Part 3: Effects and Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs
The symptoms of anxiety can vary tremendously and will vary from dog to dog. And to make it even more complicated many of the symptoms of anxiety are actually normal behaviors in dogs, in certain circumstances and at moderate levels. For example barking, licking, chewing, panting, yawning, and scratching are all normal. But all of these should only happen in certain circumstances:
- A dog will bark at certain sights or sounds. Normal. But if your dog barks excessively and you cannot see or hear anything that is triggering this behavior it may be a sign of anxiety.
- A dog will lick himself, you, or another pet for a moment. Normal. But if licking becomes obsessive, if he is constantly licking himself, the furniture, the carpet, a toy or you, it may be a sign of anxiety.
- A dog should chew certain toys, bones or treats. It's good for them to suppress boredom and to clean their teeth. Normal. But if your dog chews or sucks whenever he's alone, or, whenever he's in a new situation, or, whenever the activity or noise level is higher than normal in your home, it may be a sign of anxiety.
- A dog will pant when being walked in the warm weather, after running around the yard, or even after extended indoor play. Normal. But if your dog goes from being calm and quiet to suddenly panting, it may be a sign of anxiety.
- Dogs yawn just like people when sleepy. Normal. But deep, wide-mouthed and frequent yawning may be a sign of anxiety.
- A dog will scratch himself. Some will even scratch at a door to let you know it's time to go. Normal. But, like licking and sucking, if your dog is scratching obsessively, it may be a sign of anxiety.
There are several more signs that your dog may be suffering from anxiety. But these are symptoms that can also be attributed to medical conditions. They include diarrhea, vomiting, hair loss, shaking, pacing, tail chewing, hiding or seeking solitude, and becoming extremely submissive or overly aggressive. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms try to put it in context to determine if you should seek immediate medical attention or if you should observe him for a while first.
- If, for example, you dog suddenly develops diarrhea and / or vomiting, there's a good chance he simply got into something he shouldn't have be it in the garbage, the backyard, or while you were walking. But if this condition lasts more than 24 hours seek advice from a veterinary professional.
- Hair loss will seldom happen very quickly and can mean several things including allergies, vitamin deficiencies, medical problems and stress. Again, if this condition appears and persists seek advice from a veterinary professional.
- Shaking is really a tough one. Your dog may shake if it is frightened or if it is cold. Either of those situations should be obvious to you. Some dogs actually shake with excitement at the thought of a treat or a walk or recognizing playtime is coming. But if your dog occasionally, or even periodically, gets the shakes or trembles, this can be a sign of a serious medical problem and / or severe pain. Do not ignore it. Seek advice from a veterinary professional.
- Pacing can be a sign of boredom, can become an obsessive behavior, or can be a sign of a very severe medical problem known as 'bloat.' If your dog has always been inclined to pace it is probably a stress or behavioral issue. But if your dog suddenly develops this behavior, pacing and restlessness, seek immediate advice from a veterinary professional. Bloat is life threatening.
- Tail chewing is another activity that can be a behavioral issue brought on by stress or a medical problem. It may require medical attention in either case since it is an activity that may cause the dog to create sores or open wounds on itself by chewing and irritating the skin. So if you observe this behavior with any degree of frequency, seek advice from a veterinary professional.
- And finally, any change in your dog's normal behavior or personality should be observed and considered carefully. If your normally social and loveable dog is suddenly seeking solitude, hiding, being uncharacteristically submissive or aggressive - something is wrong. If there has recently been any major change in his life, such as those discussed in Part 2 of this series, then the personality and behavior changes will hopefully be temporary as your dog adjusts to the newness of his situation. But if things in his life are relatively stable and you are not aware that something has caused him to become frightened or nervous, seek advice from a veterinary professional.
So, if any of the symptoms described above persist you should seek advice from a veterinary professional. Even if your observations leave you no doubt that the problem is not medical. Remember, stress, anxiety, fear, and the symptoms and behaviors associated with these emotions have a tremendous impact on your dog's mental, emotional and physical health. And in severe cases can be treated with medications, herbal remedies, behavior modification and other methods that will be discussed in Part 5 of this series.