When a dog is scared or perceives a threat, a section of their brain (the hypothalamus) signals the production of certain chemicals to prepare the dog for fight or flight. This is good when there is an actual threat present, but in dogs with a nervous disorder–also known as chronic anxiety–the frequent release of these chemicals begin to weaken the immune system and can lead to emotional and physical health problems.
Dogs use primarily body language among themselves. Years ago, when still in the wild, dogs used to live in a pack and various emotions were continuously transmitted and perceived among one another. Dogs were able and still are able today, to represent a wide array of emotions by just using specific signals that were and still are readily understood by other dogs.
Today, as humans, we must try to understand what dogs are trying to tell us. This way we can better communicate and cherish the relationship we have with them. When it comes to demonstrating nervousness, some dogs may display very subtle signs of being uneasy and some instead manifest very prominent hints of such uneasiness.
- There are two types of anxiety in dogs; phobias and unspecified. A phobia is a direct reaction to something specific, and the most common triggers are loud noises such as thunder or fireworks. The more general, unspecified version occurs where there is no identifiable cause for the dog’s symptoms. The reaction by the dog in either case is virtually identical, but the cause for the anxiety may or may not be immediately apparent.
- Symptoms of chronic anxiety in dogs range from the typical signs of barking or whining to more severe examples of stress, such as urinating or defecating in the house. Excessive licking and heavy panting are also common signs of anxiety. During especially stressful situations, dogs often find the need to hide from the perceived trigger, usually under the bed or behind the couch.
- A diagnosis for an anxiety disorder is given after your veterinarian evaluates your dog’s behavior. He will also run tests to check your dog’s heart rate and digestion. Frequency of urination is also analyzed, as this could be a sign of an emotional problem. The veterinarian will also conduct a blood test, as unusual levels of certain types of white blood cells are associated with anxiety.
- The first step is to examine the environment. Domestic stress, such as divorce, a move or a new baby and irregular schedules are two common times when a dog begins to show anxiety. Give your dog extra attention and maintain a regular schedule to see if the behavior improves. Therapy to change the behavior and training techniques to encourage relaxation are also helpful methods of treatment.
Before treating dog anxiety with anti-anxiety medications, try using safer and milder natural alternative treatments. Natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathic remedies, flower essences, and aromatherapy, are effective in calming and relaxing an anxious dog.
Coming soon we will have a variety of herbal supplements for your dog, along with other helpful tips and hints.