Our own Dr. Jenkins spoke with WSAV about pet anxiety.
Anxiety is not a condition exclusive to people, pets can suffer with it too. In dogs it can do more than just diminish their quality of life, it can be downright dangerous. That danger is that an anxious pet can hurt themselves and they can also exhibit destructive behaviors. But there is help available, in some cases, it’s the same things human use to treat anxiety.
Dr. Kari Jenkins with Savannah Animal Care says treating pet anxiety with pills takes more than the effort it takes to get your pet to swallow it. “The biggest trick with them is using them properly. Some things are just designed to kinda take the edge off the anxiety in dogs and some are actually designed to modify behavior completely and reduce anxiety completely.” Jenkins said. PetMD reports close observation of behavior is the best way to determine whether a dog has anxiety. Some dogs become anxious only under specific conditions (like during thunderstorms) while others suffer from a more generalized form of anxiety. Dr. Jenkins shares some of the signs of anxiety in dogs. “They start pacing, panting, drooling, hiding, shaking, all of those things can be signs of anxiety.” said Jenkins.
There are more than a dozen different medications available, but pets can be prescribed Prozac, Valium, and even Xanax to smooth out the edge when anxiety sets in. Jenkins says pet owners need to balance the treatment when human anti-anxiety medicines are given to pets. “We do have to be careful when we start using those heavier duty medications, we should not use them in the absence of behavior modification therapies.” said Jenkins.
Anxiety requiring medication isn’t something that just affects dogs. Cats can suffer too, but Dr. Jenkins says the difference is the signs aren’t always easy to see. “They don’t tend to be as destructive to, um, items with the exception of inappropriate urination, um, and one of the most common signs we see in anxiety in cats is that they’re pulling their own hair out or chewing their own hair off.” Jenkins said.
Drugs to fight anxiety can help cats, just like they do for their canine counterparts. But Dr. Jenkins says pet owners should not view the pills alone as the silver bullet to kill pet anxiety. “By doing a combination of behavior therapies with the medication you can actually start to correct these behaviors and sometimes, even get them back off the medications.” said Jenkins. There are some alternatives to a pharmaceutical remedy for pet anxiety. There’s nutritional supplements, homeopathic treatments, pheromones & calming aids, and most importantly, behavioral modification protocols.