Dog Anxiety

A Guide to Anxiety Conditions & Treatment for Dogs

Dog experiencing anxiety in the home and tips for helping anxious dogs

Is your furry friend suffering from anxiety? How can you help calm them?

Is your furry friend suffering from dog anxiety? Your dog’s emotional well-being deserves the same attention as their physical health, and it’s important to understand how best to support them when they’re feeling stressed or anxious.

Every dog–regardless of age or breed–will experience some form of dog anxiety symptoms in their lifetime, perhaps regularly. So how can you calm down a dog who’s feeling nervous or stressed? Anxiety can be a tricky condition to treat, but your love and support will be your number one tool as a pet parent.

What Is Dog Anxiety?

How can you tell the difference between anxiety in dogs and depression in dogs? How about a dog experiencing stress? There are a lot of overlaps here, so we’ll walk you through the emotional experiences your dog might encounter.

Dog anxiety looks very similar to human anxiety. Anxiety in dogs happens when your pet is faced with a person, animal, or situation that makes them feel fearful or worried. A few examples? Thunderstorms, fireworks, strangers, and being left by a pet parent (separation anxiety). They’ll feel anxious when faced with these obstacles, but may also feel anxious and exhibit symptoms of anxiety even when separated from them.

dog experiencing stress. Dog anxiety can be caused from. seperation anxiety, loud noises, and more

Can a dog get depressed? The answer is yes: Dog depression is an emotional response marked by sadness, low energy, and lack of motivation. Some common causes of depression in dogs are the loss of a loved one, illness, and mistreatment. Often considered a “mood disorder,” depression can affect dogs acutely (after a specific event) or chronically (for an ongoing period).

Stress in dogs will look a lot like dog anxiety, but with a few distinctions. Stress is an emotional response to a stressor such as a change in environment or a new pet, and will often trigger feelings of irritability, aggression, and territorialism.

So why do dogs get anxious in the first place? Common dog anxiety causes or situations can include:

  • Being left alone

  • Separation anxiety from a human or fellow pet

  • Being confined (e.g., in a crate)

  • Thunderstorms

  • Fireworks

  • Parties

  • Crowds

  • Being ill or injured

  • Having limited social contact

  • Neglect


Many of the causes of dog anxiety can overlap with the causes of dog depression and stress–proving that certain triggers can have a negative effect on any pet.

Which Dog Breeds Are Most At Risk for Anxiety Issues?

Are there any dog breeds prone to anxiety? What about dog breeds with separation anxiety issues? Studies show that anxiety can be genetic in humans, and the same conclusion applies to a variety of dog breeds. Anxious dog breeds may have more difficulty coping with stressful situations and will need extra snuggles, patience, and support from their pet parent.

So which dog breeds are prone to anxiety, according to the experts? See below for details:

Miniature Schnauzer Anxiety Issues

Miniature Schnauzers may suffer more frequently from dog separation anxiety, which is triggered when they’re separated from a companion–be it human or animal. Studies also suggest that this breed may be more prone to aggression as a direct symptom of anxiety–something to take note for families with small children or multiple pets.

Border Collie Anxiety Issues

Border Collies–hailed as the world’s most intelligent dog breed–can be triggered by many causes of anxiety. Since this breed is highly observant and able to better analyze situations, they are more likely to be affected by things like new people, separation anxiety, or strange environments. Border Collies also have a great memory, and can become anxious at locations of previous negative experiences.

German Shepherd Anxiety Issues

Historically speaking, German Shepherds have a reputation for being service animals and therefore spend much of their lives with a particular human. These close relationships can lead to a higher risk of separation anxiety in this normally confident breed.

Lagotto Romagnolos Anxiety Issues

Also known as Italian Water Dogs, research shows that Lagatto Romagnolos have a higher risk of dog anxiety related to noise sensitivity (e.g., fireworks and thunderstorms) as well as social anxiety.

Spanish Water Dog Anxiety Issues

Spanish Water Dogs may struggle with more anxiety than other breeds, specifically when it comes to a fear of strangers. This breed may feel more anxious when approached while out for a walk with their pet parent, or if someone they don’t know tries to pet them.

While it’s true that they might require a bit more patience and support from their pet parents, anxious dog breeds shouldn’t be seen as a burden. Humans who suffer from anxiety disorders might find a deeper kinship with these breeds, who can often be more intelligent and emotionally complex than other dogs.

Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs

Trying to decipher your dog’s anxiety symptoms, but not sure if you’re reading their signals right? If you’re wondering how to help a dog with anxiety knowing their warning behaviors will be your best asset.

These are the common signs of anxiety symptoms in dogs:

Cowering

When something makes your dog uncomfortable, their first response might be to cower or shrink away from it. This is your first sign that they’re fearful, and want to retreat from a perceived danger.

Whining

When a dog whines, it can command the attention of everyone in the room. Whining might grate on your nerves, but remember that whining is your dog’s way of telling you that something is making them nervous or uneasy.

Pacing

If your dog is whining and pacing–or even just pacing–something is up! Pacing is how your dog attempts to expel nervous physical energy, and may also be a sign of confusion if they aren’t sure of how to handle a certain situation that’s causing them emotional stress.

Panting

So your dog is panting, but they’re not exactly overheated–so what’s the deal? Panting isn’t just how your dog cools off; it’s also a physical manifestation of major feelings of stress or anxiety.

Nose Dripping

If your dog’s nose is dripping, anxiety could be to blame. While a runny nose is most commonly tied to allergies, it could also be a sign that they’re worked up over a stressful situation.

Drooling

Dogs will drool when they’re excited for a toy or a delicious meal–but they can also drool when they’re excited in negative circumstances.

Destructive Behavior

When dogs are feeling anxious, they might feel ‘backed into a corner’ or have trouble channeling those uncomfortable emotions. Destructive behavior is a result of these frustrations–tearing up toilet paper, pillows, or even clawing or chewing at inanimate objects like walls or furniture. Ever left your dog home alone, only to return to a house in ruins? That might be a result of a dog struggling with separation anxiety.

Urinating in the House

Some dogs dealing with anxiety will have trouble holding their pee (or poop) and will resort to going in the house–even if they’re well-trained to go outside. This could be because they’re too emotionally distraught to hold it, or because they’re terrified of a perceived threat (aka “submission urination”).

Dog Anxiety Complications & Diagnoses

Is your dog losing weight due to anxiety? Perhaps they’re dealing with a bout of dog depression because their anxiety issues have gone unchecked for too long. Treating your dog’s anxiety isn’t just crucial for their emotional well-being–it can also be a way to maintain internal health.


Maybe your dog ate a sock due to anxiety, or your dog is chewing themselves due to anxiety or stress. How can you know if it’s something that you need to treat? What if it’s just a passing moment of unease? Maybe it’s just a phase that they can get through on their own–but as a pet parent, you’ll want to take notes and share any troubling behaviors with your veterinarian to ensure your pet’s truly doing OK.

Earlier, we mentioned acute and chronic anxiety. What do those terms mean for your average dog?


Acute anxiety might happen to a dog with zero history of anxiety. Maybe they chew up a sock or have an accident in the house, and you figure it’s just a one-off response to stress. But how often are they being exposed to the stressor in question? Do you often leave them home alone during long work shifts, or live in a noisy neighborhood? Repeated instances of acute anxiety can quickly escalate into a more persistent condition.

Chronic anxiety is a more developed form of anxiety, affecting the same pet for a prolonged period–sometimes, forever. This can happen if your dog is a breed that’s predisposed to anxiety issues, or if your dog is living in a high-stress or anxiety-inducing environment. In other words, chronic anxiety can look like a tall plateau (i.e., when a dog is living with sustained high anxiety), or a long range of mountain peaks (i.e., when a dog is living with ongoing anxiety that seems to go up and down).

So what’s the good news? Just because your pet is living with chronic anxiety that doesn’t mean they’ll have to suffer with symptoms.

Common Anxiety Treatments & Relief

If you think your furry friend leans on the more anxious end of the mood spectrum, it’s more than OK to seek dog anxiety treatments to help them cope. Wondering how to help a dog with anxiety? Try one of these over-the-counter treatments:

Calming Supplements for Dogs

Some dogs could benefit from a daily dose of calm–but what if they’re picky eaters? The best calming supplement for dogs might help ease their nerves, while perking up their mood with delicious flavor. As with any dog supplement, make sure to administer the correct dose for your dog’s weight to avoid drowsiness or other side effects.

CBD Oil for Dogs

Cannibidiol (CBD) is a plant-derived compound with a slew of purported benefits, one of them being natural anxiety relief for dogs. CBD responds to the endocannabinoid system, a group of receptors present in dogs’ central nervous system. For this reason, studies suggest that CBD might be able to calm the effects of anxiety in dogs. You can try ingestible drops or CBD dog treats for anxiety.

Dog Calming Spray

If your dog is on a restricted diet or isn’t trusting of new treats, trying a calming spray for dogs might be more their speed. Just spritz the aromatic spray onto their fur, brush it through (bonus: combing is calming for them, too), and repeat daily or as needed.

In addition to dog calming supplements  that you can buy, there are also plenty of care and lifestyle tips that can improve your anxious dog’s well-being.

Calming Shampoo for Dogs

If you’ve ever noticed the scent of a shampoo sticking around for a day or two after washing, you’ll understand how a calming shampoo might help your anxious dog. Aromatherapy isn’t just a thing for people; dogs can also benefit from the effects of essential oils and other aromatic compounds, and washing their skin and fur with a shampoo or body wash is a great place to start.

At-Home Tips for Reducing your Dog’s Anxiety

You can reduce or even avoid your dog’s anxiety attack symptoms with a few important adjustments to your lifestyle and home environment.

Try the best calming supplements

Wondering how to treat separation anxiety in dogs, or keep another stressful situation from making your pet anxious? If your dog is struggling with anxiety, you have the option of supplementing their diet with chews or other ingestibles that can help reduce symptoms of anxiety. If you have a dog who’ll eat anything, this option could be a no-brainer!

Behavior Support Products

Use physical touch

Sometimes, all your dog needs is to know that you’re there. Not unlike humans, dogs can find comfort in the presence of a loved one. Gentle pets, ear scratches, snuggles, or a seat on your lap (not you, Great Danes!) can go a long way in calming a dog’s anxieties.


Pet parents can support dogs with anxiety with physical touch

Ask about a pheromone treatment

Have you ever been curious about your dogs’ senses? Dogs can sense pheromones, a chemical compound secreted by many of the creatures living on Earth–dogs and humans included. Pheromones can dictate your dog’s behavior in social situations and even help to reduce stress or anxiety, making pheromones a unique treatment option (prescribed by your vet).

Have them wear compression clothes

If your dog will let you dress them, why not try a compression shirt or vest? Sometimes known as thunder vests, these dog clothing items are designed to work similarly to a weighted blanket or a baby swaddle. The feeling of being swaddled or secured can be soothing, especially for smaller dogs with anxiety.

Avoid (or prepare them for) stressful situations

This one might seem obvious, we admit–but when it comes to dog anxiety, there’s something to be said for prevention and preparedness. Here are a few examples of compromise that can protect your pet’s well-being:

  • If you can get a friend to watch your noise-sensitive dog while you go to a parade, do that instead of forcing them to come along.

  • If your dog gets anxious around people, consider planning social events somewhere else, or keep your dog comfortable in a separate room.

  • If your dog gets nervous while traveling, talk to your vet about dog anxiety medications that can keep them comfortable to make the trip less stressful for you both.

  • Wondering how to treat separation anxiety in dogs? It’s one of the most common causes of dog anxiety, and is often preventable. If you’re on the market for a new dog, consider your lifestyle before making a decision. For example, if you travel a lot or work long hours, seek out dog breeds with low separation anxiety. You don’t want to set yourself (or a dog) up for more stress!

By factoring your pet’s comfort levels into your plans, you’re likely to prevent most major anxiety attacks and uncomfortable side effects for both you and your pet!

Contacting Your Vet if Anxiety Problems Persist

Moments of situational anxiety can be unavoidable, but ultimately, you want to prevent stressors from affecting your pet whenever possible. If your pet has been living with anxiety for a long time, their physical health will start to suffer. So when to call the vet for dog anxiety?

If you’re worried about your pet’s quality of life–or YOU are struggling with the effects of their anxiety–it’s time to call your vet. They might give you some tips for reducing your dog’s anxiety, or advice on coping mechanisms for you both. In cases of chronic anxiety–dogs with what’s considered “general anxiety”–your vet might also prescribe anti-anxiety meds for dogs like Trazodone or Zoloft (with a special dog-friendly dosage, of course).

When giving your dog anxiety medication, be sure to follow the directions from your veterinarian or vet pharmacist exactly to prevent unpleasant side effects. Your vet may also talk to you about an adjustment period for dog anti-anxiety medications–if they don’t, be sure to ask what to expect once your dog begins taking their medication.

With a supply of tips and tools–and a big side of love and patience–you should be well-equipped to help your dog deal with anxiety and in turn, help them thrive!

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