Dog Anxiety

Dog Anxiety Guide

What is Dog Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety in dogs occurs when pets exhibit distress and behavior problems when separated from their owners. Separation anxiety typically manifests within minutes of an owner’s departure. It is not fully understood why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and others do not. 

Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Symptoms of dog anxiety occur when the animal is when left alone or separated from its owner. If symptoms occur, exam your pet for self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws, and damaged nails.

Common dog anxiety symptoms include:

  • Urinating and defecating
  • Barking and howling
  • Chewing, digging and destruction of objects, door frames, window sills, doors and doorways
  • Escaping from a confined area
  • Pacing along a specific path in a fixed pattern
  • Defecating and then consuming all or some of their excrement. This is called coprophagia


If the above behaviors are performed in the presence of the pet’s owner, they are likely not due to anxiety. For a list of medical or behavioral problems to rule out, visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’s Seperation Anxiety resource.
 


How to Calm an Anxious Dog

Calming Supplements

Dog calming supplements are usually in the form of chews. Some are designed for long-term use, and work best for separation anxiety or generalized anxiety. Others are for use before an event that might cause stress, and work best for fear-related anxieties like loud parties or holidays. Common ingredients in calming supplements include: melatonin, hemp, L-tryptophan, L-theanine and vitamin B.

Some of the most common reasons your dog might need a calming supplement include:

  • Adding a new pet
  • Noise related situations such as fireworks or loud parties
  • Traveling, such as trips to the veterinarian or groomer
  • Separation anxiety or boarding
  • Following surgery to reduce mobility

Calming Sprays and Diffusers

Dog calming sprays and diffusers can be used alone or in conjunction with behavior training to reduce and eliminate problems like inappropriate marking, scratching, digging and even separation. Calming diffusers make anxious dogs feel safe and secure in an enclosed area by emitting a continuous stream of calming pheromones.

These products use pheromones which are chemicals that animals naturally produce and use to communicate information to each other. Calming sprays and diffusers often feature pheromones that mimic a pheromone that the mother dog produces. Dogs associate this with the reassuring feeling they had as a puppy when around their mother. Dogs recognize these pheromones throughout life. This takes advantage of the natural process of association and nurtures a calming effect.

Dog Anxiety Medication

A dog with mild separation anxiety might benefit from drug therapy alone. However, most dogs need a combination of medication and behavior modification. Consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any type of medication for a behavior problem. The use of medications can help, especially for severe cases where therapy treatment can’t be implemented without the help of medication. Anti-anxiety medication can help a dog tolerate some isolation without anxiety, and make treatment progress more quickly.

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Updated January 13, 2021