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What is Extreme Fear and Anxiety?

Excessive fear and anxiety is a common problem in dogs. Anxiety related disorders can take many forms. Separation anxiety associated with the dog being left alone is the most common; some experts estimate that about 14 % of dogs suffer from this disorder to some extent. Other common triggers for anxiety behaviors are loud noises, riding in the car, or any confined space. Excessive anxiety, especially toward a specific and inexplicable trigger, is called a phobia. Dogs can develop phobias in response to unlikely triggers like people with glasses, children, or even toasters. Excessive anxiety and phobias in relation to different people and strange situation are commonly the result of poor socialization at a young age. There are several specific windows in a dog’s development when socialization is very important: between eight and fourteen weeks of age, when puppies first start to become shy of strangers, and between five and eight months,  as they may develop fear and aggression toward unfamiliar groups of people. It is extremely important to expose dogs as much as possible to new situations and people in these time periods, always in a non-threatening way so that they feel comfortable and safe and don’t develop irrational fear or anxiety triggers. Occasionally dogs can acquire unusual phobias later in life especially during a stressful or traumatic time period. Genetic factors can also play a part. Many dogs are predisposed to develop anxiety disorders based on their breed or temperament. Fearful behavior can quickly turn into aggression, so dogs with anxiety disorders make less good pets and can even be dangerous, especially around small children. Dogs that develop fear or anxiety can sometimes be reconditioned to reduce the behavior to a manageable level, however this requires more work than initial socialization when a puppy’s age makes him predisposed to adjust and learn new information.

Fear is a normal response to some situations, but extreme fear or anxiety in dogs is a sign of behavior problems. Anxiety related behaviors can become aggressive quickly, so teaching your dog to avoid these responses can be a very important part of training.

Extreme Fear and Anxiety Average Cost

From 60 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$300

Symptoms of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

These are some of the signs that might indicate your dog is excessively fearful or anxious.

  • Pacing
  • Posturing with flattened ears and tail between the legs
  • Cowering and hiding
  • Hair raised on the back of the neck
  • Drooling
  • Trembling
  • Panting
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Yawning
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive grooming
  • Chronic barking
  • Chewing on objects such as furniture or shoes
  • Incontinence of bowels or urine
  • Growling
  • Snapping

Types

These are the most common types of anxiety in dogs.

  • Separation anxiety – occurs when the owner leaves or whenever the dog is left alone
  • Noise anxiety – loud noises such as thunder, fireworks, or noisy trucks
  • Travel anxiety – becomes anxious riding in the car
  • Confinement anxiety – reacts negatively to confined spaces
  • Phobia – unexplained anxiety reaction in relation to various triggers
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Causes of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Many factors can be related to excessive fear and anxiety in dogs. These are some of the most common.

  • Poor socialization in early life
  • Predisposition due to breed or temperament
  • A stressful or traumatic event
  • A medical condition or illness
  • Age related degeneration in the brain
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Diagnosis of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Most anxiety disorders develop in the first year and a half of a dog’s life, so this is the time to watch your dog closely and discuss any abnormal reactions with the veterinarian. Anxiety disorders are first diagnosed through the careful attention of the owner, so you should watch your dog and document unusual behaviors in a log if necessary. The veterinarian will examine your dog physically to determine if there is a medical condition that could be causing or contributing to your dog’s symptoms. If you have any information about the dog’s breeding history or the temperament of the parents this will be relevant. In older dogs, past experience can also be extremely important since a history of abuse will often give the dog a lifelong predisposition toward anxiety. Some dogs may also develop more pronounced anxiety as they age.

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Treatment of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Depending on the severity of the problem, the veterinarian may give you training exercises to do at home or recommend an animal behavior specialist for more extensive reconditioning. The best way to react to signs of anxiety in your dog is not to encourage it. Petting or comforting the dog may be the most natural response for an owner, but the dog will see this as encouragement to continue. Putting a dog through his typical training routine during an anxiety attack may seem harsh, but it will help assure the dog that things are normal and can discourage the behavior in the future. To the dog, you are the leader of his pack, so if you act as if everything is fine, the dog will assume this is true.

Dogs with more developed anxiety disorders and phobias may need to be desensitized by exposing them to a mild version of the trigger first. Through repeated exposure and training the dog will become desensitized and learn there is nothing to fear. Treats and rewards for good behavior can help to reinforce the process. In extreme cases, classes or private sessions with a behavior therapist may be necessary to help your dog overcome anxiety. This is especially true if your dog is older and has a history of abuse.

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Recovery of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Proper socialization can usually reduce symptoms of anxiety in young dogs before the disorder becomes a serious problem. Older dogs that develop isolated phobias can often be retrained also. If the dog has a very anxious temperament, you may need to maintain a carefully regimented response to anxiety behaviors and continue long-term training exercises to manage the problem. Rescue dogs or older dogs with severe anxiety may be difficult to retrain regardless of the effort you put in. You may have to compensate for this by avoiding situations that trigger anxiety as much as possible. The veterinarian may be able to give you medication for isolated instances, especially car trips.

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Extreme Fear and Anxiety Average Cost

From 60 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$300

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Extreme Fear and Anxiety Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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aussie Rottweiler

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Five Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking And Peeing

My puppy was looking down my hallway and just started shaking and peed on himself

Nov. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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Hi there. A one off event may have been in response to something you couldn't sense such as a high pitched noise, the scent of an animal etc. If it continues, we would want it looked into with e.g. a urinalysis.

Nov. 12, 2020

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dog-breed-icon

husky/beagel

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Five Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety

my puppers has always had trouble with other people, he isnt aggressive, but he wont approach anyone and barks, paces and doesn't like people at all. He has never been hurt or had anything traumatic happen in his life, if anything he is spoiled beyond words. I have had him since he was a puppy and he has always been this way with anyone new he meets and it takes him months to even approach someone new even if they are around everyday.. I have no idea how to help and it breaks my heart to see him like this.. is there anything I can do?

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. While it may be a little bit late to change that behavior if it has been going on for five years, it is possible. The best thing to do would be to work with a trainer, as they can identify what his triggers are, and give you ways to react so that he does not continue, if possible. If you do not know a good trainer in your area, your veterinarian can recommend one for you. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

Aug. 4, 2020

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Extreme Fear and Anxiety Average Cost

From 60 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$300

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