Dog Anxiety Symptoms & 5 Ways to Treat Them

by | May 9, 2020 | Veterinary Care

Just like human beings, pets are emotional creatures. They can feel happiness and joy, but they can also feel fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety in pets are pretty common, but pinpointing the symptoms or causes can be difficult. When ignored, it can lead to excessive or unhealthy behaviors at home or while in public. It’s important to recognize subtle and apparent signs of anxiety and fear to help your veterinarian diagnose and treat the issue.

So first, let’s take a look at some of the signs your pet may be scared or anxious.

Signs & Symptoms of Pet Anxiety or Fear.


  • Head slightly down
  • Pupils slightly dilated
  • Hair raised on the back


  • Pupils slightly more dilated
  • Tail down or slightly tucked
  • Panting, whining, or pacing
  • Reduced activity
  • Yawning or drooling frequently

Severe (Flight):

  • Pupils dilated
  • Tail tucked
  • Excessive panting or whining
  • Cowering or hiding
  • Trying to escape
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Licking or biting their own body
  • Urinating or defecating

Severe (Fight):

  • Hissing, barking, or growling
  • Lunging forward
  • Swatting
  • Baring teeth
  • Destruction of furniture
  • Hyperactivity

Causes of Anxiousness or Fear in Pets.

What exactly causes a cat or dog to be fearful or anxious? Here are the three most common reasons.

Loud Noises

While there can be a variety of reasons why your pet is fearful or anxious, fear typically has to do with a specific event that triggers a reaction. Loud noises such as lightning, thunderstorms, or construction can scare your pet into trembling or hiding away. They may try to escape or run away if they can’t find a safe place to hide.


Anxiety, on the other hand, typically comes before an event has happened. A pet may suddenly become anxious when they see you picking up your briefcase or packing your luggage, which is associated with being left home alone. Separation anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety in pets. This type of anxiety and fear can also come from past experiences with previous owners or animal shelters. Traumatic events or abandonment can add to present anxiousness or fearful behavior.

Unfamiliar Social Situations or Environments

When pets are unfamiliar with other people, places, or pets, they may exhibit very aggressive behavior or very timid behavior. When young dogs and cats aren’t properly socialized or introduced to places outside the home, new experiences can be overwhelming. They may try to hide behind you or under a safe hiding spot. Similarly, pets that come from neglectful or abusive situations may be distrustful of others.

Diagnosis and Treatment.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of pet anxiety and fear is the first step in helping your pet get properly diagnosed. Your veterinarian will likely want to rule out any underlying medical conditions, such as brain or thyroid disease, before prescribing behavioral treatment or medication.

Behavioral treatment for anxiety or fear takes consistency and patience and is usually the best course of action for treatment. For adopted or rescued pets, behavioral therapy can be a great tool in helping your dog or cat trust your care and love. In more severe cases, anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to help keep your pet calm. Anti-anxiety medication is typically a last resort after behavioral techniques are used. Only your pet’s veterinarian can diagnose your dog or cat and prescribe proper treatment.

In the meantime, here are some helpful ways to help calm your pet.

#1 Remove Controllable Triggers

If you are able to identify and control the trigger that is making your pet super fearful or anxious, the best way to help keep them calm is to limit exposure or remove it entirely. For example, simple fixes can be switching a cell phone alarm to a soothing song or placing your pet in another room while you vacuum the living room.

#2 Create a Predictable Routine

Help your anxious cat or pup calm their nerves by managing a consistent daily routine. This includes feeding time, walks, and leaving/coming home from work. Giving them a predictable schedule will help them anticipate what is coming next and help them become more confident.

#3 Increase Your Pet’s Exercise and Playtime

Did you know both dogs and cats need daily exercise? Yup! Dogs need at least 30 minutes of physical exercise a day, while cats need around 15 minutes of playtime. We like to say here at Odie, “A tired pet is a happy pet.” Exercise is a great way to give your pet your undivided attention and ease their anxiety. Plenty of mental and physical stimulation will help your pet relax daily.

#4 Try Compression Wraps

We may all giggle when the late-night Thundershirt commercials come on, but trust us, they work! Like swaddling a baby, the constant compression gives your pet a soothing hug that keeps them calm.

#5 Play Relaxing Music or TV

Research has shown that playing soothing background noise, such as music or video, can help reduce anxiety and loneliness in pets. It’s a great way to give your pet some background noise and company while you are away at work or need to run out for a few hours. One of our favorite companies that make songs and videos just for pets is called RelaxMyDog and RelaxMyCat. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of videos and songs that are scientifically proven to keep your pet company. They have plenty of free content on Youtube, but if you are looking for a constant loop without the ads, their monthly subscription is only $4.99! That’s a pretty great deal.

Working with the vet is always a great idea, but the costs of the visits add up. That’s why you should partner with Odie Pet Insurance to take care of routine care visits. You’ll enjoy the peace of mind, and your pet will feel better.

How often should you be taking your pet to the vet? Read more here.

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