Dr. Al Townshend
Anxiety is an all-too-common natural condition in our cherished pets, just as it is in humans. It has been estimated that up to 75% of dogs and 20-25% of cats have had anxiety issues at some point in their lives. It can be a short-term emotional experience resulting from a brief encounter or a long-term emotional response from previous experiences.
Anxiety can be brought on by many environmental experiences, including loud noises, moving to a new home, separation from a trusted Guardian (separation anxiety), having to ride in the car (travel anxiety), and lack of proper socialization with people and other pets.
Victims of cruelty, abuse, and neglect are particularly prone to anxiety issues.
Signs of Anxiety
- Incessant barking
- Unusually destructive behavior
- Unexpected urination
- Increased pupil dilation
- Increased breathing
- Have their tail tucked against themselves
- Signs of aggression
- Inappropriate urination
- Running away or remaining completely frozen in place
Additional Thoughts on the Causes of Anxiety
Animals adopted from shelters seem to have anxiety issues more commonly, likely due to previous experiences in their lives. Some purebred breeds of dogs seem more prone to anxiety issues.
- Breeds like Legato Romagnolos (Italian Water dog) and Wheaten Terriers can be especially likely to be wary of loud noises.
- Spanish Water Dogs and Shetland Sheepdogs can have significantly high levels of fear.
- Breeds bred for security, such as the Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, and Malinois, can be susceptible to change.
- Breeds bred to be active and do not get the exercise they require can suffer from boredom, which can produce anxiety issues.
Older animals suffering from age-related issues such as loss of vision and hearing, cognitive dysfunction, and medical problems such as heart and kidney disease, infection, and pain associated with arthritis can all cause anxiety issues.
Treatment for Anxiety
Making every effort to determine the cause of the anxiety is key to resolving or controlling the problem.
- A complete physical exam by a trusted veterinarian is essential to rule out medical and age-related conditions that may be causing anxiety. Veterinarians, animal behaviorists, and certified trainers are good resources for difficult situations that often require desensitization and counterconditioning to overcome the issues.
- Some more difficult anxiety issues, like aggression, may require the use of prescription medications that require a close working relationship with a veterinarian or behaviorist.
- Natural pheromones have been effectively used in dogs and cats to calm and relieve apprehension in the home.
- Activity is essential for every pet; some require more than others.
- Mental stimulation with games, retrieving swimming, and other activities can relieve apprehension and anxiety.
- Providing a safe place for a pet is often effective in relieving anxiety. A crate can provide security. Building a nest for the pet in a safe and quiet part of the home can go a long way in calming an anxious pet.
- Distracting or redirecting a pet when conditions cause the pet to be anxious such as loud noises and outdoor distractions.
- Massage and acupuncture are effective therapies for many causes of anxiety.
Nutrition and Supplements
As with all pets that evolved as a carnivore, animal protein-focused nutrition is essential to every aspect of a pet’s health.
- Calming supplements and treats often contain natural calming ingredients such as chamomile, L-theanine, melatonin, Baobab, Lemon Balm Extract, and l-tryptophan.
- CBD and Finnessiam Smart Oil are known to have a calming effect on pets. These are available at your local Pet Planet (CBD is only available in our Arizona locations).