How to Recognize and Help Dogs With Severe Anxiety

Dog anxiety doesn’t go away unless pet owners get to the root of the problem to fix the issue, so here are some solutions and tips you can use.

You're pooch has likely experienced anxiety before, but it's nothing unusual – dog anxiety is actually very common and considered normal. According to the Australian Veterinary Association, anxiety disorder is a leading medical condition among canines.

However, veterinarians also warn that some dogs may require a regimented treatment plan to get better when this anxiety gets out of hand, and it's important that you treat it. In fact, recent studies have shown that dogs with anxiety display premature graying hair around their mouths. Does your young pooch have any gray hair? Then he or she might be dealing with too much anxiety issues.

It might be hard to imagine how dogs, the ultimate human stress relievers, can be so wrapped up in anxiety themselves. However, if you consider the stressor around an environment they have no control of, then it makes sense why these animals can develop stress and emotional disorders just like humans do. So, how do you recognize and help a dog with anxiety?

ALSO READ: 7 Situations That May Stress Out Your Dogs

Signs of Stress in Dogs

Common Signs and Factors of Dogs With Anxiety

Among the most obvious physical signs of stressed dogs and a dog with anxiety include panting, shaking, pacing, drooling, excessive barking, and uncontrolled peeing or popping. The dog might also exhibit body tension with their backside slightly lowered and their ears falling back.

Dogs get anxious due to a lot of factors, but fear is at the top of the list of reasons. They might be afraid of an unfamiliar environment, the presence of an animal or a stranger, or just unusual loud noises. They might also be fearful of a visual stimulus like the wind blowing the curtains or an umbrella hanging in the backyard.

In some cases, older dogs also develop fear because their cognitive function is slowly diminishing. Their perception and awareness of the things around them can easily trigger anxiety attacks. Dementia, apathy, depression, and other issues related to cognitive decline in senior dogs can all increase your pet's anxiety levels, according to vets.

Studies show that, at the very minimum, at least 14 percent of dogs experience separation anxiety when left alone in the house. As a result of this separation anxiety, they exhibit destructive, repetitive, and compulsive behaviors that may frustrate their owners.

How to Help Your Anxious Dog

The only way to fix it is to get to the root cause, so dog owners must try to understand what's causing their dog's anxiety. If it's a trigger in their environment, then some changes should be made around where your dog lives. If you have an anxious senior dog and it’s an age-related factor, then it would be best to get more diagnosis and guidance from a veterinarian for your pet to get the right medical treatment – there are many available, such as anxiety medication, different supplies like anxiety toys and calming collars, which have been scientifically proven to work.

In most cases, however, behavioral training will correct the problem. But this requires time and consistency that pet owners should be committed to. Otherwise, the problem with the dog will not go away or could develop into a full-blown phobia.

Quick Solutions for Dog Anxiety

Other than discussing a treatment plan with a veterinarian and buying medications or supplies, dog owners may also try to develop new routines that work to reduce these triggers of anxiety. Try some of these quick solutions below, along with the behavioral training – they have been developed by canine behaviorists and have a proven track record for being effective in dealing with dog anxiety.

Recognizable scent. If you have to leave the dog alone in the house, it might help to put your old used shirt (or other belongings) in his crate that smells like you. Your scent should hopefully help calm the dog down until you return.

Tire out the dog. If you’re planning to have people in the house and your dog might act up due to the presence of strangers, then it might help to expend his energy before your house party. Spend a few hours walking the dog or playing with him in the park so that by the time you come back and prepare for the party, he will be too tired to worry about all those people and just sleep the rest of the night.

Anxiety vest. If it's a thunderstorm, most owners found that getting a Thundershirt (or other anxiety vest) that will comfort them until the storm passes is the most effective solution. This is a patented dog clothing that has been carefully studied and developed to apply pressure on the body and works for dogs that are afraid of storms, fireworks, travel, and separation.

Play music and block out triggers. If it’s a firework that’s making your dog nervous, there are several things you can do to help the pooch. Try to contain him in a room or in his crate so that he will not be forced to wander off scared, and leave something that smells like you or provide anxiety toys as distraction. On top of that, science has also found that playing loud soothing music that dogs enjoy, usually classical music, will help drown the noise (white noise machines also work well).

READ NEXT: 7 Proven Ways to Calm Down A Dog (Backed by Science)

Diana currently lives and works in London, UK and she's been an animal lover and dog owner since she was a child. After graduating high school, she focused on getting her degree in English to become a writer with a focus on animals, pets and dogs.