As a human, you probably know what it feels like to be stressed and anxious. We can all feel a little bit – or a lot – this way from time to time for a wide range of reasons, whether we’re under a lot of pressure at work, have found ourselves in a tough life situation, or just because of everyday stresses and triggers. You might be surprised to hear that your dog can also feel stressed and anxious. But unlike humans, dogs can’t sit down and talk to you about it, or book an appointment with a therapist. So, it’s on us as responsible pet owners to understand the signs that our dog is feeling anxious or stressed and make sure that they are cared for appropriately to help them relax. There are many reasons why a dog might be stressed. Understandably, a change of environment or a new family member, whether human or animal, could be a huge stressor for a dog. Medical issues, traumatic experiences, separation anxiety, and more could also trigger stress in dogs. Understanding how to deal with it can help you and your dog live a happier, stress-free life together.
Signs to Look Out for
Table of Contents
There are some tell-tale signs to look out for that could indicate your dog is feeling anxious or stressed. Shaking and trembling, urinating in inappropriate places, barking or whining more often than usual, excessive grooming and licking, being clingy towards you, and being reluctant to take part in activities that your dog would normally enjoy are all some of the main signs of stress. Stress can also cause hyperventilating in dogs, which can be a frightening thing to see. Hyperventilation in dogs looks like short and rapid breaths, as if your dog could be having a panic attack.
However, it’s important to note that not all hyperventilation in dogs will be caused by stress and anxiety. In fact, Native Pet’s information on a dog hyperventilating states that some dogs might do it because they’ve gotten overexcited. Reverse sneezing, which is where air is sucked in rapidly through the nose, can also cause hyperventilation. However, Native Pet says that some causes might be more concerning, including overheating and a range of health problems. Follow this link for more information on hyperventilating dogs. It’s best to see a vet if your dog is hyperventilating since they can help you find the root cause. Native Pet also offer a range of dietary supplements that might be useful to add to your dog’s diet if they are diagnosed with a health condition.
Ways to Deal with Anxiety and Stress in Dogs
The first step to dealing with your dog’s stress and anxiety is to find out what has caused it in the first place. There are various different reasons for why a dog might be feeling this way, similar to humans. It can be useful to spend some time observing your dog and keeping a diary of their behavior to see if you can make any connections between certain situations and when they appear to be more stressed than usual. A visit to the vet should also be a main priority since your vet can help you determine if your dog is anxious due to an underlying health condition, and can help with different treatments and solutions for managing it. Some options to consider for helping your dog include:
Your vet might be able to prescribe anxiety medication for your dog if their stress levels are affecting their daily life. Azapirones are commonly prescribed to dogs that are fear-aggressive or dogs that suffer from phobias. If this doesn’t sound like your dog, the vet might prescribe benzodiazepines, which will provide some relief over a short period of time and have an immediate calming effect on your dog. Antidepressants might also be prescribed to dogs who are suffering with a lot of stress and anxiety. Canine behavioral therapy with a registered trainer can also be helpful to use alongside any medication provided by your vet.
You may also want to consider trying some natural ways of helping your dog deal with anxiety and stress. Just like stressed out humans, stressed out dogs might feel better after some dog massage or a hydrotherapy session. You can also get Kalm Aid or Bach Rescue Remedy which are designed for dogs, and other products that might be effective in helping to reduce your dog’s stress levels. Thunder Shirts are another great non-medication option that can help your dog feel less anxious in stressful situations. These are dog coats for your pet to wear that apply gentle pressure on the torso, similar to weighted blankets for humans. They are designed to provide a protective, hugging feeling to the dog when worn, and can have an instant calming effect.
What your dog is eating can also have an impact on his stress levels and subsequent behaviors. If your normally calm and collected dog has recently become a big fluffy ball of stress, it’s worth noting if anything has changed in his diet recently. In some cases, dogs who are switched to a product with a different nutritional balance to what they are used to might suffer from changes to levels of serotonin in the brain along with a different rate of energy release. If this is the case for your dog but you want them to continue eating the new food, a gradual change over rather than a straight swap might be a better option since this will give your dog the chance to get used to and adapt to the nutrients in their new food over time. You can put your dog back on their old food for a few days to see if it makes a difference to their behavior.
One of the most common causes of stress and anxiety in dogs is sudden changes to their environment. Dogs have very little control over their environments, and we could all empathize with how it feels to have a big changed forced on you with no time to prepare for it. Introducing dogs slowly to any planned changes to your household should always be done wherever possible. For example, if you are pregnant, get your dog used to the idea of having a new baby in the house from as early as possible by teaching them to stay out of the nursery and getting them used to sleeping in a different part of the house if necessary. By the time your baby is born, your dog will be ready for it, and is likely to be less stressed about the whole situation.
Bear in mind that dogs look up to their humans as inspirations. So, the less stressed you are, the less likely your dog is to be stressed. If you are stressed and anxious, your dog might pick up on these feelings and begin to display stressful behaviors of their own. Looking after your own stress levels with self-care and therapy will help you provide a calmer and happier environment for your pet.
Stress and anxiety are never nice to go through, and nobody wants that for their dog. Understanding how stress and anxiety manifests in dogs and how you can help your pet through it will enable you to create a calm and happy environment.