Monday, December 24, 2012

Questions: The Anxious Dog

We have a dog question today!  Here we go!

Our dog has really bad nightmares and sometimes goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night on the floor when she is really anxious. We got her a thunder shirt - it has really helped but she still has accidents occasionally. Any ideas? We are pretty sure she was abused before we got her- can be very anxious / skittish around new people & loud or sudden sounds.

Poor girl!  Anxiety can be bad for both people and pets.  While people get fidgety and sometimes cranky, pets may urinate, growl, shake, or do any number of things, and it's quite difficult to get to the root of the issue.

The first thing I want to know is what her evening routine is?  When does she eat and drink and when does she fall asleep?  Remember that what goes in must come out, so if she's drinking a lot of water right before bed, that may be contributing to her potty issues.  As far as potty problems go, you may also want to revisit house training 101 to make sure she knows how to ask you to go outside.  These two things combined should go far in helping with the nighttime accidents.

Now, let's address the anxiety.  There are many other products on the market that can help with anxiety.  Lavender-scented products are known to have a calming effect, and there are sprays you could use to spray her bedding.  You could also try playing soothing music at night, and there are even CDs specifically designed to help calm your pup and ease her worries.  Lastly, there are even drops you can put in her water or food to help take the edge off.  Personally, I've used Rescue Remedy, but there are plenty others that will work. 

In addition to all the products on the market, I have to ask about exercise.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Exercise is important!!  Are your dog's exercise needs being met?  Most dogs require a minimum of 30 minutes of structured exercise a day, but plenty need more.  Of my two dogs, Lollie can wear out in 30 minutes or less, but Cody will often require a run of 5 or more miles before he's tired.  He could go farther when he was younger, but at 5 1/2 years old he's starting to calm down.  When a dog does not receive the exercise she needs, she's likely to become more anxious or aggressive and display behaviors that we, as owners, do not like.  Make sure her exercise needs are being met, and don't forget that dogs need both physical AND mental exercise.

If you're really doing all the things above, and you still aren't seeing results, consult your vet.  It may benefit your dog to be put on some medication like Prozac or some other anti-anxiety med.  Also make sure that her issues are not health related as something as simple as a UTI can very much affect your dog.

Lastly, also look at your dog's diet.  While most dogs with food allergies display their allergies through skin issues, some dogs with mild allergies (maybe more of an intolerance) will display their allergies through behavior issues.  You can try switching your dog to a hypoallergenic diet.  This means no wheat, no corn, no soy, no dairy (and possibly no chicken nor beef).  See if that makes a difference, but keep in mind it may take 6-8 weeks to see any sort of improvement.

Keep me updated on how things go!

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