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Help for Anxious Dogs: What to Do at Home

Anxiety is a psychological disorder that can seriously affect the health of your dog. The classical symptoms of anxiety are fear and worry that can exacerbate desperation in your dog. Desperate situations may make your dog resort to desperate measures - of which aggression is the most common. One thing for sure, anxiety can affect all breeds of dogs without discrimination.

What can cause anxiety in dogs?

Although there are numerous causes of anxiety in dogs, a few of them stand out. Some of the causes include:


Things that can cause fear anxiety in dogs may seem so trivial to us humans. For instance, dogs may always feel uncomfortable around strange people or other unfamiliar dogs. They may also be afraid of unusual noises such as fireworks and thunder.

New environments such as a ride in a different car or a visit to the office of the vet may also precipitate the feeling of anxiety in dogs.


This is perhaps the most common cause of anxiety in dogs. It affects about 14% of all dogs. Some dogs do not take it lightly being left alone or getting separated from their family. Separation anxiety is very dramatic. The dog reacts by urinating and/or defecating on the floor of the house. Such dogs may also destroy furniture and any other equipment within their vicinity.

Age-related anxiety

This is a condition of older dogs. It manifests when the ability of the dog to perceive, learn and memorize begins to decline in a disorder called cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The most similar manifestation of this condition is Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

What should you do to help a dog with anxiety?

Anxiety is a condition best diagnosed and treated by a veterinary officer. The professional can help you determine the type of anxiety your dog is suffering from. He or she will also come up with the best strategies to help manage your dog’s condition.

Some of these strategies include:

Effective training and conditioning of your dog

There are two major strategies when training your dog to manage anxiety. They are counterconditioning and desensitization. Counterconditioning simply means helping the dog to change his or her response to the stimuli that is causing the anxiety.

Desensitization, on the other hand, involves exposing the dog to the stimuli repeatedly so that he or she can get used to it. During desensitization, you may choose to reward good behavior exhibited towards the stimuli.


Melatonin is a common supplement that is sold over the counter. However, you should be wary of giving your dog melatonin without a prescription because it can cause hormonal imbalances to your dog which can be dangerous. The commonest symptom of anxiety in dogs is insomnia. This is where melatonin comes into action.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body to regulate the sleep and wake cycle. When you administer melatonin specifically designed pharmaceutically for prolonged release, it will significantly improve the latency and quality of sleep thereby eliminating insomnia for your dog, consequently managing anxiety.

Using other medications to manage anxiety

Anti-anxiolytics are available for prescription by the veterinary officer. Most theories postulate that anxiety is caused by an imbalance in the biological amines found in the brain.

Therefore, drugs classified as serotonin reuptake inhibitors and antidepressants have been beneficial in managing anxiety in dogs. Examples include clomipramine and fluoxetine. Anxiety due to old age in dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome can be treated with the drug - selegiline.

Can you prevent anxiety from occurring?


There are certain activities that can help in preventing anxiety in your dog such as:

  • Good nutrition and exercise

Good dog nutrition and physical exercise enable your pet to develop holistically both mentally and in stature. In this regard, your dog will be able to avoid getting anxious due to fear or separation.

  • Avoid the situations that cause anxiety to your dog

Once your veterinary officer has made a diagnosis, you will be well aware of what causes anxiety in your dog. You can then eliminate all the things causing fear anxiety in your dog. You may also have to travel with your dog or leave him/her under the care of someone you trust to prevent separation anxiety.

If you have a relative or a friend who is suffering from anxiety disorders then you can attest to the fact that it is a condition that is very difficult to manage. Nevertheless, a successful diagnosis can be done and your dog will be healed if you follow the treatment plans effectively.

One of the adverse effects of anxiety in dogs is aggression. You should, therefore, strive to control it before your dog causes harm to you, other people or other dogs.

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