Dog Anxiety Disorder – 15 Signs to Recognize

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A dog anxiety disorder is probably the last thing you expected when you welcomed your new bundle of fluff into your life. Dog anxiety disorder can suddenly strike when you least expect it, and at the most inconvenient times.  It may even come as a surprise that dogs can experience a mental condition like an anxiety disorder, but it’s true, they can. 

DOG ANXIETY DISORDER - stressed dog

Although our furry friends enjoy the simple pleasures in life such as sniffing butts, peeing on furniture, and chewing your latest gadget, dogs are complex. They feel things very deeply, they’re just not able to communicate it in the same way as we do.

There are many causes behind pet anxiety, and 88% of dog behavior disorders are said to be accompanied by anxiety. Dog anxiety attacks can be caused by a variety of fears and phobias, that increase with age. It can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Sometimes dogs feel anxious because they cannot bear to be separated from their owners. This is what’s called separation anxiety. Some breeds are more susceptible to anxiety than others. Some signs of anxiety might be quite subtle compared to others.

fearful dog looking stressed

Every dog will experience dog anxiety at some point in their lives. Once you’re familiar with the signs of dog anxiety, you’ll be better equipped to be able to help your furry friend and prevent the situation from getting any worse.

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15 Signs of Dog Anxiety Disorder

Dogs communicate their feelings often through their body language. Let’s take a look at fifteen signs that can indicate anxiety in dogs…

1. Howling and Constant Barking 

Dogs often howl to signal their presence, communicate with other dogs, or signal distress. Barking is a normal expression of a dog, although barking and howling may become more intense when stressed. 

Anxious dog howling

Dogs may bark and howl excessively when anxious to soothe themselves or to try and get your attention. If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, he may whine or bark when you are not there. This kind of barking will stop as soon as you return.


2. Panting

Panting is usually a sign that dogs are cooling down. However, a dog might also pant to indicate anxiety. An anxious dog may pant and dart his tongue in and out like a lizard while searching for a quiet corner or shelter. 

anxious dog panting, side view

Stressed dogs produce more saliva than normal dogs. They also drool and sweat more around their nose and paw pads due to an increase in body temperature. Panting could also be caused by anxiety. This includes drooling, shaking, sweating, or shivering.

Chuffing is also a sign of dog anxiety, huffing and puffing is their way of trying to alleviate stress.


3. Pacing

Pacing can be a normal response to excitement. If your furry friend paces around as you get ready to leave, or after you leave the house, they could be experiencing an attack of anxiety or separation anxiety. 

dog pacing and restless

Dogs who are feeling stressed may be prone to pacing and inability to settle. You may notice a dog moving in circles or back and forth in some mild cases without any sense of direction.


4. Shivering and Shaking

If they feel cold, dogs will shake and shiver. However, if your dog begins shaking or shivering when they hear loud sounds like thunder, fireworks, traffic horns, vacuum cleaners, or traffic horns, this could be a sign that your dog is feeling extremely anxious. 

dog that is shivering and shaking with fear

Many dogs can be afraid of loud noises. This is why they will hide in closets, or stay close to their owners if they hear thunder or a firecracker. Dogs can also suffer from fear-related shaking if a stranger or another animal enters their personal space.

5. Running Away and Hiding

Your furry friend may be trying to escape from an unpleasant situation by hiding in a corner or running away, this could indicate agitation and anxiety. When a dog experiences anxiety, they may hide behind their owner, a tree, or a car, or engage in diversion activities to escape. A house move can cause anxiety in your dog.

DOG ANXIETY DISORDER  - dog hiding

They may try to escape to their previous old home or a familiar place. Dogs can run away from unfamiliar sights and sounds and may hide to shelter and escape the stress. Some dogs will also fall asleep to avoid anxiety and stress while most dogs are more comfortable in-flight mode than fighting mode. Dogs who experience anxiety during car journeys, zone out and fall asleep to cope with an uncomfortable situation.


6. Digging

Dogs love to dig holes in the dirt to hide treasure or lie in and keep cool. However, a dog anxiety disorder can lead to constant digging. Dogs might dig at doors and doorways if they’re left alone, or when their owners are gone. This can cause them to get scraped or cut paws or broken nails. 

dog digging in the garden

Dogs that keep digging holes in the yard or garden are actually trying to relieve stress, or are finding an escape because they are unable to process what they’re feeling.

If your dog is anxious, it is important to address the root cause.


7. Trying to Escape

The body’s natural and adaptive response to fear is escape. Dogs can fear many things. Mild fear can cause a dog to tremble, hide, or panic can cause them to pant and flee. Anxiety, particularly separation anxiety, often causes many dogs to constantly attempt to escape the house or backyard.

 

scared dog trying to escape over the fence

Escape attempts in anxious dogs can be accompanied by digging, panting, and household destruction, resulting in self-injury. Dogs will often seek escape from fearful situations. An anxiety attack can be caused by car rides or veterinary visits, crates, and other unfamiliar surroundings.

8. Destructive Behavior

Destructive behavior is a common sign of anxiety in dogs. When they experience anxiety, dogs tend to scratch, pull, dig with claws and nails. 

DOG ANXIETY DISORDER - destructive dog wrecking a cushion -

Dogs in a heightened state of anxiety may try to escape by destroying furniture, doors, and windows, as well as their crates. When your dog is experiencing an anxiety attack, destructive behavior may be accompanied by digging and escape.

9. Excessive Licking & Chewing

Dogs lick themselves as a form of self-grooming. It also releases endorphins, which help them feel calm. Licking that corresponds to a specific time of the year may also be allergy-related. Should a dog become infested with mites, fleas, or ticks, they may lick and bite themselves.

constant licking and chewing

However, excessive or compulsive chewing and licking in dogs can be due to behavioral issues. If a dog is obsessed with licking or chewing a particular spot on his body, especially the legs, it could be a dog anxiety disorder. Excessive licking can cause painful raw spots and eventually, baldness. Compulsive licking may also extend to people and objects.


10. Not Eating

Anorexia is a condition in which dogs lose interest in eating. However, other causes are stress or anxiety. Stressed dogs can suddenly lose interest in food, refuse favorite treats, or stop eating altogether. A decrease in appetite is dangerous and can lead to drastic weight loss. It’s important to consult a veterinarian immediately. 

anxious dog not eating

Healthy dogs eat well and are happy to eat. However, if your dog suddenly stops eating it could be a sign that they are stressed. Chronic stress can lead to decreased appetite and digestive problems in dogs.

11. Frequent Urination

Just like humans, dogs also experience a sudden urge for urination when they are nervous. Anxious dogs tend to urinate more often than normal dogs. If you observe your dog urinating or defecating during a visit with a veterinarian, when there are other pets present, or when guests are visiting, this can indicate an anxiety disorder.

dog constantly peeing

This behavior can be extremely unpleasant and can lead to a long-term problem if it is not treated. This behavior can be an indication of fear. Dogs may also urinate and defecate in inappropriate places and in the wrong places. Stress hormones are released immediately, which causes the bladder and anal glands to relax.


12. Unable to Settle with Dog Anxiety Disorder

Dogs in a prolonged state of restlessness could indicate a severe or mild disorder, such as anxiety. 

Dog unable to settle

An anxious dog that is restless and unable to settle can be caused by stress due to unfamiliar guests, strange surroundings, loud noises, or separation anxiety.

13. Pica Disorder

Pica disorder refers to a condition where dogs eat inedible materials such as plastic, rubber, and cloth due to anxiety or stress. Behaviorists say that separation anxiety and stress can trigger this behavior in dogs, causing them to eat all sorts of indigestible objects found in and around the home.

anxious dog eating plastic - pica

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety in the form of pica will often target objects that have a strong association with their owners. If eaten, these objects can be extremely dangerous and cause internal injuries and blockages or can be toxic. If your dog is displaying this kind of behavior, be sure to consult your vet ASAP.

14. Dog Anxiety Disorder and Yawning

Different things can be meant by a simple yawn, depending on where and when your dog is yawning. Dogs usually yawn when bored or tired. However, excessive yawning in stressful situations can indicate that your dog feels overwhelmed and stressed. For example, waiting in the vet’s office with your dog can cause extreme pressure for your furry friend. Yawning is your dog’s coping mechanism to handle the intense anxiety and anticipation. 

Dog yawning - DOG ANXIETY DISORDER

Dog anxiety disorder can affect the respiratory system, heart, and overall energy levels. This is why it can lead to breathlessness, yawning, and stress. A dog that yawns when stressed may be more severe than a normal sleep-related yawn. You should consult a behaviorist to help your dog overcome chronic stress.


15. Dog Anxiety Disorder and AGGRESSION

Dog aggression, which can include barking and growling, is one of the most dangerous signs that your dog may have anxiety. Aggression is a form of canine communication. However, anxiety-related aggression can lead to your dog lunging aggressively at people and pets or even trying to bite them. 

DOG ANXIETY DISORDER - Aggressive dog

Dogs can be aggressive if they perceive a threat, this can be especially dangerous when dealing with an anxious dog.If your dog is displaying defensive or offensive body language, this is a warning to back off. A dog that is in a state of fear, and acting aggressively is not thinking in a rational manner. If you can’t identify the cause of your dog’s fear, seek the help of a professional dog behaviorist.

Conclusion

Canine anxiety is quite common and can be caused by many things. If it is not treated, mild anxiety could become a severe dog anxiety disorder. It is important to identify signs of anxiety in your dog and take action.

You should consult a veterinarian if your dog shows any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. AKC states that it is possible to calm an anxious dog, but this requires collaboration between you and your vet or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. Your vet might recommend that you visit a trainer or pet behaviorist if the anxiety is not due to a medical condition.

DOG ANXIETY DISORDER - calm dog, close up

Fear and stress are normal emotions for animals. This helps them avoid dangerous situations. Use natural calming methods to calm your dog if he is afraid of something. Regular exercise and a walk can help dogs feel calm and relaxed.

Dogs can be your best friends and understanding how they communicate difficult feelings can help build a stronger bond between you.

Sources

American Kennel Club

PetMD

Anxiety In Dogs – The Ultimate Guide

VCA Hospitals

Anxiety Disorders in Dogs — Research

We hope this article was helpful to you. Check out these related articles on dog anxiety and how to manage and treat it.

Anxiety in Dogs – The Ultimate Guide

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How to Crate Train A Dog with Anxiety

Separation Anxiety in Dogs – Causes and Solutions

Car Anxiety – How to Fix It

The Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs

Destructive Dogs – Stop Them Destroying Your Home

What you should know about Homeopathy and Dogs with Anxiety

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Disclaimer

All information in this post is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.

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