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Fetch Forward™ Insights: Anxiety

This issue: Understanding anxiety in dogs

Fetch Forward data shows that anxiety-related claims for dogs decreased by 67% and have remained low since the onset of the pandemic.

This is great news! But, during this same time period, the average number of claims related to behavioral disorders increased dramatically by 408%.

Dr. Ruple, licensed veterinarian, veterinary epidemiologist, and Fetch Vet Advisory Board Chair, notes that this could indicate that our companion dogs who experience anxiety greatly benefited from our increased presence in their lives during the pandemic. However, it might also mean that we became more aware of problematic behaviors our dogs were engaging in because we were able to observe them throughout the day. 

Signs you should look out for when it comes to your pet’s mental health:

  • Signs of fear, stress, and anxiety can be subtle so watch your pet’s body language carefully and interpret it with what’s happening around your dog.
  • Body language that indicates fear, anxiety, or stress includes ears held low to the side or back, furrowed brows, a lowered head position, lip-licking when not hungry or thirsty, yawning when not tired, tail lowered or tucked between the legs, cowering, rolling on their back to show their belly, refusal to take a treat, and a frozen stance.
  • Vocalizations such as barking, howling, and whining can be a sign of anxiety.
  • Destruction, inappropriate urination/defecation, pacing, drooling, hiding, panting when not hot, and trembling are more overt signs of fear, stress, and anxiety.

Ways to treat anxiety/behavioral issues at home (and how to know when it’s time to bring your dog to a veterinarian):

  • Boredom can cause signs that may be confused with anxiety, so ensure that you’re meeting your pet’s needs for exercise, mental stimulation, and attention.
  • You can make sure you’re helping to meet your dogs needs by engaging your dog in sniff walks, games, and food puzzles which support their natural instincts to investigate, sniff, and chew.
  • Implementing a predictable schedule for your dog for exercise, play, and attention can help them feel calmer because they know what to expect.
  • Keep greetings and departures calm and neutral by ignoring your dog for 15 minutes prior to leaving and when arriving back home.
  • Many times dogs that are sitting or laying down quietly are ignored. Instead, pet parents should reward calm and desirable behaviors. This encourages them to repeat those behaviors.
  • Mat training for dogs is when pet parents can teach dogs to settle on a mat, rug, towel, or yoga mat. This can help dogs feel less anxious because they learn to seek out the mat as a calm, relaxing place during a stressful event. The mat is also portable and can be used in different locations in the house or even at a veterinary hospital.
  • It’s never too early to partner with a veterinary behaviorist and a reputable dog trainer to develop a behavior modification plan based on positive reinforcement. They can give you an individualized plan of action to help your dog.
  • If your dog is exhibiting signs of fear, anxiety, or stress, they should be seen by their veterinarian to rule out an injury or illness that may have signs similar to those associated with anxiety.

Anxiety and behavioral disorders by the numbers:

While anxiety-related claims have decreased dramatically, pet parents still spent a significant amount to treat them. Those with Mixed Breed, medium-sized dogs, spent the most amount of money per year treating their pets for anxiety, an average of $458, with some paying as much as $4,787 for anxiety related costs. And average claims per year increased as dogs got older. 

For all breeds, the average cost of claims related to behavioral disorders is $448 per year, with some pet parents paying as much as $4,686 to treat them.

About Fetch Forward™

These insights are powered by our ground-breaking, patent-pending Fetch Forward technology. Using Fetch Forward data, we’re able to predict health and disease outcomes with such high confidence that we’re able to provide recommendations to help you ensure that your dog will live a happier and healthier life. Fetch Forward is the place where veterinary care, artificial intelligence and clinical health data (from over half a million dogs) work together to improve the quality of our pets’ lives. We’re proud to take this revolutionary leap forward in pet health.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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