Anxiety in Dogs

Dog Anxiety: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

Dog anxiety is fear of impending danger, a common neurological disorder in pet dogs. Untreated anxiety affects physical and mental health, harming the dog’s life quality. 

Anxiety signs are physical or behavioral, including excessive vocalization, destructiveness, compulsive or repetitive actions, house soiling, altered sleeping patterns, self-harm, shivering or trembling, drooling, pacing, and panting. 

Genetics, loud noises, time alone, new environments, past trauma, car travel, old age, and medical conditions are common responses to the “Why is my dog so anxious?” question. 

Anxiety is treated with medications, supplements, and behavior modification. Dog anxiety meds are effective but have side effects. Supplements are not universally effective for all dogs but are safer. Behavior modification is the best long-term solution, but it requires time. 

Successful management of an anxious dog entails a multimodal approach, combining different treatments. The most popular natural calming supplement is CBD. 

What is Anxiety in Dogs?

Anxiety in dogs is the anticipation of future danger or mishap. Modern dogs suffer from various anxiety types, from noise phobias to separation anxiety. 

The term anxiety is used interchangeably with stress and fear, but they are distinct conditions. Stress is a continuous state of anxiety and has negative physical and mental effects. 

Fear is a graded response, meaning the closer the trigger, the greater the response. Moderate fear is beneficial and an important part of the dog’s adaptive response. 

Dog anxiety is complex and challenging to overcome. Prolonged anxiety harms the dog’s quality of life and the dog-human bond. 

How can Dogs Experience Anxiety?

Dogs experience anxiety in an expressive manner. Observing the dog’s body language and behavior helps to notice anxiety. 

Telltale physical signs of anxiety in dogs include shaking, restlessness, drooling, and panting. Behavioral indicators are vocalization, destructive habits, and clinginess or withdrawal. 

Anxious dogs behave similarly to nervous people. The effects of anxiety range from disruptive to destructive, affecting the dog’s daily habits and quality of life. 

Is Anxiety in Dogs a Neurological Condition?

Yes, anxiety in dogs is a neurological condition. Canine neurological conditions are problems affecting the dog’s brain.

A recent study showed that anxious dogs have different brain wiring. Abnormal functional brain networks might be involved in anxiety, reports an article, “Network Analysis Reveals Abnormal Functional Brain Circuitry in Anxious Dogs,” published in PlosONE in 2023. 

Anxiety is a common neurological issue in dogs, with 72.5% of dogs exhibiting anxiety-related behaviors, according to a study, “Prevalence, Comorbidity, and Breed Differences in Canine Anxiety in 13,700 Finnish Pet Dogs,” published in Scientific Reports in 2020. 

What are the Causes of Anxiety for Dogs?

The causes of anxiety in dogs are listed below. 

  • Genetics: Certain dog breeds are at high risk for developing anxiety, indicating a genetic component. Examples are Lagotto Romagnolo, Wheaten Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Miniature Schnauzers. Wheaten Terriers are sensitive to noises, and Spanish Water Terriers are startled by strangers. 
  • Loud Noises: Sensitivity to sounds is medically known as noise phobia. The phobia is caused by thunder, fireworks, construction work, alarms, traffic, and household appliances such as dust vacuums, washing machines, hair dryers, and blenders. 
  • Alone Time: Being left alone triggers separation anxiety in sensitive dogs. The problem is common in abandoned dogs and certain "Velcro” breeds, such as Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Toy Poodles, and German Shepherds. 
  • New Situations: Puppies lacking early and extensive socialization grow anxious around new people or pets and in unfamiliar surroundings. Puppies are triggered by unfamiliar sights, sounds, or smells. 
  • Past Trauma: Traumatic events in the past make dogs anxious. Common stressors include abandonment, neglect, physical abuse, and being left on the street or in the shelter. Dogs with past trauma feel uneasy in general. 
  • Car Travels: Car rides make most dogs anxious. The main reason is motion sickness, which is uncomfortable. Dogs associate car rides with unpleasant experiences such as veterinary visits and boarding facilities, creating further anxiety.  
  • Old Age: Growing old is associated with declining cognition, memory, and senses, making dogs fearful and distressed. The condition is medically known as CCD or canine cognitive dysfunction and is seen after age nine. 
  • Medical Conditions: Certain health problems, such as arthritis, hormonal imbalances, blindness, or deafness, make dogs confused and anxious. Ruling out underlying medical conditions is imperative when diagnosing canine anxiety. 

What are the Signs of Anxiety in Dogs?

The signs of anxiety in dogs are listed below. 

  • Excessive Vocalization: Anxious dogs are prone to unusual, unprovoked vocalization, including barking, howling, crying, and whining. 
  • Destructive Behaviors: Increased destructiveness, like chewing on furniture, digging in the yard, and scratching at doors, is standard for dogs with anxiety. 
  • Compulsive or Repetitive Actions: Anxious dogs comfort themselves by repetitive actions, such as tail chasing, circling, overindulged grooming, or fly biting. 
  • House Soiling: Anxiety is one of the most common reasons house-trained dogs start to urinate or defecate around the house. 
  • Altered Sleep Cycle: Anxious dogs have trouble sleeping, and sleep deprivation adds to their stress, creating a magic circle. 
  • Self-Harming: Dogs indulge in licking, chewing, or biting their paws when stressed, and long-term paw irritation results in self-inflicted injuries.  
  • Shivering or Trembling: Shivering and trembling are telltale physical signs of anxiety in dogs. The shaking is caused by adrenaline flooding the dog’s body. 
  • Increased Drooling: Hypersalivation, or increased drooling, is visible in dogs with anxiety episodes. 
  • Pacing and Panting: Stressed dogs are unable to settle down and pace, making them pant heavily. Pacing and panting are common signs of anxiety in dogs.

What Should the Owner Do to Minimize Dog's Anxiety?

Dog owners should socialize puppies, create routines, and practice daily exercises to minimize dog’s anxiety. First, socialize puppies early to help them become comfortable in new situations. Early socialization boosts the dog’s confidence and reduces the risk of anxiety in adulthood. Second, create a consistent routine for feeding, walking, and bedtime. Creating a routine is important because it gives dogs a sense of stability. Third, practice daily exercises, ensuring the dog gets plenty of physical activity to expend excess energy. Daily physical activity is tiring, leaving less energy for anxiety episodes. 

How to Keep the Dog Calm During Anxiety?

To keep the dog calm during anxiety, follow the five steps listed below. 

  1. Use a calming supplement. Calming supplements must be administered in advance to take effect. The most popular calming supplement is CBD. Severe cases of anxiety require medications instead of natural supplements. 
  2. Create a safe space. Make a den for the dog to hide in when it feels in danger. Dogs have strong denning instincts and find comfort in dark and noise-free spaces. Put the dog’s favorite toy, blanket, or treats inside the safe space to make it more comfortable. 
  3. Play interactive games. Interactive games are excellent for distracting dogs. Puzzles, Kongs, and snuffle mats stimulate dogs' minds and redirect their attention away from the stress source. 
  4. Ensure physical contact. Cuddling stimulates the release of oxytocin hormone, aiding the dog’s relaxation. Pet the dog or sit beside it to give therapeutic physical contact. 
  5. Try alternative solutions. Alternative options, such as calming beds or crates, thunder shirts, PEMF therapy, music, and aromatherapy, are helpful in some dogs with anxiety, alone or combined with other approaches. 

What are Dog Anxiety Treatments?

The dog anxiety treatments are listed below. 

  • Natural Remedies: Natural options are CBDs, dog-appeasing pheromones or DAP, calming herbs (chamomile, passionflower, valerian root), and homeopathic remedies (Aconite 30C, Borax 6C, or Phosphorus 30C). 
  • Anti-Anxiety Medications: Traditional medications are used in dogs that fail to respond to natural remedies. The medications must be prescribed by a vet and used carefully. Anti-anxiety medications include Alprazolam (Xanax®), Diazepam (Valium®), Buspirone (BuSpar®), Fluoxetine (Prozac®), and Trazodone (Desyrel®).
  • Behavior Modification: Behavior modification is a lengthy but effective process that includes desensitization and counterconditioning. Desensitization gradually exposes the dog to low-intensity stress triggers to achieve resistance. Counterconditioning changes the dog’s perception of the stress stimulus and links it to a positive experience. 
  • Alternative Solutions: Alternative approaches are used with traditional options and include pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy, thunder shirts, music, aromatherapy, calming beds, and crates. 

How to Treat Anxiety in Dogs with CBD?

To treat anxiety in dogs with CBD, use regular supplementation and combine the CBD with other treatments if necessary. 

CBD (cannabidiol) relieves anxiety and supports relaxation through the dog’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS manages critical body functions, including mood and emotions. 

Anxiety is the main reason pet owners use CBD for dogs, according to an article, “Assessment of Cannabidiol Use in Pets According to a National Survey in the USA,” published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice in 2023. 

The study continues to elaborate by saying that “many participants perceived an improvement of their pets' condition with supplementation, with mild to no side effects.

CBD has been shown to help calm dogs during alone time and car rides, reduce vocalization caused by separation anxiety, and minimize aggressiveness in anxious shelter dogs. 

Consult a veterinarian before using CBD for dog’s anxiety treatment, and ensure the product is of high quality and safe. 

What are CBD’s Properties that help treat Dogs' Anxiety?

The CBD properties that help treat dogs’ anxiety are anxiolytic. The exact acting mechanism behind the positive anti-anxiety effect is still being researched. 

CBD works by interacting with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, abundant in the central and peripheral nervous systems. 

The working theory is that CBD alters serotonin signals in the brain. A separate theory is that CBD reduces inflammation in the brain, triggering anxiety and depression. 

What are the Benefits of CBD for Dogs' Anxiety?

The benefits of CBD for dogs’ anxiety are listed below. 

  • Natural Solution: CBD is a plant-based supplement and is all-natural and safe. Quality pet CBD products are created with organic hemp and free from artificial ingredients. 
  • No Age Restrictions: CBD oils and treats are safe to use in dogs of all ages, which is ideal considering the high anxiety incidence in puppies and seniors. 
  • Rare Side Effects: CBD side effects are benign and only occur in the early phases of use, in high doses, or with low-quality products.  
  • Plenty of Options: Pet CBD products are available in different forms (oils, chews, infused edibles) and flavors (chicken, beef, bacon), ensuring a fit for every anxious dog. 
  • Easy Availability: CBD for dogs does not require a veterinary prescription and is easy to buy online or in pet stores. Consulting a veterinarian before use is recommended.

Is CBD Oil Safe for Dogs?

Yes, CBD oil is safe for dogs. Pet CBD is safe when sourced from hemp and used with the vet’s approval and following the manufacturer’s guidelines. 

“CBD appears to have good bioavailability and safety profile with few side effects,” according to a study, “Scientific Validation of Cannabidiol for Management of Dog and Cat Diseases,” issued in Annual Reviews of Animal Biosciences in 2023. 

Cannabidiol has a wide safety margin and is suitable for various age groups. Pets are not able to overdose on hemp-sourced CBD oil for dogs.   

How Much CBD to Give to Dogs with Anxiety?

To determine the correct dosage of CBD to give to dogs with anxiety, follow the five steps listed below. 

  1. Measure the dog’s weight. Put the dog on a scale to determine its body weight. CBD is administered in one to five milligrams per 10 pounds of weight. Start with a low to medium dose (0.1 to 0.25 mg per pound). 
  2. Check the CBD concentration. The concentration of the CBD product is expressed in mg of CBD per ml or mg per treat.  
  3. Calculate the daily CBD dose. The standard recommendation is to start slowly, with around 0.25 mg of CBD per pound. Divide the daily amount of CBD with the product’s concentration to calculate the dose. For example, a 20-pound dog needs 5 mg of CBD (0.25 x 20 = 5). The daily dose is 0.5 ml of CBD oil if the oil’s concentration is 10 mg per ml (5 % 10 = 0.5). 
  4. Monitor the effects. Keep records of the daily amounts of CBD and their effects on the dog’s anxiety to stay on track. 
  5. Make dosage adjustments. Increase or decrease the CBD dose based on the results. Consult the veterinarian before making adjustments. 

What are the Side Effects of CBD for Dogs?

The side effects of CBD for dogs are listed below. 

  • Lethargy: High CBD doses induce low energy, increased sleepiness, and disinterest in everyday activities.
  • Stomach Upset: Vomiting and diarrhea are common in dogs after CBD use and are a result of the carrier oil rather than the CBD content. 
  • Dry Mouth: Cannabinoids inhibit normal saliva production, resulting in xerostomia or dry mouth.
  • Drowsiness: Drowsiness causes loss of balance and coordination, but it is associated with low-grade CBD products. 
  • Liver Enzyme Changes: CBD blocks the production of certain liver enzymes, such as cytochrome P450 enzyme, altering the dog’s ability to metabolize drugs.
  • Low Blood Pressure: Excess amounts of CBD temporarily lower blood pressure and cause hypotension.

Can CBD Oil Help Dogs Calm Down?

Yes, CBD oil can help dogs calm down. Cannabidiol (CBD) has anxiolytic properties that relieve anxiety and promote relaxation. 

CBD promotes better sleep and reduces hyper behaviors, contributing to overall calm in anxious dogs.

Dogs with severe anxiety require a multimodal approach. Combine CBD with long-term options, such as behavior modification, for best results. 

Can CCD Cause Dog Anxiety?

Yes, CCD can cause dog anxiety. Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is an age-related issue occurring in older dogs. The dysfunction is a behavioral syndrome caused by declining cognition and senses. 

Dogs start experiencing cognitive dysfunction when around nine years of age. The declining mental capacity and skills make dogs scared and anxious. CCD in dogs is not treatable, but it is possible to delay its progression.