Interesting anxiety facts
21st November 2012 | By Dr. Tracey Henderson
Anxiety = the apprehensive anticipation of a threat. Anxiety is an emotional response, which occurs before or during a situation that the animal perceives as inevitable or dangerous. The situation or event may actually never occur.
Anxiety is a welfare issue, because it is an extremely unpleasant experience.
Anxiety is a medical condition, NOT a training problem.
Typical signs of anxiety include:
- Arousal, hypervigilance/scanning, dilated pupils, loss of attention, restlessness, pacing, panting, destruction, startling easily.
- Other signs of anxiety will depend on the specific problem the animal has.
Facts about anxiety:
- Studies have shown that 1 in 5 dogs and cats have an anxiety disorder. Recent studies have shown that possibly this number is as high as 8 out of 10 animals.
- Animals with anxiety disorders have:
- An imbalance in the neurochemicals in the brain, therefore is a medical problem.
- The stress or emotional part of the brain fires ‘abnormally’, resulting in the display of anxious behaviour.
- Whilst their emotional centre is firing, they are unable to think logically – therefore trying to modify their behaviour is difficult (hence why training success is limited with such animals).
- Many of these animals behave in an ‘irrational’/abnormal way in certain situations.
- Animals with anxiety problems rarely ‘grow out of them’ – instead they generally get worse.
- Success of treatment is much improved if these animals can be helped appropriately sooner rather than later.
- Treatment often requires anti-anxiety medication combined with a behaviour modification program. There is often no 'cure' for pets with anxiety, but is based on life long management.