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Signs Of Anxiety In Dogs

black pug scared under a brown rug

What are the Signs of Anxiety in Dogs?

We all want our dogs to be healthy and happy, but when they’re stressed,we’re stressed! It would be so much easier if you could just ask your dog what was causing him to be afraid or anxious.

Like in humans, anxiety in dogs is a feeling of nervousness and unease. Your dog can give you clues that he is feeling anxious, but some of these clues are subtle, so it is important to know how to recognize the signs. If you can quickly recognize symptoms of anxiety, then you may be able to help your dog feel better much faster!  

Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs

Panting, yawning, holding his ears back and down, and licking his lips are all ways to indicate that your dog is anxious. Some of the more obvious signs include trembling/shaking, pacing, looking away or avoiding eye contact, freezing on the spot, and tucking his tail down between his legs. Your dog may also try to run away or hide in another room. He may engage in destructive behaviors like scratching up a door frame, inappropriate urination or chewing on inappropriate objects. Constant barking and “chuffing,” which is a cross between a bark and a rapid exhalation of air, are also symptoms of anxiety.

an older dog looking sad as he waits by the door

Cause of Anxiety in Dogs

1. Fear

Fear is the most common cause of anxiety in dogs. You may notice that your dog seems fearful of loud noises like thunderstorms and fireworks, or maybe he shakes and trembles when he goes to the vet’s office for his preventive care. Not all dogs have the same fears and phobias, so it is important to know what triggers your dog’s fear in order to determine the best way to help him overcome it.  

2. Separation

Many dogs have one or more family members to whom they are very attached. When this special person leaves the house, dogs with separation anxiety can feel extremely stressed. These dogs might engage in destructive behaviors or bark incessantly while their person is away. Signs of separation anxiety can be triggered by visual cues like when a family member puts on her shoes or grabs her car keys.    

3. Aging or age-related pain

Dogs older than nine years of age have an increased risk for developing canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD. This is like dementia in humans and can cause confusion, personality changes, and disruptions in a dog’s sleep-wake cycles. As a result of these changes, dogs with CCD tend to appear restless and will often pace around the house, even at night. These older dogs can also suffer from arthritis pain, which can be another source of anxiety.

4. New environment

A disruption in a dog’s routine can be very stressful, and visiting new places can be just as difficult. When it comes to animal hospitals, your dog can smell and hear many stressful triggers. This is a lot of new information for your dog to process, and the amount can be overwhelming for him. In some cases, he may be equally worried about his safety and the safety of his owner. 

5. New people or pets in the house

Dogs can be very protective of their families and their homes.  When a new person approaches the home and knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, it can set off dogs and cause them to bark. Babies and children can be noisy and may handle dogs in an unintentionally rough manner. This is not only a major source of anxiety but also a cause for jealousy because your dog may not be used to getting less attention. If there is a new pet in the house, some anxious dogs can be standoffish or hide while others might start growling, which is their way of warning new pets to keep away.  

Treating Your Dog’s Anxiety

The most effective way to help your dog’s anxiety is to focus on behavior modification and training. When it comes to external factors like noises, places, people, and other pets, you can either focus on avoidance or train your dog to have a less anxious reaction to stimuli. For example, dogs with anxiety due to loud thunder during storms can benefit from training with storm sounds. These sounds are gradually increased for as long as the dog is calm, and he is given rewards as the sounds increase. Training sessions are usually fifteen to twenty minutes a day over the course of a few weeks. Eventually, the dog learns to be calm in the presence of loud thunder. Another example is training to help with separation anxiety. If you plan on crate-training your dog, then you can have short practice sessions every day and, over the coming weeks, gradually increase the duration of time that you are away.

In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for your dog. Benzodiazepine drugs like diazepam are short-acting and can help with stressful but predictable events. For separation anxiety, medications like fluoxetine and clomipramine are FDA-approved for canine anxiety disorders like separation anxiety. These are longer-acting medications and can take one to four weeks for full effect, but they are better for helping with the causes of anxiety that are more difficult to predict. Side effects for some of these medications include restlessness, hyperexcitability, and gastrointestinal upset.

Sold out

CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is a product that comes from theCannabis plant but is devoid of the psychoactive ingredient THC so that it is safe for use in dogs. Most of the scientific research available on CBD focus on its uses in human medicine, but there is ongoing research for its usage in dogs as well as a plethora of anecdotal evidence. CBD is reported to have a calming effect in dogs, thus helping with their anxieties, and works on specific receptors in the nervous system to help alleviate pain and inflammation.


If you know how to recognize when your dog is distressed, then you don’t need to have anxiety about anxiety! With training, patience, and some help from your veterinarian, you can help alleviate your dog’s fears and get back to enjoying your time with one another.

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author Dr. Erica Irish

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine.

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