Happy home, happy dog: managing stress & anxiety in your dog
Having an anxious dog is distressing for any dog lover – let alone for your stressed-out pooch! After all, we all want our pets to be happy and content. But stress in dogs is more common than you might think – and as anxiety can have a negative impact on your dog’s health you’ll want to identify the signs fast so you can get help from your vet.
If you suspect your dog is stressed out, here are a few ways to restore the balance.
Identifying the signs of stress in dogs
A stressed dog can be hard to diagnose, so it’s always best to talk to your vet for advice if you believe your dog is exhibiting signs of anxiety.
Most of the signs of stress in dogs can just as easily be signs of something else – your vet will help rule out any other underlying medical issues and put your mind at rest, as well as giving you advice on the best ways to help your stressed dog if anxiety does turn out to be the cause.
Common signs of dog anxiety:
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Hiding away
- Lethargy or increased sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Fear or discomfort around people and other animals
- Other changes in behaviour
If you’ve spotted changes in your dog’s behaviour it could be a sign of stress.
Anxiety can weaken your dog’s immune system, and a stressed dog can go on to develop health problems, so it’s vital to recognise the signs and reduce stress as much as possible for your furry friend.
Some causes of dog anxiety are easy to identify – perhaps you have a newborn baby in the house, you’ve introduced a new pet as a companion, or you’re having building work carried out in your home. All of these can trigger stress in your dog.
Similarly, fireworks and thunderstorms can be hugely stressful to your pup, so make sure he or she has a safe, comfortable place to retreat to, as far from the noise as possible. A comforter or favourite toy can help your dog feel protected, and reduce anxiety.
The best way to reduce dog anxiety is to remove the source of the stress. Of course, if you’ve welcomed a new pet – or a new arrival – to your home, that’s harder to do.
To minimise stress, try to introduce your dog to the new arrival in stages. Gradually introducing him or her to the sounds, smells and sight of your new pet or newborn baby can help to reduce stress.
Always make sure your dog has a safe, comfortable place to retreat to, away from the source of the stress. Give him plenty of physical exercise and play, and make sure he has a balanced diet, which can improve his health and wellbeing.
It goes without saying that you should never punish a stressed dog – if your dog is misbehaving, any punishment is highly likely to exacerbate his or her anxiety.
If you’ve done all you can to ease anxiety in your dog but symptoms persist, always talk to your local vet as there are now many things they can do to help you and your dog.
“Physical exercise and a balanced diet can both improve your dog’s health and wellbeing.”
Need advice on dog anxiety and stress?
For expert advice on reducing dog anxiety, and treatments for a stressed dog, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.