A panic attack is an anxiety disorder that causes repeated, sudden unexpected attacks of intense fear. These attacks may last from minutes to hours depending on what is causing the attack. People have said it is the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life. It is fair to assume the same is true for our pets.
Some common causes can be: natural reaction to threat, separation anxiety, thunderstorms, strangers, aversion to people of a certain age, race, or gender, fear of other dogs, children, riding in vehicles, seasonal fireworks, smooth floors, fear from a previous terrible experience or being put in a cage.
Obvious signs of injury, feeling under the weather or irritable, a change in eating or sleeping habits could be a sign of underlying problems and increase the potential of your dog suffering a panic attack.
Dog panic attacks can be a real problem. A dog panic attack has potential for a violent reaction, which is why we need to understand exactly what’s happening. They fight what causes their fear, or they flee from it. Many dogs show signs by being aggressive while others will shake, tremble and hide. Identifying the source of the panic attack and addressing the cause is the first step to eliminating the problem.
Exposing your dog to different social situations and environments before they are 14 weeks of age will decrease the probability of fearful behavior that could result in panic attacks. Your young puppy will not need to become a social butterfly to avoid becoming habitually fearful. A minimal amount of exposure during these formative weeks will help in socializing your puppy.
Behavior training is effective in teaching your dog how to react to the source of fear. It takes patience and effort to discipline your dog but will relieve the suffering and undue stress. When exposed to the cause of their panic, reassure them with some extra love and attention. Using the exposure therapy method will help your pet learn that there is nothing to fear. Making your dog feel secure is important to help them deal with fear.
If you suspect your dog may be having panic attacks, the first thing to do is take him to your veterinarian for a good health check. They understand how animals cope with anxiety, stress and pain. Other conditions can be ruled out that might be causing the behavior.
If your veterinarian diagnoses a simple fear, anxiety, or phobia, a prescribed medication may be all that is needed. They may recommend other types of behavioral techniques you can use to alleviate your dog’s fears and anxieties.
If there is an underlying physical condition causing your dogs panic attacks, your vet will be able to prescribe any medication. Never give your dog any medication intended for human consumption, this can be fatal.