Your dog is terrified of thunderstorms. Your cat leaves “surprises” whenever she’s stressed. If you have an anxious companion, you are far from alone. Nearly 40% of caretakers say they have one or more animals that experience anxiety. And 70% say their animal’s anxiety happens fairly often to frequently.1
Good grief, what causes anxiety disorders in dogs?
Like many other medical conditions, anxiety can be caused by several factors. Genetics may contribute to the risk since anxiety disorders tend to appear in certain breeds of dogs, including Great Danes, German Shepherds, Bull Terriers, Dalmatians and others.2 But any time a dog or cat perceives a threat, a specific area of the brain (hypothalamus) sends chemical signals that trigger a “fight or flight” reaction.
“This response is normal and helpful when there’s a real threat. But in pets with chronic anxiety, this over-reaction may eventually weaken the immune system and lead to health problems, such as depression or heart disease,” according to Heidi Lobprise, DVM, Virbac Animal Health.
What are the signs of anxiety in a dog?
Every animal is different so it’s difficult to cover all of the signs of anxiety. And yet, there are certain behaviors that often show up in dogs with an anxiety disorder. Here are 10 that experts agree are some of the most common:
4. Inappropriate elimination
5. Excessive Vocalization
6. Clinging to owner
9. Flight (running off)
What should I do if I see signs of stress?
Surprisingly, very few caretakers talk to their veterinarian about these unwanted behaviors in their pets. And yet, that’s the best thing you can do. Tell your veterinarian about the specific behavior problems you’ve noticed in your dog. Then your veterinarian can work with you to determine the cause of your companion’s anxiety. This may include ruling out any underlying medical problems that might be causing the symptoms and treatment of those, if necessary. It may also include your help.
How can I help?
Your answers to questions about your dog’s behavior may be the most important element in helping your veterinarian diagnose a problem. Along with identifying specific changes in your dog’s behavior, you may be asked to describe:
√ Any changes in your dog’s environment
√ Any new situations at home
√ Triggers of bad behavior
√ When and how often you see signs of trouble
With these answers, your veterinarian is far better equipped to develop a plan to help your dog live a more stress-free life. This may include recommendations for behavior modification, exercise or medication. Your veterinarian may also recommend a nutraceutical supplement, such as a solution available from Virbac Animal Health that’s proven to help animals stay calm. Because when pets are relaxed, it’s easier for them to learn new behaviors.
Questions lead to better answers.
Learn more about anxiety disorders in companion animals, and solutions for both cats and dogs, at www.virbacpets.com.
1. Anxitane Pet Owner Survey, July 2009.
2. The Dog Health Guide, www.dog-health-guide.org/anxietysymptomindog.html.