Anxiety seems to be ever growing these days. Just like people, our pets can experience anxiety and at different amounts. They may experience anxiety in only a ew instances, or they could be pets who are anxious throughout the day and night. As a groomer, I feel I have been seeing an increase in dogs who have separation anxiety and anxiety being groomed. This seems to stem from pets who got used to their owners being home and the ones to groom them but are really struggling after their owner returns to work.
Please know, it is always a good idea to contact your veterinarian if you feel your dog has an ongoing problem with anxiety. They can help by prescribing anti-anxiety medicine or by helping you find a behaviorist or behavior consultant for canines. This is especially important if your pet’s anxiety starts to develop into aggressive behavior. Even if your pet only experiences it at certain times, like car rides, your veterinarian can help you with that! Anxiety is stressful, and we know that stress can do unseen damage on human bodies. It is the same for our pets, so we need to make sure we get them feeling better to live a happier and longer life.
Now that we understand how serious anxiety in pets can be, let us go into what anxiety looks like in dogs. Note that dogs do not need to present all these symptoms to be considered anxious but not all of these alone indicate that your pet is anxious. Again, if you are unsure please see your veterinarian.
Anxiety in a dog may appear as:
°Licking of the lips
°avoiding eye contact
°Self grooming to the point of tearing out fur/giving themselves hot spots
°Salivation and drooling
°Running away from home
There are even more that are not listed, but this list will give you a good idea on what to look for if you think your pet is anxious. Check out the resources at the bottom of the article for more information.
Now that we know what anxiety looks like, let’s go into some ways to help your pet through that anxiety.
Create a Daily Routine: Our pets thrive on routine. Keeping their feeding schedule, play time, walk time, and any other activities around the same time and in the same order will help them feel secure. Try to keep their days as consistent as possible. Cats especially like to stick to the same daily routine.
Incorporate Daily Exercise: Physical activity is a great way to help your dog lower their stress. Walks, fetch, or other physical games help your dog work off extra energy that they may be turning into anxious energy. Walking with your dog or going on runs with them may also help lower stress for you as well!
Keep them Mentally Stimulated: Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise and helps dogs focus on something other than whatever is making them unhappy. I wrote an article on ways to keep your pet mentally stimulated which you can find here, and includes a lot of different tips and methods.
Compression Shirts: If you have not heard of a Thundershirt for your dog, I would look into one! These are great during times like thunderstorms or fireworks. If you do not have one, or do not have the money to get one, try looking online for a video on how to wrap your pet in a blanket to help them. This gives them the feeling of being hugged and the compression may help lower their anxiety. This isn’t the best fix for all cases of anxiety, but situationally they can work very well!
Create a Sanctuary: This can either be a spot in your office area, a crate, your bedroom. Any place that your dog will be able to get to at any point that they need to get away. Make sure to NEVER use this space as a punishment or where you put them if they misbehaved. They need to see this kennel/spot as a place to come if they feel overwhelmed or stressed out. Make sure it is comfortable for them, if using a kennel make sure they can stand and turn around so they can make themselves comfortable. Sometimes adding an item of your clothing like an old shirt will help them.
Adding Pheromones and Calming Music: Online and in pet stores you can find calming pheromone plug-ins for dogs and cats. They put out a hormone that helps to lower your pets anxiety. Calming music is also helpful, and having these two things while working on separation anxiety can be a big help. Also if you know a stressful time is about to happen, get their sanctuary ready for them and if possible play music and use pheromones to help them stay calm.
If most of these do not work on your pet, then it is time to find a behavior consultant. You can find them for dogs and for cats, and they can work with your and your pets specific problems. They notice things you may not, and be able to help you see them too and work through the problem. They are great for helping desensitize your pet when it comes to separation anxiety, other dogs, and any other triggers your pet may have.
I hope this article is of some help to you and your anxious furry friend. I have listed below my references for this article for some continued reading!
Stay calm and keep wagging!
Edwards, J. (2021, June 29). Helping your dog battle anxiety and stress | FitBark. FitBark GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor | Smart Collar for Dogs & Cats. https://www.fitbark.com/blog/helping-your-dog-battle-anxiety-and-stress
Petroff, M., & DVM (Clinical Behavior Resident). (2020, April 23). How to help calm down an anxious dog. The Best Pet Health & Care Advice from Real Vets | PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/evr_dg_how-to-calm-down-an-anxious-dog
Top 10 Tips for Relieving Your Pets Stress. (n.d.). Fairfax Veterinary Clinic. https://fairfaxvet.com/top-10-tips-for-relieving-your-pets-stress/