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National Dog Anxiety Awareness Week

Posted In: Behavior & Training, Canine Health & Wellness

May 1st through 7th is National Dog Anxiety Awareness Week! Dogs, much like humans, experience fear, anxiety, and stress. Your dog can’t speak to you, so it’s important to look for other ways that they might be expressing anxiety. These may include behavioral reactions, such as growling, teeth-baring, back-arching, the hair on the back of their neck growing stiff, etc., or they may take a more “shy” approach, such as hiding under furniture, spending more time sleeping, neglecting grooming habits, etc.

Anxiety can be exhibited in other ways as well, such as appetite. If your dog normally eats every bit of food in their bowl, but now they barely touch their kibble, they may be fearful or nervous. They may also vomit or try to eat grass or irregular, non-edible diet choices (similar to how humans might nervously bite their nails, chew on a pen, etc.). You should also keep an eye out for changes in bathroom habits, which can include a shift in regular schedule for pooping, or more directly observable issues such as diarrhea, upset stomach, or constipation.

There are a large range of factors that can cause anxiety in dogs, just like there are a lot of reasons why a human might be stressed or worried. Some common reasons include:

  • Physical location: Pay attention to large, intimidating machinery and objects in your local environments and within your own home, such as the vacuum cleaner, or nearby construction, etc.
  • Loud noises: for dogs, the most anxiety-provoking holidays include New Year’s Eve and July 4th. Fireworks, gunshots, a knock on your front door can all be very frightening.
  • Weather: Storms can be devastating to your home, your yard, and, potentially, your pet’s mental health. Some research also claims that animals can sense storms before they arrive!
  • Life changes: Have you recently welcomed a new baby, furry or otherwise, into your family? Humans go through emotional changes with the addition and/or loss of a loved one, and this significant change could impact your dog in a similar way. Consider other life changes that may change your mental health, too (your dog might not be as happy with your new job as you are).
  • Past experiences: perhaps you rescued your pup from a foster family with a misbehaving child. Unbeknownst to you, the child had aggressively pulled your dog’s tail in the past. Now, your dog may feel nervous around other children, or when anyone approaches their tail, as they could translate their past experiences to their current situation.

The good news is that there are a multitude of ways that you can help to reduce or eliminate anxiety and stress for your dog! The first step should be to try to pinpoint the source of anxiety, possibly one of the scenarios above- although it may not always be immediately clear what’s causing it. If it’s possible to remove or lessen the stimulus that’s causing fear, that is the best solution. However, this is not always possible- like in the case of thunderstorms, the vacuum cleaner, construction on your street, etc. For the scenarios, it may be helpful to look into products that work to calm your dog.

A popular solution for pet anxiety is the use of pheromones, such as Adaptil. These pheromones mimic the natural chemicals produced by mother dogs to comfort their puppies, and are imperceptible to humans and other animal species. They come in the form of a spray, a home diffuser, or a treated collar that your dog can wear around with them.

For more serious instances of anxiety, or for specific occasions like 4th of July, there are over-the-counter medications available such as Trazadone, Zylkene, Sileo, or Purina Calming Care. Calming Care is a probiotic supplement that contains a strain of beneficial bacteria shown to help dogs maintain calm behavior and reduce anxious behaviors such as excessive vocalization, jumping, pacing, and spinning.

Another approach to managing pet anxiety is CBD. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in the hemp plant that has been shown to have a significant positive impact on treating and reducing pain, stress & anxiety, seizures, or other neurological issues in dogs and cats. Despite coming from the cannabis plant, CBD does not contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that causes users to experience a “high”. Studies and scientific data on the effects and risks of CBD are still developing, but so far, the results seem to be very promising for a wide range of medical conditions and overall wellbeing. The greatest risk with CBD, however, is the lack of regulatory oversight currently in place for these products. There are a lot of CBD products on the market, many of which (particularly low-cost options) may not actually contain any actual CBD at all or may contain harmful additives or contaminants. For example, products labeled as “hemp oil” or “hemp seed oil” likely do not contain the actual CBD compound and will not provide the same benefits.

It is best for you to talk with your veterinarian to determine the best products or solutions for your pet. Call AMCMA today to schedule an appointment at 314-951-1534.

The Animal Medical Center of Mid-America has veterinarians at three locations that can answer questions about your pet’s health. Call 314-951-1534 or click here to request an appointment online.