Dog Anxiety – How to calm down an anxious pup
By Dr. Katalin Grant —
4 MINUTE READ
health + nutrition
Does your pet have anxiety?
Just ask your pets – they may not tell you, but they'll certainly show you through how they react to their environment.
This past New Year’s Eve, our family was excited to set off fireworks to celebrate 2020. We started with a few simple devices, and my brother-in-law said, 'Hey everyone, I’ve got a great one to set off – it’s the mother-load of my set of fireworks! It is and absolutely will be a triple colorful explosion!' It was the drop-dead best home firework we had ever witnessed. But moments after the delightful display, an irate neighbor, a man we all knew to be a nice, friendly guy, came hysterically running out of his home screaming at us, 'My dog went crazy with the boom. How could you be so inconsiderate?! My dog was terrified and hid under the bed, knocking down my wife’s favorite lamp on his way there!'
So, we all thought about it, and being the animal lovers we all are, we immediately stopped the fireworks and called it a night. The only problem was that all the other neighbors who were using fireworks did not cease or desist with this form of entertainment. We all want to celebrate fun occasions without creating undue anxiety for our beloved, favorite household pets.
For those occasions when there are thunderstorms, fireworks, loud parties, New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July celebrations, try the following:
3 Simple home remedy tips:
Make a den. Get plush, soft, thick bedding and place this in a small pet crate or den. This will serve as your pet’s safety zone or soft space. All dogs, large and small, like to feel safe, much like in a pack of wolves snuggling by the protective warmth of their mother in a secure place. They like the safety of walls above and around them. Introduce the crate into their area that you have designated in your home. My two dogs and cat each have their own space where they snuggle throughout the day. If their crate is easy to close, you can place it with your pet into your vehicle for transportation and trips anywhere, including the nerve-racking experience of going to the veterinarian.
- Soothe your pet. Play classical or peaceful music that does not have loud, clanging sounds to calm your pet and tune out louder, more threatening noises. Classical music in particular has been used in many studies to calm pets. Play it loud enough to drown out neighboring noises, yet at the same time to not be deafening.
- Exercise your pet. Before the anticipated event, take your dog for a run, walk, or play fetch. Any activity to tire them out will reduce their anxiety.
Pet anxiety is a broad topic and there are many different forms of it, with various symptoms including hair loss, weight loss, barking, non-stop vocalization for cats, destruction of property, loss of appetite, loose bowel or defecation in the wrong places, and the list can go on and on. When it becomes severe, the best thing to do is go to your veterinarian who will do a medical exam and possibly some diagnostic tests to ensure that medication can be handled safely by your pet. It is very important to have a complete physical exam so that your pet is healthy enough to receive treatment. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and signs, your veterinarian may be able to treat something simple, or if there may be more complications, they may recommend a behavioral animal specialist. There is an entire field dedicated to behavioral animal medicine with a huge emphasis on anxiety in pets. We want our loved pets to feel safe.
To recap, try your best to anticipate the events that may trigger anxiety in your pets. Of course taking your pet out for a walk in a sudden thunderstorm may not be ideal and that part may have to be skipped. Generally focusing on creating a safe place for your pets is the right idea! Remember the den – the wolf pack safety feeling you are giving your dog or the cozy little plush nest for your cat inside a crate or little doggie or kitty den, and turn that calming music on to an appropriate volume on “Alexa”!
One day I hope my neighbor will read this little article, but in the meantime, I hope to reach a lot of you out there and help you with your anxiety-ridden pets!
-Dr. Kat Grant
About the author
Dr. Katalin Grant, DVM, has 20 years of experience as a board-certified veterinarian, specializing in general and emergency medicine, surgery and dentistry. She's owned and operated five different veterinary clinics and hospitals. Through her extensive research in the areas of pet health and wellness and her work with national health organizations, Dr. Kat continues to show her deep love of animals and passion for educating pet parents on responsible pet ownership. Plus, she's a proud pet mom to 3-legged Shih-Poo mix, Sandy, and 17-year-old Maine Coon, Sushi.