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Dog Anxiety Treatment: 6 Ways to Treat It

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Anxiety disorders are some of the most common forms of mental illness in American adults, but did you know that dogs can be anxious as well? It may seem like your dog has an easy life, but the fact is that he can become stressed or anxious about everything from changes in his routine to a specific situation such as a car ride. Keep reading to learn more about anxiety in dogs and how to treat it.

Related: How To Spot True Separation Anxiety in Your Dog

Though your dog may not have to worry about work or family obligations like you do, he can still become anxious about certain things. For dogs, anxiety is usually triggered by fear, separation, or aging. Fear-related anxiety is often triggered by strange people or animals, loud noises, unfamiliar objects, strange environments, or specific situations like going to the vet. Separation anxiety affects nearly 15% of dogs and it happens when your dog feels uncomfortable or anxious when left alone or when he is separated from his family.

Symptoms of anxiety vary from one dog to another and can change depending on the trigger. Many dogs with separation anxiety exhibit destructive behaviors as well as whining, barking, urinating or defecating in the house, and making escape attempts. Some of the more general symptoms of anxiety may include aggression, drooling, panting, depression, restlessness, and repetitive behaviors.

Related: Is Your Anxiety Contagious to Your Dog?

The first step in treating your dog’s anxiety is to talk to your veterinarian so you can identify the underlying cause. From there, you have several options which include the following:

  • Counterconditioning – This is a form of training that works to change your dog’s response to the things that trigger his anxiety. For example, you might train your dog to sit when he starts to get anxious about something instead of pacing or whining.
  • Desnsitization – This type of training involves introducing your dog to the trigger for his anxiety in small doses, working up to higher doses and pairing it with rewards to change his negative response to the trigger into a positive one.
  • Medication – For chronic or severe anxiety, your veterinarian may recommend medications such as antidepressants or SSRIs like fluoxetine and clomipramine. If you know that something is going to happen which could trigger your dog’s anxiety (like fireworks on the 4th of July), your vet might prescribe a benzodiazepine to help him cope.
  • Pheromones – Dog calming pheromones can help your dog feel safer and calmer on a daily basis. They come in several forms including diffusers, collars, sprays, and wipes.
  • Herbal Remedies – For a natural treatment option, you can try teas, tinctures, or tablets made from calming herbs like chamomile, valerian, and St. John’s wort.
  • ThunderShirt – The ThunderShirt is an anti-anxiety jacket that applies calming pressure to your dog’s body much like swaddling an infant and it can help with all kinds of anxiety.

Your dog is an individual, shaped by his individual experiences. The triggers for your dog’s anxiety may not be the same as they are for another dog which is why you need to talk to your vet about your concerns and be prepared to try a few treatments before you find the one that works best.


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