Anxiety can affect any pet, large or small. The consequences can be destructive for the home, and cause undue stress to the pet and owner. Two common forms of anxiety are separation anxiety and noise anxiety.
Separation anxiety is mostly seen in dogs (but cats can have it too) and can affect any type of dog. By nature, dogs are pack animals, and therefore, thrive in rich social environments. When left alone, dogs may start to feel anxious. While you may know your schedule and when you plan on coming home, your pet does not, and this can lead to anxiety.
Separation anxiety can have many possible causes including:
- Over-attachment to owner(s)
- An abusive background/past
- Changes in routine
- Lack of proper exercise or stimulation
Anxiety in pets can manifest itself in many ways:
- Destructive behavior
- Having accidents in the home
These symptoms can sometimes result in your pet running away from home. Seeing your pet suffering from anxiety like this is very difficult.
Treatment usually includes a combination of:
- Behavior therapy
- Environmental modification
- Noise Anxiety
Noise anxiety occurs when loud noises or the anticipation of such noises causes the pet to be fearful and nervous. One example is the reaction dogs and cats have to fireworks on July 4th or New Year’s Eve. Noise anxiety can leave pets so terrified that they’re unable to function normally.
Behavioral therapy is an option to treat noise anxiety. The treatment involves working with an animal behaviorist. This involves teaching the pet and the owner new habits.
In addition, if you overreact to your pet’s anxiety when you leave or come home, then the pet will continue its behavior – believing that he or she is being rewarded. Environmental modifications can ameliorate the situation.
Environmental modifications include:
Minimizing the length of time that your pet is by him or herself
Providing interesting and interactive toys when you leave, ensuring that your pet has a comfortable safe space, and never using a crate as a punishment
Despite proper behavioral therapy or environmental modifications, some pets may still experience symptoms of anxiety and pharmaceuticals may be needed.
Frequently prescribed medications fall into three categories:
Sedatives may relax the body, but they don’t take away the mental anxiety. The pet is anxious yet unable to manifest anxiety. Your pet’s mind may still be racing, but his or her body is lethargic and sluggish. This can exacerbate the anxiety once the sedatives wear off.
Anti-anxiety drugs are designed to specifically relieve anxiety, but can have negative side effects such as abnormal behavior, dull mentation, or hyper-excitability.
Antidepressants involve an entirely different set of chemical reactions in the body. A lot of antidepressants are carefully titrated based on how a person feels and thinks. We do know that in some pets, these medications can cause side effects like:
- Increased heart rate
In short, antidepressants are very complex medications that require constant communication and feedback between the veterinarian and pet owner in order to ensure safety and proper dosing.
Cannabidiol – CBD
Cannabidiol or CBD has an important role in the future of medicine. CBD is a primary component of the cannabis plant. It is non-psychoactive, which means that it doesn’t produce the “high” commonly associated with marijuana.
CBD is currently used by many patients (human and animal) who seek an alternative form of therapy without unwanted side effects. Compelling research “indicate[s] that CBD causes a selective anxiolytic effect” 1 and “CBD [was] associated with significantly decreased subjective anxiety.” 2 Furthermore, studies indicate chronic use of CBD has not been shown to elicit negative side effects and does not induce tolerance. 3
Continue to explore and learn more about cannabinoid therapy right here, as we update you on the latest research and findings.
1Guimarães, F., Chiaretti, T., Graeff, F., & Zuardi, A. (n.d.). Antianxiety effect of cannabidiol in the elevated plus-maze. Psychopharmacology, 558-559.
2Crippa, J., Derenusson, G., Ferrari, T., Wichert-Ana, L., Duran, F., Martin-Santos, R., . . . Hallak, J. (2010). Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: A preliminary report. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 121-130.
3Malfait, A., Gallily, R., Sumariwalla, P., Malik, A., Andreakos, E., Mechoulam, R., & Feldmann, M. (2000). The non-psychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 9561-9566.