Dogs can be loyal companions, which probably is why they are one of the most popular choices of pets. In 2017, around 89.7 million dogs had human families. Humans and dogs enjoy being around each other. However, dogs can be prone to anxiety.
It is important to watch out for signs that they are developing anxiety. If they do have it, you do not need to worry. There are ways you can treat anxiety in your dog.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
You can identify anxiety in dogs by observing their behavior. If your dog urinates more in the home, then they may suffer from anxiety. Signs of restlessness or aggression could suggest that there is an underlying problem.
Before you can look for ways to soothe your dog, it is necessary to be able to determine what kind of anxiety he or she has. While there is a wide range of anxieties, there are three common types.
Separation anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety disorder in dogs. Around 14% of dogs are affected by it. They experience discomfort when they are away from their human companions. It is unclear as to why dogs are more prone to separation anxiety. Barking and destructive behavior can manifest as a result.
Fear-related anxiety creates an instinctual feeling of unease when confronted with a perceived threat. New environments, strange people or dogs, and certain situations can cause extreme nervousness. The most common contributor is loud noises. In a study of 13,700 Finnish dogs, 32% showed having noise sensitivity as a reason for their anxiety.
Older dogs may suffer from age-related anxiety, and they might be irritable and show increased fear toward new people. This type may be associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). One study on the cognitive aging in dogs shows that CDS may increase anxiety. CDS causes a decline in memory and perception, which can lead to age-related anxiety.
Treating Anxiety in Dogs
Your veterinarian may recommend that your dog take some medication to reduce anxiety. As mentioned before, CDS may cause age-related anxiety. Selegiline is used to treat CDS in dogs, and it can help with specific phobias. It comes in liquid and tablet form for you to administer orally.
Fluoxetine also is beneficial for anxious dogs. You may know the medication by the name of Prozac. One study treated dogs that had separated-related problems using fluoxetine for two months. Experts observed an improvement in their behavior and psychological state. You can use medication alongside other natural therapies for the best results.
Daily exercise can benefit your dog just as much as it can benefit you. Getting enough physical activity outside can help with anxiety, especially separation anxiety. Your dog tends to have higher levels of energy as a result of increased worry. Playing fetch or going on long walks can provide an outlet for that excess energy and reduce stress.
A 2015 study surveyed 192 breeds, and it showed that fearful dogs tended to receive less exercise than non-fearful dogs. Results also showed that those living indoors were more likely to have anxiety than those living both indoors and outside. To calm anxious dogs, it is necessary to balance their time indoors and outdoors.
Another method you can use to treat anxiety in dogs is by counter-conditioning them. Counter-conditioning tries to change a dog's response to their cause of anxiety. Undesirable behaviors, like aggression, get switched with sitting or paying attention to the owner. As you train them, you would also slowly introduce them to the source of their anxiety to desensitize them.
Experts researched the effects of a four-week desensitization and counter-conditioning program. The aim was to reduce veterinary fear, and the dogs in the study went to the vet for four weeks. Dog owners that performed exam-style handling to train their dogs saw an improvement in their dog's fear levels. The results suggest that such a training program can help improve other forms of anxiety in dogs.
You may not realize it, but music can improve your dog's mood. Not only can it relax humans, but music can have a calming effect on canines. If your dog's source of anxiety is noise sensitivity, then putting on a nice song can block out outside noises. Classical music may be the best genre to have your dog listen to as a form of therapy.
A recent study surveyed the results of the effects of music on multiple species, including dogs. The research reported that exposure to classical music had the most calming effect on dogs. There was an overall positive effect on a dog's heart rate. If you feel that your dog is becoming anxious, try to turn up the volume of a relaxing song.
Adding Supplements to Their Diet
Supplements, such as dog treats, can reduce anxiety levels in dogs. Try to look for supplements that contain melatonin. The brain produces melatonin, and it is usually secreted at low levels during the day. It may be useful in helping dogs with anxiety or phobias. L-theanine can be beneficial for calming anxious dogs as well. Supplements often are recommended for general and travel anxieties. Talk to your vet to determine what dosage is right for your dog.
There are plenty of ways to calm anxious dogs effectively. Each one is different, so it is important that you find the right therapy. There are various options, and more research is getting done. Talking with your vet can help you find the right course of action.
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