Dogs possess a very high level of emotional intelligence. It is this capacity that makes them such cherished members of the family. However, this sensitivity also makes them susceptible to the same emotional and mental health issues that many humans suffer from, including potentially serious anxiety.
Since your furry friends cannot tell you about how they are feeling, it is important that you recognize the signs of anxiety when they occur. It is often not as obvious as you might think. Classic anxiety symptoms include shaking, panting and avoidance; however, frequent anxiety is masked by other behaviors such as aggression, pacing, accidents that happen long after being potty trained and persistent barking.
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from anxiety, it is important that you address the issue as quickly as possible. Just as with humans, anxiety is not likely to simply go away unaddressed. Here are a few tips to avoid or treat anxiety in your faithful pet.
Medication and Supplements
Taking medication or seeking out supplements is commonly the first line of defense that pet owners turn to. They can be very effective, but it is important to remember that animals, just like humans, will need some form of behavioral modification for anxiety to be fully addressed.
There are as many anxiety medications for dogs as there are for humans. Not every medication will work for every animal, so you will need to be patient and stay vigilant until you discover the right medication for your pet. A good medication should alleviate the signs of anxiety without causing excessive sedation or loss of cognitive abilities.
There are also many natural supplements that can help your dog, often without the troublesome side effects of medication. One supplement that is showing great promise for anxiety relief in both humans and animals is CBD oil. A great CBD oil for dogs can give your pet relief from his anxiety along with the many other health benefits of cannabidiol extract.
There are many other human supplements that are perfectly safe and effective for our canine counterparts including melatonin, l-theanine and l-tryptophan. Although these supplements are safe for your dog, it is always important to talk to your vet before starting them to make certain they are safe to take with any other meds your dog may be on and to be certain that you are giving the correct dosage for your pet’s weight.
Breed Choice and Lifestyle
Although there are some dog breeds that are thought to be more susceptible to anxiety, the reality is that any breed can suffer from it. Before you choose a pet you should do your research and be sure that you can provide the lifestyle and environment that your particular breed needs in order to be emotionally healthy.
Large, active dogs like German Shepherds can develop severe anxiety if they do not get enough exercise. Highly intelligent breeds like Dobermans need to be given mental challenges to avoid boredom and anxiety. Dogs that are known for their loyalty such as Golden Retrievers can also be very prone to separation anxiety.
If your dog is showing signs of anxiety, he may need more attention, more exercise or a furry friend to bond with more than he needs medication. Research your breed and make sure that his needs are being met.
Training and Behavior Modification
You may need professional help to alleviate your dog’s anxiety, especially if it is severe or it is causing destructive or aggressive behaviors. A specialist can help you implement a technique called counter-conditioning which teaches your pet to respond to the trigger of their anxiety with alternative positive behaviors. You can also attempt desensitization therapy in which your pet will be exposed to their anxiety triggers in slowly increasing intensity to increase a sense of security when they encounter it. Although training can continue at home, these therapies should be initiated by trained professionals to be most successful.
Anxiety in a beloved pet should be treated seriously as the resulting behaviors can be quite severe and disruptive. Begin with lifestyle changes and natural supplements and move on to professional intervention and medication if necessary.