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Understanding and addressing dog anxiety

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Image by Stacey Kennedy from Pixabay

Dogs, often referred to as "man's best friend," bring immense joy and companionship into our lives. However, many furry companions struggle with anxiety, a serious issue that can significantly impact their well-being. Recognizing the signs and implementing solutions can be crucial for promoting a calm and happy life for our canine friends.

Dog anxiety can manifest in various ways, from mild whimpering to destructive behaviors like chewing or digging. Common triggers include separation anxiety when left alone, noise phobias like thunderstorms or fireworks, and social anxiety around unfamiliar people or dogs. Physical signs like excessive panting, pacing, or lip licking can also be indicators.

Left unaddressed, dog anxiety can escalate, leading to depression, self-harm, and even aggression. It's important to note that some anxious behaviors might mimic other issues, so consulting a veterinarian is vital to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Fortunately, several solutions can help manage dog anxiety. Creating a safe space for your dog, like a crate or designated area with familiar objects, can provide a sense of security. Desensitization techniques, gradually exposing your dog to their triggers in a controlled environment, can also be helpful. Positive reinforcement like training rewards can calm behavior, and teaches your dog that relaxation is the goal.

For severe cases, medication prescribed by a veterinarian can be beneficial alongside behavioral therapy. Additionally, providing ample exercise and mental stimulation can help tire out your dog's energy and reduce anxiety.

By recognizing the signs and taking action, we can help our canine companions overcome anxiety and live happier, healthier lives. A calm dog is a content dog, and a content dog translates to a more harmonious and fulfilling relationship with their human family.

Dr. Kelly Cairns graduated veterinary school from CSU in 2004, completed a small animal rotating internship at Cornell in 2005 and completed a small animal internal medicine residency at the Ohio State University in 2008, at which time she obtained Diplomate status. She enjoyed a rewarding clinical practice as an internist and medical director of a multi-specialty/ER hospital until joining Pathway Vet Alliance in January of 2018 (currently known as Thrive Pet Healthcare).

Dr. Cairns currently serves as Vice President of Medical Excellence and Education for the 400+ hospitals in the Thrive Pet Healthcare family. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine, a Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Board of Directors member and a dvm360 editorial board member.

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*This interview will be recorded on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi