Dogs do not speak human. I have written about anthropomorphizing your pet and as I said in that blog post, there are dangers in assuming you know what your pet is feeling. BUT, dogs do feel pain, sadness, happiness and even fear. Fear is the basis of anxiety whether it is a warranted fear or not, it elicits humans and dogs into the instinctual drive of either freezing, fighting or flight. Causes of anxiety in dogs can vary, it can be from an illness, aging, a terrible experience or even being unsocialized as a puppy. Regardless of the cause, it is up to us pet parents to recognize our dog's language on when it is frightened:
Mild Cues That Often Go Unnoticed
- Hiding or seeking solitude
- Seeking comfort from favorite guardian. Ex: Jumping up into a lap or leaning against legs.
- Shaking or panting. Keep in mind that normal panting happens when a dog is hot or has just exercised. If your dog is excessively panting for no reason, they are probably anxious.
- Excessive licking or chewing. This one you need to rule out allergies before jumping right into anxiety.
More Blatant Cues That Often Mean Your Dog is Having a Panic Attack
- Excessive barking and howling.
- Aggression towards another pet, you or someone else (that's the fight instinct triggering).
- Trying to escape
- Excessive pacing
- Excretion in inappropriate places when potty trained
- Destruction that is not related to being a puppy or juvenile dog
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, the first and foremost thing is to go to your veterinarian to rule out a health issue. If it is indeed anxiety, there are many things you can do. After ruling out health issues, you need to identify what is causing the anxiety. Once you have the trigger identified, you can start a desensitization program with controlled exposure and giving rewards for positive behavior. This kind of program is best developed and implemented with a dog behaviorist expert. If done improperly, you could risk your dog's anxiety becoming worse. Veterinarians can also recommend medication or supplements to help with the anxiety. Most importantly, do not leave your dog's anxiety untreated. A dog's anxiety can escalate if left untreated. Your dog can end up in a dangerous situation or cause itself harm. In addition, do not scold or praise your dog when they are having a panic attack. You must remain calm and stable even when your furry companion is not.