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Anxiety in Dogs – Advice from A Clontarf Vet

Anxiety in dogs – A Dublin Vet is here to Help.

As a veterinary surgeon in Clontarf I recognised that anxiety is a common problem with many of our clients’ beloved dogs.  It can take many forms and its origins can sometimes be difficult to determine.  In many cases anxiety develops as a result of poor or inappropriate socialisation as a young animal.  The socialisation period for dogs lasts until around 16 weeks of age.  If our puppies have not been exposed to traffic, loud noises, crowds or other dogs by this time, it is much more difficult to get them to be relaxed in these circumstances.

A great way to avoid anxiety in dogs is to enrol your new puppy in an early socialisation class. These are in in Clontarf Veterinary Hospital as well as many of Anicare’s other branches.This  makes new experiences fun rather than scary for your dog.

However if this stage has already passed then it will be more difficult, but not impossible to reduce the anxiety your pet is feeling.

The most common anxieties we encounter at Clontarf Veterinary Hospital are:-

imgresSeparation anxiety: – Fear of being left alone

Noise anxiety: – Stress on hearing loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks

Travel anxiety:Fear of cars or car sickness

Confinement anxiety:-Your dog gets stressed and upset when he feels trapped

Signs of anxiety include destructive behaviour, persistent barking, inappropriate urination or defecation or in severe cases, aggression.

Less severe anxiety can simply show a dog that is fearful of new experiences, strangers or loud noises.

Early intervention is key to dealing with anxiety in dogs.  First step is to contact us at Anicare and our veterinary surgeons  will be able to give you pointers in your own specific case.  Every animal is different in what they are anxious about, what has caused the anxiety and what training methods they will respond to.  There is a lot that can be done to improve your animal’s behaviour but unfortunately there are no quick fixes.  Many issues will require a multi-modal approach involving behavioural modification and in some cases calming medications.

The most important thing to remember is not to over punish your dog.  Suppression of these fearful behaviours through pain or dominance methods will perpetuate the problem.  In other words hitting or shouting at your pet for expressing their fear through destruction or barking will make them more anxious.

The main way we at Anicare Clontarf try to deal with anxious behaviour is through desensitisation.  With this method we expose our dog to a very low level of the stimulus they are afraid of i.e.if a fear of loud noises then play a CD of low level fireworks sound.  If our dog stays calm at the low level we reward the calm behaviour and gradually increase the stimulus.  If our dog reacts we simply ignore the reaction if at a low level until the animal is calm. Once calm we again reward.  If the reaction is excessive then we reduce the stimulus further until we are getting no reaction.

So in short:-

IGNORE UNDESIRABLE BEHAVIOUR AND REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOUR.

 We can parallel this to most phobias in dogs.  If for example you dog cowers at a stranger in the park then do not try to reassure her. By acknowledging the behaviour you are in fact rewarding it.  Ignore her until she starts to show interest by moving forward or sniffing the stranger.  At this point you can reward her with food or affection.  As you progress she will become more relaxed and you can ask strangers to give her a treat when she is relaxed.

Desensitisation techniques can be greatly aided by calming supplements.  Many of these are natural dietary supplements that can increase serotonin levels in your animal’s blood stream.  These will help to reduce the stress threshold and help you to increase fearful stimulus levels more quickly as your training progresses. These are over the counter medications that are on sale in Anicare Clontarf as well as our other veterinary hospitals .

Pheromone sprays and collars are also available which will work in a different way but with the same effect.  These are great for multi-animal households where inhabitants are under each other’s paws all day

All our staff at Clontarf  Veterinary Hospital  will be able to advise you on the best option for your individual animal.

In severe cases your pet may require medication.  There are many safe animal medications for use in assisting the desensitisation of fearful or anxious pets.  These include anti-depressant medications or in the case of motion sickness- anti emetics.  Whilst not appropriate for all cases, severe anxiety can be markedly reduced with these medications and greatly assists the training process.

We generally do not recommend sedative medications for fearful pets during episodes.  Most of these medications merely immobilise a scared animal without reducing the stress threshold and in most cases will exacerbate the problem.  If your dog is scared of fireworks then starting the desensitisation process now will help alleviate the problem and reduce the over-reactive behaviour commonly seen during Halloween season.

To end remember:-

‘Prevention is Better than Cure’

Elaine Croke a fully qualified veterinary nurse in Clontarf Veterinary Hospital runs  Puppy Socialisation Classes for early socialisation on Tuesday evenings in our Veterinary Hospital on the Malahide Road  North Dublin

Should you have any other queries  just give us a call at  Clontarf Veterinary Hospital 01 8330744.

or just click the link below to find out more about us.

Clontarf Veterinary Hospital Dublin

 

Clontarf Veterinary Hospital – Where We Put The Care of Your Pet First – ALWAYS.

 

 

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