A panic attack is a natural response to an overwhelming stimulus that causes many dogs to experience extreme fear. Symptoms include shaking, drooling, panting, and hiding.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss what they are, how they can be treated, and ways you can help your furry friend if he or she regularly suffers from a panic disorder.
Can Dogs Have Panic Attacks?
Are you worried that your dog is having panic attacks? It is completely natural to be worried when they show symptoms of dog anxiety.
Yes, panic attacks in dogs are surprisingly common, however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help your pup cope better.
A panic disorder in dogs is no different than the equivalent human version; it is just more difficult to understand since humans cannot talk to pets to find out the problem.
What Are the Signs of a Panic Attack in Dogs?
If your furry best friend is prone to sudden panic attacks, here are some dog anxiety symptoms to look for:
- Shaking or trembling
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive salivation, or drooling from the mouth
- Running away
- Self mutilation, chewing legs, tail or feet till they bleed
- Hiding in a small space, like under the couch
- Displaying submissive body language – head down, arched back, tail tucked.
- Excessive Licking
- Restlessness and inability to settle down
- Whining and pacing around
- Sudden Panting
- Excessive barking
- Clinging to their owner for security
Symptoms of panic attacks in dogs may include the above signs as well as others that are specific to your pup’s needs and personality traits. Dogs who suffer from dog anxiety may also have other signs that are not related to anxiety attacks.
We have a detailed article about how to recognize dog anxiety that you can check out here.
What Causes Panic Attacks in Dogs?
Like humans, there can be many reasons why your canine friend may experience panic attacks.
Some of the more common causes include:
- Noise anxiety can trigger an intense fear of loud noises or unexpected noises such as fireworks, thunderstorms, and gunshots.
- Response to a painful or frightening experience, even if it happened years ago.
- Separation anxiety can occur through the emotional stress of being alone for long periods of time without their owner or from being rehomed multiple times.
- Confinement can trigger a panic attack, especially when feeling trapped and vulnerable in a confined space such as a small room or a crate.
- Travel anxiety, consisting of car rides, boat trips, flying on an airplane, riding on trains. Pups suffering from travel anxiety may have an intense fear of being confined, or they could find the loud noise scary. Your dog’s fear might be triggered by the movement of the vehicle and this could result in motion sickness.
- Extreme stress associated with a dog park, dog boarding, or other places where other animals gather.
- Abuse or other major trauma can trigger anxiety in dogs.
- Age related angst can occur and is a sign of cognative disfunction in older dogs.
- New situations or strange places, or even strange people can create intense nervousness.
Your dog’s panic attacks can be scary and even dangerous if your pet takes off running at full speed. As pet owners, it’s a good idea to make sure we are aware of what triggers will cause a panic attack.
That way we can try to avoid them altogether.
How Long Can a Panic Attack Last?
If your anxious dog starts to experience panic attacks suddenly, you may find the symptoms can come on very quickly and last for a few moments or even hours.
If your pup has experienced panic attacks before, he may know how to help himself by retreating into his safe haven such as under the bed or in a dog crate.
The length of time that this lasts will depend on what the trigger was to cause the flare up.
Can Dogs Have Panic Attacks at Night?
Do dogs experience panic attacks in their sleep? Your pet can definitely have anxiety attacks while they are sleeping.
This is similar to humans who wake up from a nightmare or dream without warning and feel extremely frightened.
Don’t be surprised if your anxious dog begins pacing, panting, drooling excessively, or acting nervous when he wakes up after suffering an attack during sleep.
If this happens frequently you may want to make sure your anxious pup is sleeping in an environment that will keep him feeling safe such as a crate.
What Do I Do If My Dog is Having a Panic Attack?
If you feel helpless when your dog suffers a panic attack, you are not alone. Many owners feel this way when their dog may suddenly become anxious and upset for no apparent reason.
Your canine companion’s safety is the most important thing to consider during an anxiety attack. If your dog begins running around full speed or moving quickly in any direction, it may be hard for you to get out of the way.
Try to take hold of your pup so he doesn’t run into furniture, walls, or other obstacles that could cause injury.
If your dog displays aggression, they may also try to snap at you. Your furry friend is extremely frightened or feels threatened by a perceived threat nearby, try not to take this uncharacteristic behavior personally as anxious dogs may react in a totally irrational way.
If this happens, do not attempt to put them in a dog crate or any place where your pet can feel trapped. This will make them even more upset and agitated than before the panic attack began.
Instead, try to remain calm so your dog knows you are not part of what is upsetting them. Your pup may also be able to pick up on your nervousness and their fear may worsen, which will cause the cycle to continue.
Don’t Punish Your Dog
It’s important not to punish dogs that are experiencing a panic attack, even if they are being aggressive. This can escalate the problem and it could even lead to mental and physical injuries for both your dog and you.
If your pet is suffering a panic attack, try to stay calm. You can help your dog recover best by remaining quiet and relaxed and continuing to comfort them until the episode passes.
Ways to Prevent Your Dog from Having a Panic Attack
Here are some helpful techniques you can try to prevent your dog’s panic attack:
- Create a “safe space” in your house, such as an enclosed dog pen, dog bed or a crate. Crate training is a wonderful solution for dogs left alone while dealing with separation anxiety.
- For noise fears, make sure their enclosed space in the house isn’t near loud sounds like a TV or radio, or anywhere where there could be a sudden noise, like fireworks, sirens or the sound of a car flying by.
- Play calming music to slow down their heart rate and keep stress at bay.
- Try to keep your dog in a consistent routine as much as possible, including their feeding schedule and exercise regimen.
- When it is time for a bath or nail trimmings make sure you have plenty of treats on hand. Dogs may experience more stress during these activities if they are not used to them or do not understand why they are being done.
- If you know or suspect there will be changes in your dog’s life, make sure you take the time to slowly prepare them beforehand. This includes any changes in your dog’s routine, moving to a new house or even just doggie daycare.
- Keep walks short and fun! When dogs are on leash they can feel trapped if they get scared by another dog or person.
- Introduce new people slowly with treats that your dog loves!
- Take your dog for more vigorous exercise to tire your dog physically and mentally. Giving your dog a good workout will burn off that extra nervous energy and make them calmer and more relaxed.
- If doggie daycare or other dog socialization is not an option, try to come up with a fun activity that your pet loves and do it regularly. This will help them build confidence so are better prepared if they ever need to be around other dogs again.
- Make sure your veterinarian check’s your dog’s health for any issues that may be contributing to the panic attacks.
- Offer comfort to help your dog. Like humans, dogs need a little reassurance, support and some quality time with their owner.
Nutrition & Exercise
Good nutrition and exercise are important for overall health and well-being, including mental health. Dogs that are physically and mentally healthy are less likely to experience irrational fears or other psychological problems.
A healthy diet is important for dogs with anxiety. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids can help to support cognitive function and reduce the symptoms of stress. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, and flaxseed oil.
Vigorous exercise is also essential for dogs with anxiety issues. More exercise for your dog may help to improve mood and reduce stress levels. Dogs should get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
TIP: Have you tried a Thundershirt for the best way to rapidly calm your furry friend down?
For more information about Thundershirts and how they can help pets cope better with anxiety and panic attacks, check out our detailed article here. We also have another article about how to put one on your dog, and how easy it is.
Supplements or CBD treats, CBD oil
Some pet owners are turning to other ways to treat their furry friends, and many have found CBD oil and CBD treats are an effective way to calm dogs that experience anxiety.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a natural compound found in the cannabis plant that has been proven to be effective in treating a variety of conditions, including nervousness.
If your dog is experiencing severe panic attacks, the first step is to take them to a veterinary clinic so that your veterinarian can do a complete physical examination and give you valuable advice.
A thorough physical examination by your vet, along with diagnostic tests will rule out any underlying medical condition that could be contributing to your dog’s panic attacks, such as an elevated heart rate or blood pressure.
Skin scraping, blood samples, or fecal smears may be taken so the vet can send them for laboratory tests.
Your veterinarian may give you advice, or prescribe anxiety medication or other treatments to help manage a panic attack.
They might even devise a treatment plan or refer your furry friend to a dog behaviorist.
Anti Anxiety Medication
There’s a wide range of medications that a veterinarian might prescribe for a pup with anxiety or panic attacks.
Some of these include anti-stress drugs, antidepressants, and even beta-blockers.
Dogs that have recurrent panic attacks will likely be put on maintenance medication to help keep episodes under control.
There are a number of helpful behavioral therapies that can be used as a treatment for anxiety or dog panic attacks.
A qualified dog behaviorist can help to identify the triggers that cause your dog to have a panic attack by studying your dog’s behavior and body language. They will be able to identify behavioral problems and the type of anxiety your pup is struggling with and teach you the correct mental stimulation techniques to use.
Some of the most common behavioral therapies used to treat dog anxiety include:
- Behavior modification therapy: This type of therapy involves changing the way that a dog behaves in order to reduce anxiety and chances of a panic attack. It can be effective in helping your dog cope with their fears and anxieties.
- Counterconditioning: This therapy involves teaching the dog to associate positive things with the situations that cause them concern. For example, if a dog is afraid of people, they may be taught to sit or lie down when someone comes near them. This will help to reduce the fear response.
- Flooding: This therapy is used to help dogs who are afraid of specific objects or situations. Dogs may be exposed to the objects or situations that they are afraid of until they no longer react with fear.
- Desensitization: This therapy is similar to flooding, but it is used to help dogs who are afraid of certain sounds or smells. The dog is gradually exposed to the sound or smell until they are no longer afraid.
A dog may experience panic attacks for a variety of reasons, including being left alone, noise, travel anxiety, new environments, people they don’t know, or other similar trigger points.
This kind of anxiety in dogs could result in unnecessary barking, panting, drooling, hiding, or other behavioral problems.
If your pup has a panic attack, it’s important to seek veterinary care to rule out any underlying medical conditions and to get help in managing the attacks, possibly using anti-stress medication.
Dogs that have recurrent panic attacks should be on maintenance medication for their health issues, and may also need to receive some sort of behavioral therapy.
A dog behaviorist may recommend one of a number of helpful behavioral therapies that can be used to treat nervous dogs with anxiety or panic attacks,
Pet owners are also increasingly turning to CBD oil, CBD treats, and Thundershirts as an effective way to calm panic attacks in dogs, or treat other health problems, These natural remedies are proving to be extremely popular and have an impressive success rate.
If your pup suffers a panic attack, it’s a big deal that shouldn’t be taken lightly, anxiety if left untreated can make your pup’s life extremely miserable.
Luckily, with so many helpful options available to you, there’s no real reason why your furry best friend can’t lead a healthy and happy life.
We hope this article on panic attacks was helpful to you. Check out these related articles on dog anxiety/separation anxiety and how to manage and treat it.
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All information in this article about panic attacks are for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice