Canine Panic Attacks: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention

Canine panic attacks are real. It is indeed hard to picture dogs suffering from these because they are like angels to us. Of course, we don’t dare think anything wrong is going to happen to them. For us, they are precious. Unfortunately, just like us, humans, dogs can suffer from panic attacks too. At the same time, the hard part is that they can’t talk to tell us that they are feeling something wrong. This is the reason why signs of panic attacks in dogs may be subtle. We can absolutely really be unaware at all.

Therefore, as a pet owner, you must be informed beforehand of the information you need to diagnose a panic attack in your dog. You must know the things that may cause it, the telltale signs of having it, as well as the things to do to alleviate your dog from suffering.


First, let us first discuss what a panic attack is. A panic attack is different from an anxiety attack although they are often used interchangeably. An anxiety attack is caused by triggers while a panic attack may just happen out of nowhere. Just like with humans, a dog’s panic attack is characterized by an increase in the heart rate, difficulty in breathing, and shaking of the body. At the same time, the dog may exhibit abnormal barking, growling, and other odd behaviors.

It should be noted that you really have to carefully observe and take care of your dog if it is already manifesting signs of anxiety. If it can be worked on earlier, it may not lead to an outburst of a panic attack.



Your dog may suffer from confinement anxiety which can lead to its panic attack. If it is accidentally enclosed such as confined in an unfamiliar place, accidentally bounded within the dog house, or any other uncomfortable and threatening entrapped situation, it may suffer from an anxiety or a panic attack.


Some dogs can’t handle being in a car, bus, train, airplane, or any other traveling situation. Hence, this can trigger an anxiety or panic attack in them.


This one is very well-known and a no-brainer with dog owners. Every New Year, dog owners take extra precautions because fireworks really trigger troublesome feelings and sensations to dogs. It is also true during thunderstorms. Remember that any real loud noise isn’t nice to dogs.


Dogs are so loyal that their attachment to their owner is beyond words. If they have to be separated from their human, either temporarily or permanently, they can suffer from an anxiety or panic attack.


A dog’s anxiety or panic attack may be one of the effects of an illness or two. Hearing or vision loss may cause your dog to panic. Illnesses such as hypothyroidism, thyrotoxicosis, encephalitis, and pre-diabetes can trigger anxious feelings in your pet dog.


If your dog has a phobia/s, it is highly possible that it can experience an anxiety or panic attack if that deep fear is triggered by any other way.


Canine panic attacks should be diagnosed as quickly as possible. What are the signs?

  1. Difficult and rapid breathing
  2. Increase in heart rate
  3. Shaking of the body
  4. Odd barking
  5. Extreme growling
  6. Odd scratching of fur
  7. Odd digging
  8. Abnormal pacing
  9. Whining
  10. Tail-tucking
  11. Hiding
  12. Reduced activity or can be overly attentive to you
  13. Excessive panting



The really best thing to do with canine panic attacks is to consult a veterinarian. Certainly, he/she can properly diagnose your pet dog’s panic attack to know its intensity. Consequently, you will know if the attack is simply situational or is already getting burdensome towards your dog. The veterinarian will come up with a proper treatment plan. Of course, if there is a medical condition that is causing the panic attack, the focus will be put in there.

Also, the veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary behaviorist or even an animal trainer to work things out with your pet dog. Canine panic attacks can either be treated by training or by medication. Training is for situations that aren’t that serious. If, on the other hand, the panic attacks have been going on consistently, drugs and any other psychotropic medications will be prescribed. 


A veterinary behaviorist or an animal trainer may introduce counterconditioning. It is a method wherein the dog’s reaction to a triggering stimuli that causes its panic attack will be replaced by a much better behavior. Instead of reacting aggressively, it may be taught to focus on its owner to be able to relax. Another way to handle a canine panic attack is desensitization. It is a method wherein a dog is gradually exposed to what is triggering its attacks, but in decreased intensity and amount. As a result, the consistent exposure as well as the consistent rewarding of good behavior during this type of conditioning will be able to help the dog cope with its panic attacks.


Medications using drugs as well as therapies will be prescribed if the canine panic attack is already serious and is getting detrimental to your dog’s overall well-being.


As much as possible, take care of your dog and make sure that it is in an environment that won’t cause a panic attack or any other uncomfortable feeling.


Without a doubt, regular exercise won’t just be healthy for your dog’s physical body. Your pet will also be mentally stimulated which is really good because it is a good distraction from panic and its corresponding unfavorable behaviors.


Healthy meals will be good for your pet dog’s overall mental well-being. Make sure that every meal as well as every treat is jam-packed with essential nutrients. Also, feed them in the right amount and in the appropriate number of times a day.


Make sure that your dog isn’t isolated. Your pet should indeed be able to see and interact with other dogs to play and have fun. It must also be in the presence of other people. In general, the company of others will really be good for your dog’s social, mental, and emotional well-being.


Knowing your dog’s panic triggers will give you the time to look for signs around of anything that will be threatening for it. With this, you are able to prevent your dog being exposed to the said stimuli. Additionally, knowing the meaning behind your dog’s body language will be a big advantage to you too. Your dog can’t speak, but if you get the meaning behind its actions, you will know what it is trying to say. Hence, really observe and be mindful of signs that your dog is panicking.


Calming herbs are just an alternative that you may want to try for your pet dog. Clearly, knowing some herbs that can calm down your pet without having any other side effect to its mental and physical capacity may come in handy someday. Just bear in mind that some herbs will be good for this kind of breed but not for the other. Also, check with your veterinarian first.

Some of the known relaxing herbs for dogs are Valerian, Skullcap, Oat, and Passionflower. These are manufactured and usually come in the form of pills, capsules, or liquid extracts.


A panic attack is a no-joke among us, humans, so what more with dogs who aren’t able to tell anyone that they are feeling a rush in their body that is making them unwell. They only rely on their owner for almost everything they need. With us, humans, we know that our mental health is really important. If it deteriorates, so is our whole system. If it suffers, our world seem to be crumbling down. Now, think of it as what happens exactly with dogs who are basically angels here on Earth. That is just not okay, right? So we have to take actions as their companion.

You have to really be observant with your pet, especially if it is already exhibiting weird behaviors. You take those as signs that maybe something is wrong. If possible, contact your pet’s veterinarian, so you can know what to do right away. The phrase “better late than never” won’t be tolerated here. It is always better to prevent a panic attack than to cope with an already occurring one and there are ways to do so if you only put an effort in getting informed.

On the other hand, if your dog is already panicking beside you, you have to let it know that you are there for them. It can definitely really help a lot if you can get its focus right back at you. So make your pet sit on your lap and caress it. You can sync your breathing with your pet’s breathing and then slowly but surely breathe in and out. As a result, your dog’s heartbeat will definitely calm down and go back to normal. Overall, just do anything that will distract your dog in a good way.