Dog anxiety is a condition in which dogs become overly stressed or worried about events that take place around them. Like humans, dogs get anxious when faced with uncertain situations, and they may even show signs of fearfulness and apprehension at times without any apparent reason. But why do dogs get anxious in the first place? Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason, here are 10 potential causes of anxiety in dogs:
Dogs are species that are highly sensitive to feedback from the world around them, not only because it helps them survive, but also to detect potential threats. When fear is present in a dog, it can lead to a rapid escalation of anxiety. Fear can be triggered by a range of stimuli, which include loud noises (i.e. thunderstorms), the presence of animals (e.g. other dogs, cats, or even strangers), events happening outside (exposure to fireworks), and people entering the home (for example, doorbells for deliveries). Fear is also triggered when dogs feel like they are threatened physically (a perceived attack) or psychologically (an unseen threat).
Dogs will often feel more anxious if they don’t have access to food or water, which is why it can be important to pay attention to how your dog behaves around food and water bowls. Dogs are also particularly sensitive to their own internal signals of hunger and fullness, which sometimes leads them to develop anxiety from being unable to satisfy their needs. They often try to cater for this by eating too much or seeking out new foods that they haven’t been exposed to before. This feeding behavior can get out of control if they get too used to eating new things or if they get bored with what they have been given.
3. Separation Anxiety
Dogs that are separated from their owners for long periods of time will often develop separation anxiety. Part of this is because they feel like they will be left alone and because they don’t know when their owner will return. Dogs whose owners leave them every day without warning can develop a condition called “house-training” anxiety. This leads to frequent accidents inside the house, which in turn leads to greater confinement and isolation, and even more anxiety about the situation (see next point).
4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Dogs are particularly susceptible to obsessive-compulsive disorders. Some examples of behaviors that can be triggered by anxiety include obsessive grooming, tail chasing, licking their paws, spinning in circles, or excessive barking. This indicates that anxiety is being played out through the body rather than through the mind. It’s normal for dogs to experience anxiety like this, but if it gets out of control or leads to significant damage then it could be a sign that your dog is suffering from an OCD condition.
5. Age-Related Anxiety
As dogs age, they tend to start to experience more anxiety as they enter their senior years. This is because their body’s systems become less effective at coping with the stresses of life, especially after the age of 7 or 8. Dogs that are left on their own for long periods at this age will often become very anxious.
6. Temperature Change
Dogs are sensitive to changes in temperature, which can increase their level of anxiety, especially in the colder months. This is because their bodies become less efficient at keeping their core temperatures stable. This can lead to excess or even uncontrolled panting, which can be a sign that your dog is feeling anxious.
7. Generalized Anxiety
Dogs that are exposed to stressful situations time and time again can often develop generalized anxiety. This happens when there is no obvious cause of the stress, which makes it difficult to manage. This is because they have become so accustomed to being anxious that it becomes a part of their everyday lives.
8. Long-Distance Transport
Dogs that are being relocated or shipped long distances for competitions, shows, or even movies can exhibit signs of anxiety during the trip. Long-distance transport can be very stressful for dogs, especially if they are not used to it, as they are exposed to many new sights and sounds at once. Another factor that might contribute to this anxiety is the change in air pressure experienced during long-haul flights.
9. Medical Issues
Medical issues can trigger anxiety in dogs, which can make them experience similar symptoms to what they might experience when they are sick. For example, a dog with a urinary tract infection may strain while peeing more often or exhibit other signs of anxiety. The presence of pain from an underlying medical condition is also a sign that your dog is feeling anxious.
10. Social Anxiety
Dogs that are being bullied or isolated in a group can develop social anxiety, which can lead to grief and stress when they are in the company of other dogs. This is especially true for puppies who haven’t yet reached social maturity and who may not be able to communicate their feelings effectively. Dogs suffering from social anxiety often exhibit signs such as whining, avoidance behavior, or excessive barking, and they may seem unhappy and unwilling to participate in normal activities.
Anxiety in dogs is not uncommon and there are ways to help your dog get out of it. If your dog is experiencing anxiety the best thing you can do is stay with her and reassure her that everything is all right. She might not understand why her behavior makes you so upset and she might need reassurance and patience until she starts feeling better again. For more information, check out our article on “how to treat dog anxiety?”
To explore more, check out our other articles on anxiety in dogs.
Have you ever had to deal with anxiety in your dog? What did you do to help them feel better? Share your experience in the comment section below!