Panic Attacks In Dogs - How To Recognize Them & Help Your Dog

Panic Attacks In Dogs - How To Recognize Them & Help Your Dog

Author Dr. Iva Pejnovic, DVM


A panic attack is a sudden attack of fear and panic, often for no apparent reason, usually followed by physical and mental symptoms. It can be very frightening and distressing for the owner and a pet. The attack can last from a couple of minutes until hours…

What are panic attacks?

A panic attack is an anxiety disorder triggered by fear, stress, or danger. It is usually followed by physical responses such as muscle tension, increased heart rate, shortened breath, and gasping. Recurrent panic attacks in dogs can weaken the immune system, leading to other medical problems. Otherwise, a panic attack can be caused by underlying medical conditions. Also, a dog can show aggression or self-mutilation during a panic attack. Although this seems not a big deal, recurrent panic attacks in dogs should be treated.

Can my dog have a panic attack?

Just like some people, some dogs can experience panic attacks too. It can affect all dog breeds. There is no predisposition such as age or sex.

dog with panic attack

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Signs of panic attacks in dogs are similar to some other behavioral problems. Although panic attacks may occur with specific triggers, they can come out with no apparent situations. So you can notice some physical and behavioral changes such as:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Fast heart rate
  • Drooling
  • Ears back and tail tucked under
  • Hiding
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Barking more than usual
  • Extreme aggression such as growling or biting

Causes of panic attacks in dogs

Causes of panic attacks in dogs can vary. It can be some situations in everyday life that cannot be easily avoided. Some dogs fear loud noises such as ambulances or police, thunderstorms, or fireworks. A dog's hearing is quite sensitive. On average, they can hear sounds that register between -5 decibels and -15 decibels. Because of this, some dogs may experience anxiety or pain when hearing loud or unexpected sounds.

Other dogs are terribly afraid of separation. It is an intense fear of being left alone. Separation anxiety is caused by being alone or without the one they want, such as a playmate or person they usually play with. Travel can cause anxiety which leads to panic attacks, but can be caused by motion sickness or confinement.

dog with panic attack

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Diagnosis of a panic attack

You should take your dog to a vet if panic attacks are repeated constantly. As we live in the tech era, use your mobile to document that condition. It should give your vet essential information and help him determine if it has some underlying neurologic or other medical condition. Also, your vet would do some examination or laboratory tests if needed.

How can I help my dog?

It is essential to stay calm so your dog cannot feel nervous. The first thing you can do is remove a dog from the source of their fear if it is possible. If the trigger can't be escaped, such as a storm, take them into a quieter space and try to mask the sounds, for example, with the radio or TV. Try to comfort a dog if he needs reassurance and try to distract them with their favorite toy, game, treat, or blanket. Let them hide away if they want to. Getting angry at your dog when he is experiencing a panic attack will not calm them down, but it could intensify the panic. You should talk to your vet if you consider giving CBD treats or other food supplements.

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Just like us, dogs can also have panic attacks. Often known as an episode of anxiety, they are remarkably similar to panic attacks in people and can be caused by extreme noise phobias, travel, or separation anxiety. Some dogs may shake and tremble, while others may escape or run away. Try to film that episode and show it to your vet. This condition cannot be cured, but you can help your dog by avoiding or at least reducing fear triggers. Depending on how intense the episode is, you can try to: distract and redirect your dog to play with toys or take your dog for a walk.

World Dog Finder team

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