Canine fear and anxiety (Proceedings)

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Canine fear and anxiety (Proceedings)

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Apr 01, 2010

In conversation, the terms 'anxiety,' 'fear,' and 'phobia' are commonly used synonymously. In the context of behavior medicine it is important to be mindful of their respective definition and differences between the conditions since they vary not only in presentation, but also in treatment and prognosis.

Anxiety is typically defined as a state of uneasiness or worry in response to a potential threat, causing unpleasant somatic sensation (increased heart rate, dry mouth, etc.).

Fear describes the body's response to actual threats that may harm an individual, including situations that may inflict adverse emotional or physical sensations, such as social isolation or pain.

Panic describes a state of intense fear, leading to strong, irrational reactions and potential dangerous behaviors as the intensity of the perceived threat may impair or replace normal thinking patterns.

Dogs who are affected by fear-related behavior problems may present for a specific complaint that poses the most serious issue in his or her environment. A complete history will likely reveal that the animal fulfills diagnostic criteria for anxiety, fear or phobia in a variety of areas. Issues that may induce these reactions can be categorized as situational (perceived or actual social isolation), animate stimuli (strangers, other dogs) or inanimate stimuli (noises, scents, or sights).

While the client may not be interested in treating some, clinically irrelevant manifestations of the dog's problem, it is essential to understand the full scope of the issue as the duration of the problem, its severity, and manifestations are essential elements in the clinician's tool box as s/he explains the issue to the client, develops a treatment protocol and assesses prognosis. Client education fosters accurate understanding of problems and treatment methods. It is one of the most crucial elements of successful therapy. It allows the veterinarian to eliminate counterproductive and inaccurate misperceptions regarding the dog's symptoms as well as inappropriate treatment choices if client feels for example that the dog acts 'irrationally', 'out of spite, or in a 'mean' fashion.

While the symptoms of dogs with anxiety, fears and phobias vary greatly, we have a set of therapeutic tools available that can be easily adjusted to all situations and customized to the patient's and the client's needs.

In this session we will review case examples of dogs with generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, noise phobia, and fear aggression. We will discuss issues that may arise regarding their diagnosis, but focus our attention on treatment options. We will jointly develop treatment programs that include management tools, behavior modification programs and drug treatment options for short acting and situational drugs as well as long term treatment, as needed for the respective problems.