What are the best approaches to consider when faced with an anxious canine patient?
Anxious and fearful behaviors are common in canine patients and often manifest as separation anxiety, storm and noise phobia, or aggression (directed at humans and/or other dogs). Short-term stress response is healthy and necessary, allowing dogs to be alert and take action (eg, retreating from a stranger, scary sound, another dog). However, when the response is prolonged (eg, a season-long storm phobia or panic every time an owner leaves), physical and emotional pathologic conditions may ensue, potentially shortening the dog’s lifespan.1
Manifestations of chronic stress include immunosuppressive effects (subjecting patients to increased likelihood of recurrent infections), compulsions, and altered blood flow to organs (resulting in susceptibility to further ailments [eg, gastric ulcers]).2,3
It is incumbent on the clinician to determine what the patient is trying to communicate by watching the dog’s behavior. Anxiety and/or fear are presumed to exist when the animal exhibits specific behaviors (see Table: Signs of Canine Anxiety & Fear).4,5