Overstimulated Dog

Overstimulated Dogs: Signs, Causes and Treatment

Overstimulated dogs have sensory overload caused by excessive environmental stimuli, such as auditory, visual, and tactile. Sensory issues in dogs, such as processing disorders, cause overstimulation. Overstimulation exacerbates neurological conditions in dogs, but it is not a neurological condition.

Overstimulated dogs exhibit hyperactivity, inability to focus, excessive barking, and destructive behavior. Seizures are a sign of overstimulation. Dogs are easily overstimulated by insufficient physical exercise, mental stimulation, inconsistent training, and environmental factors such as loud noises or chaotic surroundings. 

Identify and manage overstimulation triggers to treat an overstimulated dog. Provide a balanced routine, regular physical activity, mental enrichment through interactive toys or puzzles, and consistent training sessions. Creating a calm environment with clear boundaries for overstimulated dogs helps reduce overstimulation and improve behavior. CBD treats for dogs complement behavioral strategies and promote calmness in overstimulated dogs.

What is an Overstimulated Dog?

An overstimulated dog experiences sensory overload due to excessive environmental stimuli such as auditory, visual, tactile, and olfactory information. Sensory overload in dogs is triggered by traumatic experiences or underlying medical conditions, leading to abnormal neural, chemical, and electrical signals that affect nerve endings and exacerbate behavior issues.

Overstimulation increases sensitivity to various stimuli, such as sounds, lights, or touch, which overwhelms the dog's senses. Traumatic experiences affect the brain's processing of sensory information, causing an exaggerated response to typically considered normal stimuli.

Medical conditions, such as sensory processing disorders or neurological diseases, disrupt the neural pathways responsible for regulating sensory input. Disrupted neural pathways mean the brain struggles to interpret and filter sensory information accurately, leading to confusion and distress for the dog. 

Sensory overload causes changes in behavior and symptoms, requiring a veterinarian or a canine behavior expert to discuss ways to calm an overstimulated dog.

Sensory overload in dogs is triggered by traumatic experiences or underlying medical conditions. It leads to abnormal neural, chemical, and electrical signals that affect nerve endings and exacerbate behavior issues.

How to calm an overstimulated dog?

To calm an overstimulated dog, follow the 8 steps below. 

  1. Increase Exercise and Physical Activity. Extra exercise burns off excess energy and helps calm an overstimulated dog. Regular walks, playtime, and interactive games reduce energy levels and reduce overstimulation in dogs.
  2. Give Mental Stimulation. Provide mental enrichment through puzzle toys, training sessions, and interactive games to calm and overstimulated dogs. 
  3. Create a Calm Environment: Create a peaceful space for the dog to retreat, relax, and minimize exposure to loud noises and chaotic activities.
  4. Develop a consistent Routine: Establish a predictable daily routine to calm an overstimulated dog. Consistency in feeding, exercise, and sleep reduces anxiety in overstimulated dogs.
  5. Start Training and Commands: Teach and reinforce commands such as “sit,” “stay,” or “down,” and give positive reinforcement when the dog follows the command.
  6. Massage and Touch: Gentle petting, massage, or calming products like weighted blankets help calm an overstimulated dog.
  7. Use Aromatherapy: Certain scents, such as lavender, have a calming effect on dogs.  Use dog-safe essential oils or calming sprays to calm an overstimulated dog.
  8. Avoid Overstimulation: Manage or avoid overstimulating situations, such as loud noises and busy roads. Gradual desensitization to triggers helps calm an overstimulated dog.

What Causes Overstimulation?

The causes of overstimulation are listed below. 

  • Lack of Physical Exercise: Insufficient physical activity produces excess energy, causing hyperactive and overstimulated behavior.
  • Insufficient Mental Stimulation: Dogs need mental challenges to stay engaged and satisfied. A lack of mental stimulation leads to boredom and causes overstimulation when dogs encounter stimulating situations.
  • Inconsistent Training: Inconsistent or inadequate training of dogs results in misunderstanding appropriate behavior, leading to overstimulation.
  • Chaotic Environments: Noisy and chaotic environments overwhelm a dog, leading to overstimulation.
  • Overexposure to Stimuli: Constant exposure to exciting stimuli, such as other animals, new people, or busy streets, causes overstimulation in dogs.
  • Anxiety and Stress: Dogs suffering anxiety or stress are prone to overstimulation. Triggers for overstimulation include separation anxiety, unfamiliar environments, or changes in routine contribute.
  • Inadequate Socialization: Dogs without correct socialization are easily overstimulated when introduced to new people, animals, or environments.
  • Owner's Behavior: Dogs mirror their owners' emotions. They become overstimulated when their owners are anxious, overly excited, or inconsistent.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as sensory or neurological conditions and pain, increase a dog's sensitivity to stimuli and cause overstimulation.

Can Overstimulation Cause Seizures?

Yes, overstimulation can cause seizures in dogs. Overstimulation disrupts normal neuronal and electrical signals and requires immediate veterinary attention and diagnostic tests. “Intense physical activity can trigger seizure-like episodes in dogs, as seen in a 12-month-old female neutered crossbreed,” according to the study by Motta, L., & Dutton, E. titled “Suspected exercise-induced seizures in a young dog,” 2013.

Overstimulation is not a direct cause of seizures, but it acts as a trigger for dogs with underlying conditions. Dogs with overstimulation experience an abnormal surge in neuronal activity, resulting in the brain's electrical circuitry misfiring. The disruption causes the brain to send uncontrolled signals, triggering a seizure in dogs

Prompt veterinary intervention identifies the underlying cause and treatment required to mitigate the risk of future seizures. 

Can Dogs have Sensory Issues that cause Overstimulation?

Yes, dogs can have sensory issues that cause overstimulation. Sensory processing disorders or heightened sensitivity to certain stimuli make some dogs more prone to overstimulation. “Sound sensitive dogs have exaggerated responses to sound stimuli, involving a marked autonomic imbalance towards sympathetic predominance and release of cortisol,” according to the study by Souza, C. et al. titled “Use of behavioral and physiological responses for scoring sound sensitivity in dogs,” 2018.

Sensory issues result in an exaggerated response to everyday stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, or physical touch. Dogs with these sensitivities are easily overwhelmed, leading to behaviors such as excessive barking, restlessness, or aggression.

Common sensory issues in dogs include auditory sensitivity, tactile defensiveness, and visual disturbances. Auditory sensitivity manifests as a heightened reaction to noises, while tactile defensiveness results in an aversion to certain textures or touches. Visual disturbances lead to difficulties in processing visual information.

Symptoms of sensory issues in dogs vary from excessive barking, restlessness, or hiding when triggered to aggressive behavior or  self-harm. Recognizing and addressing these symptoms is crucial in providing appropriate care and support for the affected dog.

What are the Signs of Overstimulated Dogs?

The signs of overstimulation in dogs are listed below.

  • Hyperactivity: Hyperactivity in dogs is an excessive amount of energy and an inability to remain calm,  a sign of overstimulation. Hyperactive dogs move constantly, such as running in circles, jumping up and down, or darting around the house, making it difficult for them to relax or stay still.
  • Inability to Focus: Dogs are unable to focus or pay attention, especially during training sessions or commands,  a sign of overstimulation. Overstimulated dogs are distracted by minor stimuli and find it hard to concentrate on a specific task or follow instructions.
  • Excessive Barking: Excessive barking involves prolonged or frequent barking without an apparent cause and is a sign of overstimulation in dogs. Overstimulated dogs bark at almost anything, such as passing cars, strangers, or household noises, to release pent-up energy.
  • Destructive Behavior: Destructive behavior in dogs includes chewing, digging, or tearing apart household items such as furniture, shoes, or toys. Destructive behavior is a sign of overstimulation in dogs.
  • Restlessness: Restlessness is characterized by constant movement and an inability to settle down and is a sign of overstimulation in dogs. A restless dog paces back and forth, repeatedly changing positions or wandering around the house, showing signs of agitation and discomfort.
  • Panting and Drooling: Excessive panting and drooling, even when the dog is not hot or physically exerted, are signs of overstimulation. 
  • Jumping: Jumping involves repeatedly leaping onto people, furniture, or other objects. Overstimulated dogs jump to express excitement or seek attention, often ignoring commands to stay down.
  • Whining or Yelping: Whining or yelping are vocalizations that indicate distress, anxiety, or excitement and are a sign of overstimulation in dogs. 
  • Aggression: Aggression manifests as uncharacteristic hostility towards people, other animals, or objects. Overstimulated dogs growl, snap, or bite when overwhelmed and unable to manage their heightened arousal.
  • Dilated Pupils: Dilated pupils are a physiological response to excitement or stress. Pupils that appear larger than usual indicate heightened arousal, a sign of overstimulation in dogs.
  • Body Language: Body language includes various physical cues that signal a dog’s emotional state. Signs of overstimulation in dogs include a tucked tail, flattened ears, raised hackles, and tense muscles. 

How to Help Overstimulated Dog?

To help an overstimulated dog, consult a behaviorist for a treatment plan incorporating training, exercise, and socialization to modify behavior and manage the dog's stress response effectively. “To help overstimulated dogs, consider taking them for long walks, even if it's difficult for you to maintain this routine due to age or health issues,” according to a study published in the Annals of Veterinary Science titled “Help to Our Home Dogs,” 2020. 

Regular exercise and mental stimulation through training and interactive toys help manage a dog’s energy levels. Preventing overstimulation involves avoiding situations that trigger excessive excitement, such as crowded places or loud noises, and gradually desensitizing the dog to these triggers. 

Support an overstimulated dog by creating a consistent training program incorporating a daily routine for structure and predictability, which helps reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

Physical exercise is vital for managing overstimulated dogs. Regular walks, playtime, and interactive games channel the dog's energy positively, preventing pent-up stress and promoting mental well-being.

Mental exercises such as puzzle toys, obedience training, and scent games engage a dog's mind, offering enriching and calming mental stimulation.

Supplements such as CBD treats for dogs help calm overstimulated dogs. CBD treats and oils promote relaxation and reduce anxiety by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating mood and stress responses. The treats complement the behavioral strategies, providing a natural way to help dogs maintain calm in stimulating environments.

How to Diagnose Overstimulated Dog?

To diagnose an overstimulated dog, observe behavioral patterns and identify triggers that lead to excessive excitement. “Physical examination findings of overstimulation in the nervous system can help diagnose overstimulated dogs,” according to the study by Tse, Y. et al. titled “Mechanical ventilation in a dog with acetylcholinesterase inhibitor toxicosis,” 2013.

Start by monitoring the dog's reactions in various situations, noting instances of hyperactivity, inability to focus, excessive barking, jumping, panting and drooling. Keep a detailed journal of these behaviors, including the context and environment they occur. 

Consult a veterinarian to rule out underlying health issues that mimic overstimulation. The vet examines the dog, takes a detailed history to help identify specific causes, and confirms if the dog is overstimulated. The veterinarian provides a detailed treatment plan.

How Does Overstimulation Affect Dogs?

Overstimulation affects dogs by altering their behavior, disrupting the normal flow of neuronal signals and brain processing, and causing an imbalance in stress hormones. “Overstimulation in dogs can lead to diarrhea, ptyalism, lacrimation, tachycardia, central nervous system agitation, and neuromuscular junction dysfunction,” according to the study by Tse, Y. et al. titled “Mechanical ventilation in a dog with acetylcholinesterase inhibitor toxicosis,” 2013. 

Overstimulation affects dogs mentally and physically. An overstimulated dog exhibits signs of stress, anxiety, or aggression as it struggles to cope with the overwhelming sensory input.

Continuous exposure to heightened stimuli affects dogs physiologically through  heart rate, respiration, and metabolism changes, affecting their physical health over time.

Overstimulation is a constant state of arousal caused by environmental or medical issues. It is not OK for dogs to become overstimulated because it disrupts sleeping patterns, appetite, and ability to relax, ultimately contributing to chronic stress.

What is the Treatment for Overstimulated Dogs?

The treatment for overstimulated dogs involves a multi-faceted approach to reduce excessive excitement and promote calm behavior. Effective overstimulated treatment includes regular physical exercise to help burn off excess energy and incorporating mental stimulation through puzzle toys and training exercises. “Regular physical exercise, mental stimulation through puzzle toys, and training exercises help burn off dog excess energy,” according to the study by Bond, J. titled “Helping Dogs and Their People Be More Active, Together!,” 2023.

Establishing a consistent daily routine helps the dog feel more secure and less prone to overstimulation. Minimizing exposure to loud noises and chaotic situations is crucial for creating a calm environment. Professional training or behavior modification techniques are essential in treatment for overstimulation. 

Is Overstimulation a Type of Neurological Disorder in Dogs?

No, overstimulation is not a type of neurological disorder in dogs. Overstimulation is a behavioral response to excessive sensory input or excitement. “Dogs exhibit classic signs of fear, and their cortisol levels increase 207% in response to stress, but the presence of other dogs in the household leads to less pronounced reactivity.,” according to the study by Dreschel, N., & Granger, D. titled “Physiological and behavioral reactivity to stress in thunderstorm-phobic dogs and their caregivers,” 2005.

Overstimulation exacerbates existing neurological conditions or highlights underlying behavioral issues but it is not classified as a neurological conditions in dogs.

Neurological conditions in dogs, such as epilepsy or canine cognitive dysfunction, involve abnormalities in the brain's function or structure. Overstimulation results from environmental factors, inadequate exercise, insufficient mental stimulation, or inconsistent training.