Dog Anxiety : How it is similar and how it differs from our own
DOES MY DOG’S ANXIETY FEEL THE SAME TO HIM AS MY ANXIETY FEELS TO ME?
WHY DO WE TREAT OUR DOG’S ANXIETY DIFFERENTLY THAN OURS?
When a person experiences anxiety there are a lot of options. Depending on the type of anxiety in humans, there is self-treatment with things like physical activity, healthy diet, joining a support group, avoid alcohol and so on. Then there is the option to seek medical attention where you may be prescribed intense therapy, or prescribed a variety of drugs such as Xanax, Ativan, or Valium. But what do we do when it is our dog that is experiencing anxiety? First, let’s break down the different types of anxieties for human’s vs dogs.
In humans there are 5 major types of anxiety disorders which are:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD, is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away.
panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)
Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation - such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations or eating or drinking in front of others - or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.
In dogs there are 3 major types of anxiety disorders which are:
- Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is triggered when dog becomes upset when separated from their owner or guardian. Symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs will vary, but are easy to spot, and include barking/howling, digging, pacing, escaping their enclosure, chewing, having accidents in the home.
- Rescue/Shelter Anxiety
Rescuing/adopting/fostering a dog takes a lot of courage, patience, and commitment. Rescue and shelter dogs have experienced abandonment and emotional trauma, which unfortunately often translates to anxiety that they take to their forever homes. These anxieties can be triggered by meeting new people, quick movements, loud noises, strange dogs. Highest anxiety they experience is separation.
- Fear of Loud and Sudden Noises
Dog parents whose dogs have this fear know the minute they hear thunder or fireworks things are going to get bad. We know what is going on but to dogs it is an inescapable loud noise of danger with no solution. The most common noises triggers are Fireworks, Thunder, Loud vehicles, Lawnmowers, Vacuums, Yelling or loud talkers, Car alarms. Symptoms of this type of anxiety include hiding in closets, under the bed, whining, shaking, and whining.
Before getting into options, and solutions it is important to note that anxiety has nothing to do with training, lack of training, the dog being spiteful. Dog’s, like people, need help, and it is our responsibility to address the anxiety to improve our dog’s mental well-being and quality of life. Never, ever punish a dog experiencing anxiety, it is cruel and does not fix the problem and, in some cases, can make it even worse.
Now that you understand there is not just “one” type of anxiety, you also can now understand why you need to use different calming products that focus on those type of anxieties. Generally, if there is only one product offered as a “fix all”, consider looking elsewhere. Some of the calming products on the market contain:
Products that contain Dog appeasing pheromones (DAP) or Apasine. DAP is a synthetic ingredient created in a lab. The claims are that it mimics the scent of lactating female dogs. Products that contain DAP include Adaptil, ThunderEase, and Sentry. There is some concern by dog owners of the long-term effects to their dogs when inhaling synthetic pheromones.
CBD is a chemical found in marijuana. CBD doesn't contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. CBD has been presented to have anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact. Potential side effects include a decrease in the production of saliva leading to increased thirst. High doses of CBD are known to cause a temporary drop in blood pressure. Even though the drop is small, it might create a brief feeling of light-headedness. Drowsiness, sluggish behavior. Products include Hemp Calming Chews, Zesty Paws calming chews and NaturVet pet quiet.
The safety and risks of using CBD for dogs have not yet been researched. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD and has not issued a dosing chart.
Human Molecular Extract® HME*
HME is the gold standard of scent relief for dogs with anxiety. HME is made from a person’s scent molecules, therefore making it as unique as a fingerprint. Humans produce thousands of scent molecules to include aldehydes, esters, hexanal, benzaldehyde, heptanal and hydrocarbon. The claim is based on the proven studies by Emory University, that when presented with a variety of scents, the only scent that lit up the Caudate Nucleus in a dog’s brain was that of their owner. The Caudate Nucleus is the pleasure/happy center of a dog’s brain. HME was developed by Animal Science Labs. Products that contain HME include K9 Comfort Spray Calm Tranquility which contains HME and Lavender, K9 Comfort Spray Earmuffs which contains HME and specific essential oils targeted for extreme anxiety, K9 Comfort Spray Happy Home for large are dispersal, contains HME and a blend of essential oils formulated to create calm, K9 Comfort Spray Comfort Zone contains HME and essential oils used in a reed diffuser for small, confined areas and K9 Comfort Spray Peace of Mind which contains HME only, scent free and easy to use on any surface, car, travel. All the ingredients are 100% natural. For dog’s that are sensitive to certain scents it is recommended to use for short periods of time to gauge the dog’s reaction.
In addition to a calming, anti-anxiety product, it is recommended to use these techniques to also help calm and relax your dog.
Exercise Your Dog
Exercise is both a bonding time and tires out your dog. Because anxiety can cause an excess of energy, taking your dog out to play ball or on a long walk before you leave is helpful. Just like us, exercise can help relieve stress by producing beneficial endorphins.
Your touch is the most soothing thing to your dog. If your dog is small enough, pick them up or cuddle with them on the couch. Always talk to them in a smooth calm voice for more assurance while you pet them.
Anxiety can cause tensing in muscles and massage therapy is one way to alleviate tension. Start at the neck and work downward with long strokes. Try to keep one hand on the dog, while the other works to massage. Over time you may even be able to identify where your dog holds its stress and just work on that area.
Music therapy is proven to benefit humans, as well as dogs and cats. Music can be calming and relaxing while you are home, in the car, or away from your pet. Music can also alleviate noise sensitivity by blocking the street or scary noises that bother some dogs and create anxiety. We recommend classical as research has shown this to be the most soothing.
Isolating your dog in a safe and quiet space can sometimes calm their frayed nerves. Maybe that space has some very quiet music playing, low lights, and a good scent therapy such as K9 Comfort Spray Happy Home or the Comfort Zone reed diffuser for smaller areas. * Remember do not do this to punish your dog. They already feel miserable and need your patience and understanding. Being isolated for some dogs is very comforting.
*When diffusing essential oils with a steam diffuser it’s important that it is in an area with adequate air flow, not a sealed enclosed space.
With all the emotions that come with having a dog with anxiety, it eases our minds to know there are so many options. There is no one size fits all for curing your dog’s anxiety, and when all else fails, you can contact a dog behaviorist or your veterinarian. Keep calm and carry on.
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