“Calming the Savage Beast” A Canine Anxiety Overview

If anyone has not been to the clinic lately, I will tell you that there are some exciting things going on! I, Dr. Davis, joined the practice in the beginning of November and shortly after, brought one of my good friends, Whitney to join the team as she is an amazing assistant. Along with some new faces, we are in the midst of a facelift or “roof-lift” in this case. Although these are all awesome changes they can, unfortunately, be a little stressful for everyone, including your pet. Take sweet Poppy for instance, she has some noise phobias and when she comes to work with Alyson during the day, she finds the noise from the roofers to be quite alarming. Poor Poppy shakes, barks and hides during her shift, but luckily here at Four Corners Animal Hospital, we are equipped to help ease her anxiety

First, let’s talk about canine anxiety disorders (I will focus on our little furry, feline friends another week). The big categories we see causing undue stress in our canine friends are separation anxiety, noise-associated anxiety and social anxiety. Each of which can cause any number of odd behaviors such as barking, pacing, panting, shaking, licking, hiding, aggression and even destruction.

The good news is that there are many options available for our pets that experience any of these anxiety disorders. First and foremost it is necessary to make sure there isn’t anything else going on, so a good physical exam and minimum database of blood work (serum chemistry, complete blood cell count, thyroid) and urinalysis are necessary. Once no underlying cause is established the fun begins. Sadly, there is no easy fix for anxiety related disorders, but with a little work everyone will be happier in the long run.

-Exercise is great for the anxious dog as it provides an outlet for energy and distracts from stressors. Not only is it an excellent way to strengthen the bond with your pet it is good for you too!
- Training is a key to all forms of anxiety, especially social anxieties. Training provides your dog mental stimulation and gives them strategies to help them deal with stress. One of the best examples is crate training, if a dog knows their kennel is a safe and happy place they are likely to flock to it and feel comfortable in a stressful situation.

- Desensitization therapy utilizes small doses of a stressor to alleviate some of the anxious response. Though this treatment is not for everyone, it can be very useful for numerous social anxieties and even separation anxiety.

-Hugs are a great way to release endorphins in people. Anxiety wraps (ie. Thundershirt) can help provide comfort in stressful situations like thunderstorms, fireworks and construction, in the same way a hug comforts you when you are hurt.

-Dog appeasing pheromones mimic the natural pheromones released to soothe nursing puppies. There are several formulations available to help ease your anxious pup.

-If drug-free options have not provided comfort, sometimes we go to the medicine shelf. A variety of nutraceutical supplements and pharmaceutical treatments are available to be used in combination with any or all of the other methods to make pets feel at ease.

So, if you or your pet feels stressed out, there is something we can do about it! From long ongoing and daily stressors to temporary events, like a move or roof construction, there is no need for everyone to feel on edge.