For millions of pet parents, their beloved dog is more than just a four-legged friend - he's a member of the family. When looking at products for their pet they are willing to explore all options to ensure they provide the very best items like organic foods, therapeutic bedding, unique and innovative toys, on-trend collars and leashes, electronic feeding and watering items and more. Although our pets are treated as family members there is one issue that is often overlooked and undertreated in dogs - anxiety.
After all, we can't ask our animals how they're doing. Nonetheless, 75 million dogs in the U.S. experience anxiety, stress or fear at some point in their lives, and about 24 million of them regularly suffer from these potentially debilitating issues.
In some instances it's genetics. But for many dogs, anxiety often arises as a result of a change in routine such as a thunderstorm, fireworks, encounters with strangers, travel and other loud noises. Any of these can trigger an anxiety event.
Dogs show signs of anxiety or fear in many different ways. Sudden barking, hiding, inappropriate urination, digging, chewing, panting and excessive lip licking are the most common signs of emotional stress.
While it may be challenging to identify the triggers, it's important to understand the science of anxiety in order to best alleviate it.
Stress does more than just make for an unpleasant few hours; it can have long-lasting physiological effects that can be extremely detrimental.
During periods of anxiety, stress or fear, a dog's brain releases an increased amount of adrenaline and cortisol, which decreases the amount of blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain. This means less oxygen is flowing to the frontal cortex. With prolonged anxiety or fear, the increase in cortisol levels can weaken the dog's immune system, leading to increased incidence of sickness or stress.
To avoid long-term health problems, it is important to be aware of the common signs and symptoms and to treat anxiety when it occurs in companion animals.
Some drugs, like sedatives, mood modifiers and anxiety medications have been recommended in extreme cases, but the results have been mixed. Wishing to avoid pharmaceuticals, some owners opt for more natural solutions containing chamomile, passion flower, valerian root, poppy or hops.
One of the most effective treatments doesn't involve drugs at all, but rather, focuses on behavior modification to soothe dogs and calm their senses.
Because anxiety, stress and fear are so common in dogs and can cause so much harm, it's important to visit a veterinarian or a pet behaviorist to rule out any underlying medical conditions and to utilize the experts to help create a plan to treat the issue at hand. Anxiety is a serious disorder and it is best to get it under control early on. Treatment will improve quality of life for not only the dog but for the pet parent as well.