Maybe your pup is excessively crying when left alone, or perhaps you have noticed changes in their habits. Whatever the issue, it is important that you take some time to consider if anxiety may be the cause of the abnormal behaviors. With symptoms ranging from very subtle ones that generally go unnoticed, to signs like excessive barking that are nearly impossible to miss, pet owners across the world are sometimes misdiagnosing anxiety as something else — and therefore the problems persist. If you are worried about your furry friend, stop and check for any of these key signs of anxiety. The quicker it is recognized, the quicker you can start offering adequate help.
- Licking/chewing excessively- There are many reasons that could be causing your dog to excessively lick and chew their paws, skin, or coat. However, you should do your best to determine if it is just a habit or allergy, or a release of anxious, nervous energy due to being left alone or a specific stimulus.
- Difficulty in staying calm/settling down- Probably one of the most telltale signs of anxiety is a dog that appears overtly anxious. If you are noticing that your dog finds it difficult to relax, and will excessively pace or repeatedly lie down and get back up, you most likely are witnessing their response to an anxious situation. If your generally calm dog begins displaying behaviors like this, try to figure out what change could have brought about this anxiety.
- Pants excessively- While panting is a normal, and actually essential, behavior to help regulate body temperature, if you notice an abnormal panting, panting that is louder or harsher, or panting that occurs when the pup’s body temperature is already regulated, this may be a sign of anxiety. This behavioural panting is typically accompanied by another symptom and could be a response to chronic or prolonged fear.
- Hiding/solitude- When experiencing anxiety, a dog will typically look for a place to hide. By finding a nook or cranny of solitude, the dog is seeking to feel safer. Noticing that your pup is repeatedly hiding may indicate a general level of anxiety and they may be prone to experiencing some of these other symptoms.
- Begins having accidents- While accidents are relatively common in puppies, if you have a formerly housetrained dog that begins to have accidents in the house, it may be a good reason for concern. While it could be a health concern, requiring medical treatment, it could also be a response to an anxious situation. Consider any recent changes that could bring about the feelings of anxiety — and subsequent messes on the floor.
- Excessive energy- Just like humans, sometimes a little anxiety can bring about excessive hyperactivity in dogs. Excessive energy may sometimes be caused by boredom but anxiety is also another common source for a dog’s erratic bouts of energy.
- Destructive behaviors- Behaviours like chewing or shredding non-food items such as furniture and shoes — and generally any and all items not kept out of reach — may be a pretty good indicator that your pup is experiencing some anxiety. If this occurs while you are out of the house, it may mean that your dog is experiencing a bit of separation anxiety and should be treated accordingly.
- Half-moon eye- Half moon eye, or whale eye, is a term used to describe the shape of the dog’s eyes when the whites of their eyes are visible — and means that they are providing a signal that things are not as they should be. This response could be caused by stress or brought on as a means of defense, but could also be a way for your furry friend to convey their anxious feelings about a situation.
- Frequent yawning- Similar to panting, yawning can be another sign that your dog is anxious. While yawning is obviously a normal behaviour, if you notice it excessively or in unusual situations, it may be an indicator that the dog is feeling anxiety about something.
- Excessive noise- As one of the most obvious signs that something is bothering your pup, having a dog that is constantly barking (many times at seemingly nothing and for no reason) can be not only bothersome, but can also mean you have a dog prone to anxiety. With a diagnosis and a bit of training, this behavior should be able to be corrected.
While we have words to be able to communicate our distress or anxious feelings towards a situation, a dog only has their behaviors or body language to convey his or her emotional state. It is important that you are familiar with your dog, and know when they are acting odd. By recognizing some of these signs and symptoms, you can begin to offer your dog the help it needs.
Jeffery is a pet enthusiast and volunteer at his local pet shelter. His passion for animals started at an early age and through his work on becoming a veterinary student he understands and cares for pets of all species. Jeffery currently writes for The Happy Pooch and has 2 cats, a bird and a dog named Lucy.