For both humans and dogs, it’s completely normal to have anxiety. Anxiety is a natural response to stressful situations, and though it can feel unpleasant, our anxiety is there to keep us safe. Knowing the symptoms of anxiety in dogs can help you intervene when your dog is in high stress situations, like when they are left alone in a strange place or if they feel threatened by another dog. Additionally, if you have a dog that displays anxious behaviors all the time they may have an anxiety disorder, which can be properly diagnosed by your vet.
How do you know if your dog has anxiety? You can look for these signs:
Aggression is the most serious sign to look out for. An anxious dog may act aggressive to defend themself against a perceived threat by barking, growling, or lashing out. This may happen when people or animals are merely present or only when people or animals come between you and your dog. In both situations, your dog’s aggression can lead to dangerous altercations so be aware of the warning signs.
Urinating or defecating in the house
An anxious dog — even a housebroken anxious dog — may urinate or defecate inside the house when they are upset. This is a very common sign of separation anxiety, which is your dog’s fear of being alone. Urinating and defecating may happen because anxiety wreaks havoc on digestion or because your dog thinks you’re never coming back to walk them. Either way, it’s a frustrating and unpleasant issue for both dogs and owners.
Separation anxiety can also lead to destructive behavior. Like with humans, an anxious dog may try to escape from the thing making them feel anxious (in this case, an empty house), which leads to attempting to break or chew their way out, which causes destruction to your home and potential harm to your dog.
Repetitive or compulsive behavior
If your dog is feeling stressed out, they may resort to repetitive or compulsive behavior, like licking or biting themself. This is similar in humans: We may bite our nails if we are feeling stressed out. These repetitive behaviors are your dog’s way of attempting to self-soothe or quell their heightened anxiety, but it can be harmful to your dog if they do it to the point of rash or injury. There are other repetitive behaviors that are less dangerous but still telling like yawning, blinking, and lip licking, so keep an eye out for those too.
You may be used to seeing your dog pant on a hot day or after a long walk, but if you find your dog panting with no obvious cause, they may be anxious. Dogs pant during bouts of heightened anxiety the same way a humans hyperventilate. It’s your dog’s way of trying to keep up with their elevated heart rate. Anxious panting sometimes happens during thunderstorms, fireworks, car rides, or when meeting new dogs.
Dogs bark excessively for three reasons. First, they may be trying to communicate their feelings of anxiety. Second, they may be trying to comfort themselves with the sound of their own voice. And lastly, they may be trying to get your attention so you will remove them from what they perceive to be a stressful situation.
When your dog is nervous, their salivary glands overproduce saliva, which results in drooling. This is not harmful to your dog, but it is an indication that they are stressed out and anxious. You may notice this happening at the vet or when your dog meets another dog.
Yes, dogs can be depressed! A depressed dog may act generally lethargic or show no interest in activities they used to love, like walks and rides in the car. They may have no appetite or not get excited to see people. They also may spend the day hiding in small places around the house. A dog can fall into a depression as a result of suffering through too much anxiety.
Changes in body language
A dog may change their body language when feeling stressed out. This may look like trembling, tail tucking, or hiding. While dogs are not doing these things on purpose, they are clear indicators of how your dog is feeling. If you notice the patterns of your dog’s body language, you may be able to identify what is causing them anxiety and make changes to help them feel more at ease.
An anxious dog is full of nervous energy, and that may result in restlessness. Your dog may pace around or circle the room. If they’re trying to rest, they may switch position a lot. You know your dog’s behavior better than anyone — if you sense your dog is acting more restless than usual, they may be stressed.