Canine Panic Attacks


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 experience of a person’s life. It is fair to assume the same is true for our dogs!

Recognizing The Signs

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.

Common Causes

Some common causes can be things like: 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.

Possible Solutions

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 also 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 in a calm and reassuring way. 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.

Try a ThunderShirt like this one pictured here from Amazon. They are a drug-free, all-natural treatment for your dog’s anxiety and they’re easy to try. The idea is that the vest supplies gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant.

I have a dog who gets stressed out with any loud noises and not just thunderstorms . . . but an action adventure movie with a lot of gunfire or crashes, a blender with ice, fireworks. Whenever she felt scared she’d seem to feel better (ie, stop shaking) if she could burrow under a blanket. It made good sense to get her a thundershirt, and they really do work for some dogs. It’s worth giving it a whirl if your dog suffers from similar anxieties.

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.


About Author

Devoted pet owner and now, devoted pet editor, Judi worked in traditional offices, keeping the books and the day-to-day operations organized. Taking her dog to work every day for over a decade never seemed odd. Neither did having an office cat. She knows what it's like to train a new puppy and she's experienced the heartache of losing beloved companions. Retired, she currently lives with her spoiled dog and four chickens (who are, interestingly enough, also spoiled).


  1. Panic attacks in pets can be horrible, both for pets and owners. Not only do they go through terror, pets can often hurt themselves badly trying to escape their fears, often damaging property during the process.

    If your pet has problems like this, a visit to the vet is super important. They will be able to rule out any underlying problems and help you work towards management of your pets anxiety issues.

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  3. Pet’s panic attacks can be really scary that’s why it’s really a must that if this happens, a visit to the vet is the best thing to do. Thank you for sharing this very informative post!

  4. Balanced lies in understanding body language, ours and theirs and interrupting any unbalanced energy quickly.
    Getting good regular exercise, especially prior to Vet and grooming appointments or any potentially stressful environment, makes all the difference.

  5. My yellow lab “Lulu” crossed over this past June, 2010. She was 16 years old and we brought her home from the shelter when she was two. For the next 14 years my girl suffered with thunder phobia which includes panic attacks and terrible anxiety. Our vet said that she was one of the worst cases that she had ever seen. Our lives revolved around Lulu during thunderstorm season. She was frightened and there was very little that we could do except to be there for her. When it was real bad, we would sedate her (per the vet).

    This was an incredible experience for us as dog owners. We learned alot from our old girl and how they’re really not much different than we are. It was very hard on her and us as well, but you know what, I would do it all over again for my girl.

  6. What I love about blogs is that they spark an idea in my brain. When that happens, I feel as I need to comment with the hope it may be interesting to some people. Because there are lots of blogs and forums with many points of view, they question your comprehension. It is at these moments when you have valuable insignt other people might not have had, together with the blogger him/herself. I find myself coming back to to your writings only because you have several very good insights and also you have been at this a very long time, that is very inspiring and tells me you know your stuff. Keep triggering imagination in others!

  7. i have a 13 yr old lhapso opso that has panic attacks whenever it rains, lightning, thunderstorms. In the near future (Dec 3) i will have to put him in a cage for a 5 hr flight to Costa Rica where the weather is raining, lighting and thunder storms for 6mos. What should i do? I don’t want him shaking and panicking all the time. No long term medications please.
    Please email me with advice.
    Thank you,
    don w. smith

  8. I have a baby grandson and when he comes to visit my dog has a panic attack. She gets very upset and tries to bite him. What can I do??

  9. “Guiro”, my 4 yrs. old male Boxer suffers from severe panic attacks. The same are caused by separation anxiety; plus, by being put in a cage for a long period of time at the Vet Clinic when he got sick with Parvovirus when he was a puppy. He overcome the virus and is a healthy Boxer now, except for the panic attacks. The Vet prescribed Phenobarbital for the panic attacks since the attacks make my Boxer have seizures. He falls to the ground while shacking hard and lots of saliva coming out from his mouth. The seizures last for few seconds to a minute. It’s something of great concern for me. And the worst thing is you don’t know when it going to occur.

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