Disclaimer: Our content is always reviewed and approved by a professional veterinarian. However, we recommend always reaching out to your dog's vet for any advice regarding your pup.
Just like us humans, dogs can experience stress and anxiety for a variety of reasons.
And yes, dogs can end up suffering from anxiety or panic attacks!
In this article, we’ll cover the symptoms and reasons behind anxiety in dogs, the signs that your dog may be having an anxiety attack, and how you can help him through one.
We will also give you some tips on how to support your dog in overcoming their anxiety so they can return to the carefree life they deserve.
Does your dog suffer from anxiety?
Have you noticed some changes in behavior in your dog? If so, your pup may be suffering from anxiety.
Anxiety is a psychological issue associated with fear. It’s usually associated with the anticipation of future stress, dangers, or unknowns that result in bodily reactions.
The most common forms of anxiety are separation, rescue dog, social, and illness-induced anxiety, with separation being the most experienced by dogs.
But how do you know if your dog really is suffering from anxiety? Here are some hints:
- Inability to chill and relax or aimless pacing
- Full body tremors or shaking
- Whining, growing, or excessive crying
- A tucked tail
- Destructive behavior like chewing furniture
- Extreme neediness
- Excess saliva or drooling
- Going to the bathroom inside or vomiting
- Low energy and disinterest in walks and going outside
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive licking or biting
It can be helpful to monitor your dog closely to find out what his specific triggers or stressors may be.
Some dogs get great stress from loud noises (fireworks night is always a tough one), while others have bad memories with certain people that may remind them of their past (rescue dog anxiety). Other, more social dogs can’t handle being alone (social anxiety).
Anxiety doesn’t discriminate and can affect dogs regardless of age and breed. It’s good to get a handle on it sooner rather than later, as it can lead to further physical and emotional issues if left untreated.
Can Dogs Have Anxiety Attacks?
It can come as a surprise, but the truth of the matter is that, yes, dogs can experience anxiety or panic attacks.
Like humans, a panic attack will raise a dog’s heart rate, and they may shake uncontrollably, bite on their fur, and leave sweat marks on the floor from their paws. Also, some dogs may whine, bark or even growl, and others might defecate or urinate and hide or cowl from everyone.
Now, some dogs will have an anxiety attack due to a specific trigger, like a thunderstorm. Other dogs with generalized anxiety are in a state of constant distress, and for these pups, even a mild trigger can set them off and cause a panic attack for no apparent reason.
It’s so important for you to remember that your dog navigates the world in a completely different way. He has such impressive senses that you may not notice a sound or smell that upsets him, but he sure will.
What To Do When Your Dog Has an Anxiety Attack?
If you believe your dog is experiencing an anxiety or panic attack, there are several things you can do to support your pup at that moment:
1. Stay calm yourself: While it can be scary to see your dog suffering, you must stay calm and relaxed so that you don’t make your dog even more stressed by your reaction!
2. Take your dog to safety: If possible, help remove your dog from the situation that’s making him anxious. For example, if he is socializing with new people or dogs, take him away. If he isn’t ready for a car ride, don’t force him to get in the car.
3. Give your doggie the space he needs: Like humans, your dog may appreciate some quiet space away from everyone. For some dogs, they can enjoy a dark quiet room – especially if their panic attack is brought on by something like fireworks. However, other dogs prefer to be massaged, rubbed, calmly spoken to, or given treats to feel loved and reassured. Like humans, some dogs may even find quiet, calming music very relaxing.
4. Speak to your vet: The vet is the best resource when it comes to supporting your dog. The vet may suggest certain sprays, diffusers, or medication best suited for your dog’s needs.
5. Take notes: It can be useful to take notes on your dog’s behavioral changes, triggers, duration, and intensity of how they reacted. This can be useful when speaking to the vet.
Help Your Dog Overcome His Anxiety
Luckily, there are some tried and tested ways that owners have helped their doggies overcome their anxiety. These include:
Exercise: Of course, dogs need exercise. However, anxious dogs may need a bit more. This is because it will help them release endorphins to improve their mood, relieve stress, and burn any excess nervous energy. It also acts as a bonding exercise between you and your dog, to make him feel loved.
Physical touch: Hugs can go a long way for your furry friend. Spend time cuddling, petting, or brushing your dog, as dogs find their owners’ touch very relaxing. Massages are also a great method to relieve stress and anxiety for your pup. It can help release a lot of tension and make them feel calm and supported. Start at the dog’s neck and work your way around using long, soft strokes.
Play music: There has been new research that says dogs absolutely do respond to music! This interesting research highlights that soft, classical music can make dogs feel a sense of serenity. It is also a sneaky trick to block out scary sounds like traffic or crying.
Re-evaluate your dog’s schedule: Are you adding additional stress into your dog’s life without even realizing it? Make sure the schedule is consistent, so your pup knows when he’ll eat, be walked, and exercised. It will also let them know when you’ll be around to help ease any separation anxiety.
Swaddling: Babies love and need swaddling. So do some dogs! By wrapping a compression wrap or even an old t-shirt around the torso, it will apply soft and continuous pressure which is said to decrease dogs’ fear.
Teach an old dog a new trick: Regardless of age, tricks are a fantastic way to mentally stimulate your dog and keep his mind off how he might be feeling. Teach our pup a new trick or try an agility course! Plus, this will bond the two of you as dogs thrive off compliments and feeling connected to you.
Alternate support: It can be difficult to see your dog suffering from anxiety but never give up. Seek expert support from a training coach, the vet, or an animal behaviouralist who can discover an underlying emotional concern.
Like with humans, anxiety and panic attacks can feel very defeating and exhausting. As a paw-parent, you will need to be gentle, compassionate, and empathetic as you support your dog through his anxiety.
Just keep in mind that your dog won’t be magically cured overnight. It’ll take dedication, consistency, and great effort to support your pup and ensure he feels safe and loved.