Desensitization and counter-conditioning are most effective. Desensitization is the repeated, controlled exposure to the stimulus that usually causes a fearful or anxious response in such a way that the dog does not respond with the undesirable response. The goal is to decrease the reaction to a specific stimulus (such as company at the door). Counter-conditioning is training the dog to perform a positive behavior in place of the negative behavior (in this case, fear or anxiety). For example, when teaching your dog any desirable behaviors, use positive reinforcement.
The signs involved in an oncoming anxiety attack are subtle; learn to recognize the physical signs associated with your dog's fears, phobias, and anxieties and nip the situation in the bud before it has a chance to take over your dog's behavior. Avoid reassuring the dog when it is in the midst of experiencing fear or panic; the dog may interpret this as a reward for its behavior. Encourage calmness, but do not reinforce the fear reaction. Absolutely avoid punishment for behavior related to fear, phobia, or anxiety.
Blood tests will rule out or confirm such a possibility. Your vet will also look at other symptoms of anxiety such as itchiness or pain, which must be controlled and treated separately. Most dogs will respond well to a combination of behavior modification and treatment with anti-anxiety medication. Your dog may need to live in a protected environment with as few social stimulants as possible until the medications become effective, which can take from days to weeks.
In extreme cases, hospitalization may be the best choice. Most likely, you will care for your dog at home and will need to provide protection from self-inflicted physical injury until the dog calms down. You may need to arrange for dog walking day care or dog-sitting until your vet gets the anxiety under control.
Before your dog gets worsening health conditions, check out our pet insurance comparison tool. Secure pet health insurance today to avoid high veterinary care costs.