In many ways dogs are just like humans (which is one of the reasons we love them). Dogs can experience a wide range of anxieties caused by things like disease, separation, early life trauma, noise, boredom and stress. Symptoms can involve pacing, barking, trembling and destructive behaviors such as chewing on furniture or urinating within the house.
Our team is always on the lookout for signs of anxiety in the pets we treat at the clinic and also in the working dogs of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Fortunately, there are several successful ways to treat anxiety in dogs. The first thing to do is to get a comprehensive veterinary physical examination for your dog to rule out disease and to develop an anxiety treatment plan. Below are treatments to consider:
- Training with a Veterinary Behaviorist. A board certified veterinary behaviorist can work with a dog in a customized training session to treat compulsive behaviors and underlying fears. Using positive reinforcement, a behaviorist can assess the situation and work with the dog to teach more desirable behaviors and coping techniques.
- Prozac. The pharmaceutical Prozac and other antianxiety medications have been successfully used to treat separation anxiety in dogs. As a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Prozac works to manipulate the neurotransmitter serotonin in the dog’s brain which ultimately will increase calmness and overall feelings of happiness and satisfaction in the body. Your veterinarian can determine if Prozac is a suitable treatment for your dog and can help you understand how to administer it.
- Acupuncture. The practice of acupuncture helps treat a variety of ailments in humans and animals. This painless procedure using small needles on specific points stimulates the nervous system so the body begins to heal itself. A veterinarian trained in the use of acupuncture can use it to treat anxiety disorders in a dog – either alone or in combination with more traditional treatments.
- ThunderShirt. A swaddle can calm a dog in the same way that a swaddle will calm a newborn baby. I recommend the ThunderShirt anxiety vest which comes in many different sizes. The vest applies gentle and effective pressure and is perfect for car travel and times when there may be stress-inducing noise such as fireworks or thunder.
- Exercise. It’s important to make sure your dog is getting enough exercise throughout the day. Walking and play are the best stress relievers for active dogs.
Anxiety can hijack a dog’s happiness and overall quality of life. The good news is that there are plenty of treatment options to try that can get your pooch back on track and in optimal health.