimuli—and even medication in more extreme cases.
Common causes of anxiety in dogs are loud noises (like storms, fireworks, or vacuums/roombas), being left alone (separation anxiety), being in strange places, or meeting new people and animals, says Gary Richter, DVM, a veterinarian and veterinary health expert with Rover. For some dogs, being in a car can trigger anxiety, too. Different types of anxiety are also affected by an individual dog’s training and personality, Dr. Richter says.
Dogs can have medications like Benadryl, Reactine, Gravol, and Pepcid.
Dog Travel Anxiety – Behavioral Modification
Although its not always possible to use preventative measure to help Fido feel less stressed and anxious about traveling, there are times when a little bit of forward planning and preparation can save the day.
We all know that the more times we do something (even if it makes us nervous or scared) the easier it becomes.
This is because our bodies and brains acclimatize over time and with repetition we feel more comfortable and less afraid.
The same principle can be used to help Fido overcome his travel anxiety, and starting with car travel is easiest because its usually the most accessible, and under our direct control.
If possible, start taking your dog on regular, short, car trips when hes a puppy, and continue the practice as he grows and matures.
This exposure while hes young should enable him to build up a tolerance to the feeling and sounds of riding in a car.
Which in turn should prevent him from experiencing the type of full blown anxiety an adult dog can experience if theyve never ridden in a car before, or only on the annual trip to the dreaded veterinary appointment.
Make as many of these trips as possible include something fun or enjoyable as part of the experience.
For example, dont just load your dog up in the car when youre headed to the veterinarian or the boarding kennels.
Try taking your dog on a weekly basis to:
The more times Fido associates car travel with fun, the less anxious hell be. But do keep the journeys short to begin with. As he gets more comfortable and less anxious, you can go further afield.
It also helps to give your dog a little exercise an hour or two before youre due to start out on your trip may help keep him calmer because hell be somewhat tired.
It needs to be a quiet, calm type of walk, not a vigorous game of fetch or an excited play session at the dog park.
You want him to be pleasantly tired and relaxed. Not wound up and over-stimulated as this will make his travel anxiety symptoms worse.
Unfortunately the same opportunities to prevent dog travel anxiety associated with flying and air-travel isnt readily available. Unfortunately unless youre a frequent flyer with a small dog or own a private plane its almost impossible to use frequent trips to desensitize him to the noise and motion..
However, depending on where you live, rail, bus or ferry travel may be easily accessible.
As long as you follow the guidelines for pet travel laid down by the mode of transport and carrier/provider, taking your dog on frequent trips in the same way as described for car travel will work equally well with trains or buses.
If you want your dog to be your traveling companion, start early.. and realize that even once hes comfortable in a car, that doesnt mean hell automatically feel comfortable on a train, or an airplane… the experiences are totally different.
Practice taking trips in any, and all, moving vehicles whenever you can!
12 medications for dogs with anxiety
When traditional methods have failed for more extreme cases, a veterinarian may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs to treat your dog’s anxiety.
“Your veterinarian should examine dogs that are not improving within four to six weeks of changes to your environment,” Dr. Burch says. “Dogs that show almost all of the signs of anxiety typically need prescription medication in addition to environmental changes and should be evaluated,” she adds.
When it comes to the best medication for dogs with anxiety, Dr. Richter says it’s a decision for your dog’s personal veterinarian—they know your dog’s history, so you should consult with them before giving your pet any medication. “Also, it’s important to understand that anxiety cannot simply be medicated away,” Dr. Richter says. “Specific [behavior] training needs to happen along with medication.”
Some medications that are commonly used to treat dog anxiety include the following, but be sure to talk to your vet before giving your pet any medication. It can be dangerous in the wrong dosage:
Dog anxiety medication dosage will vary and should be determined on a case-by-case basis under the direction of a veterinarian.
If your dog suddenly becomes anxious, do your best to get them away from the place or thing that is causing their discomfort, advises Dr. Richter. In a time of crisis and anxiety, always be calm and reassuring towards your dog.
If you decide to try over-the-counter options for treating anxiety in dogs (like Benadryl, hemp or CBD), be sure that you only use products that are specifically formulated for animals, Dr. Richter says.
What breeds are prone to anxiety?
Dog anxiety is not unique to any particular breed, but there may be some breeds that are more prone to it. “Any dog can develop anxiety,” says Dr. Burch, who adds that dogs who are highly active, and/or “working dogs that do not have a job” may be particularly prone to developing anxiety. Examples of breeds that could fit into these categories include:
Dogs of any breed can experience anxiety. As Bernal points out, “A study conducted in Finland analyzing 264 breeds found that pet parents thought more than 70% displayed some form of anxiety.” With anxiety being such a common issue for dogs, a multifaceted approach to treat it may be best.
Dogs can’t tell their owners in words if they are feeling stressed and anxious, but there are some signs to watch for in the form of troubling or even aggressive behaviors. According to Michelle Burch, DVM, from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, some of these behaviors may include:
These behaviors are normal under some circumstances, but can be clues as to how a dog is feeling. “Signs of anxiety can range depending on the severity from mild to severe,” Dr. Burch says. “Anxiety and fear can also change depending on the situation.”
You may be wondering, “What can I give my dog for anxiety?” First, it’s a good idea to consider what changes can be made to help your dog at home, says Dr. Burch.
“The first thing I recommend is using pheromone diffusers and collars,” Dr. Burch says. “The pheromones used are synthetic hormones that mimic the ones produced by mother dogs to calm their young. Having this pheromone available for your dog to smell and stimulate the olfactory system can reduce anxiety.” You can buy D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone) over-the-counter at your local pet store. It’s frequently sold under the brand name Comfort Zone, Adaptil, or Thunder Ease. Most diffusers are plugged into the wall for a set amount of time and collars should be worn by the dog continuously. Sprays are also available for short term or more specific situations like traveling. Follow the instructions on the package, and consult with your vet for more details.
Another natural remedy to consider for dog anxiety involves compression products such as a compression shirt or jacket, sometimes called a thunder vest. It’s a technique that is used for people who feel anxious, too. “Similar to swaddling a baby or using a weighted blanket, a compression shirt will apply gentle and constant pressure to your dog’s torso,” Dr. Burch says. “The gentle pressure releases the calming hormone oxytocin and endorphins.”
Dog owners should work to identify any anxiety triggers, or sources of stress for your pet. “If you notice any triggers that you can easily avoid or limit, like a loud television or vacuum cleaner, take that step,” Bernal says. “Your dog is relying on you to create a safe environment with as few stressors as possible!”
In addition to removing stressful triggers, Bernal also recommends softly petting your pup when they are stressed, or distracting them with a treat or dental chew. Redirecting their attention to a simple task they can succeed in can help keep them from panicking. Dogs thrive on positive reinforcement, so be sure to reward good behavior!
Another tip from Bernal involves creating a safe space for your pet such as a small room located far from the main entrance of a space and filling it with comforting items like a familiar toy and of course, plenty of food, water, and treats. “This space will serve as a place to retreat when anxiety starts to take over,” she explains. Offer your pet treats in this area or store his favorite toys here when there’s no stressful activity happening to help build a positive association with the space.
You may also want to play some calming music for your pet. “I have dogs respond well to classical music being played, especially when left at home alone,” Dr. Burch says. “Certain songs are scientifically proven to decrease anxiety in your dog and create a calming environment.”
Lastly, it’s important to consider the role that boredom can play in leading a pet to feel anxious. “Ensure your dog is getting adequate exercise needs or has a job to complete,” recommends Dr. Burch. “Dogs should be exercised daily for at least an hour of cardio.Without regular exercise, stress can manifest as tension—which leads to health problems like chronic pain and digestive issues,” explains Dr Burch. She also recommends adding enrichment into your environment with puzzle toys, Snufflemats, lures, and other novel toys to help keep your dog engaged even while you are away.
If you’ve tried all you can at home to help your anxious dogs but are concerned that they may need more help, it’s important to contact a veterinarian. “Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination to rule out any painful area that can lead to anxiety. Additionally, they may recommend baseline blood work to rule out any metabolic or organ disease leading to the symptoms,” Dr. Burch says. Based on these results, a veterinarian may then recommend some natural supplements or medication.
Before turning to dog anxiety medication, there are some natural supplements your veterinarian may recommend. “Multiple products are available on the market to help reduce our pets’ anxiety for both situational events and long-term needs,” says Dr. Burch. She recommends looking for products containing:
Dr. Burch says it may take up to six weeks to see the full effects of these supplements.
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