It’s a mighty unhappy dog who hurts herself by frantically attempting to escape. Anxiety or outright panic can result in serious physical injury to your dog and your home. These pets need treatment ASAP.

Truly helping an overwhelmed dog must start with a physical evaluation.

  • Major anxiety and panic disorders can be caused by liver disease, distemper, or psychomotor epilepsy.
  • A neurologic exam and lab profile are essential first steps.

Dogs who panic when confined or left alone can rip and tear at their crate, fence, or door frame so frantically that they cut their lips and break their teeth and nails.

  • If left outside, dogs with separation anxiety may jump the fence but hang around the front door or at a neighbor’s house until their owner’s return.
  • Simply bolting through an open door is another common sign of a panicked dog.

Behavior medications like clomipramine and alprazolam can help by safely reducing anxiety but they can’t solve these problems alone.

  • Fearful dogs also need more and better environmental stimulation.
  • This means strenuous exercise, plus interactions with other dogs, agility work or obedience training.
  • Dogs with debilitating fear should be patiently desensitized to their triggers-events like thunderstorms, fireworks, or being left alone.

Teaching a dog to live with her fears involves low key exposures to the frightening sounds or the early indicators that she is about to be left alone.

  • It will take weeks to months to slowly teach her that she can be OK.
  • There must be no comforting tones or reprimands and no confinement while your dog is afraid; these only serve to validate her fears and worsen the problem.
  • A food toy or other enjoyable distraction can teach a dog to actually look forward to what had been a nightmare.

Panic is not a simple problem but I always encourage treatment. Most dogs improve. I’ve known some big successes but even with the most careful treatment there have been failures. An overwhelmed dog’s best hope is early intervention.