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4 Common Types of Anxiety in Animals

General Anxiety

General dog anxiety can exhibit itself in various ways including pacing, trembling, constant alertness, hyper-reactivity and barking. While other types of dog anxiety can present in similar ways, generalized anxiety is characterized by a lack of an external trigger such as loud noises or separation. Regardless of the environment, dogs with generalized anxiety show constant or highly frequent symptoms, which persist over time.
Generalized anxiety rarely occurs as a result of trauma; rather, it is most common in dogs who lack experience being exposed to various stimuli including other dogs, busy streets, visitors and other unfamiliar environments. Without exposure training, an anxiety from insufficient social exposures tends to largely get worse for dogs as they age.
Depending on the severity of your dog's generalized anxiety, he or she may best benefit from a combination of prescription medication and behavioral modification exercises. Talk to your doctor about your options in order to find the treatment that's most suitable for you and your pet.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common problem that can arise in a couple of ways, but is very commonly seen in dogs that did not experience a natural detachment from a parent. Since natural detachment between puppy and mother happens at a much later age than the 12 weeks usually allotted to puppies before they are sold, most dogs are somewhat susceptible to developing separation anxiety. However, due to a variety of other factors such as early life experiences, predisposition and the new home environment, it is estimated that separation anxiety only actually develops in about 20-40 percent of adults. Additionally, this number may further appear reduced since not all dogs with separation anxiety exhibit symptoms at a level at which it becomes disruptive to the household.
Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs are left at home, and is often dependent by the frequency and length of time the dog is separated from his owner. This type of anxiety is grossly exacerbated by a lack of mental and physical stimulus, which can culminate in ever-worsening behaviors such as chewing, digging, howling or barking, excessive licking, improper elimination etc.
Treatments for separation anxiety include exposure therapy to help dogs break the link between the owner's absence and fear, reward-based training, and a variety of mentally and physically-stimulating games and activities to decrease boredom and increase the dog's general wellbeing.
In order to maximize the benefits of exposure therapy and training, your dog may benefit from prescribed anti-anxiety medications in combination with other treatments. Anti-anxiety medications can improve the efficacy of your training strategies or may be prescribed at low doses as a long-term solution. A visit to your vet will help you to determine which solution is best for your dog.

Trauma Anxiety

If your dog has experienced trauma - either physical or mental, he or she may exhibit trauma anxiety. Trauma anxiety can be severe to appear similar to generalized anxiety, or it can be triggered by situational scenarios such as the presence of a certain type of person (men, someone wearing a hat, a child, a smoker) or a loud noise. It's important to understand that even if you feel that your dog hasn't experienced a traumatic event because he or she grew up in a safe and supportive environment, they could still be experiencing PTSD. Ultimately, it's the dog who determines what's traumatizing, not the owner; traumatic events can be as simple as a patio umbrella tipping over in the wind or a loud clap of thunder. The symptoms of trauma anxiety can appear suddenly and may result in behaviors such as hiding and hesitation, barking, hyper-vigilance, shaking, excessive panting or drooling, awkward or stiff body positioning and aggression.
In addition to providing a supplement or applying a Thunder Shirt to relieve acute symptoms,there are a range of techniques you should apply in order to reduce the symptoms your dog is having after a stressful event:

  • Use Play Therapy
  • Keep a Strict Routine
  • Practice Counter-Conditioning
  • Ensure Your Dog Has a Safe Space

Illness-Induced Anxiety

If your dog suddenly becomes anxious, it's important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian in order to rule out the possibility of an underlying illness. Reasons your dog may suddenly act more anxious can include hypothyroidism, brain inflammation, pre-diabetes and vision loss.

*If your dog is regularly eliminating her bladder in the home, be sure to consult with your veterinarian about the possibility of acquired incontinence. Female urinary incontinence is treatable with medications such as Proin.