Helping the dog suffering from long-term generalized anxiety is not easy. They can seem distracted for behavior modification and coaching, they may not be able to hold focus and are always on the lookout (listen-out) for something to bark at. The dog may have been coping (not so) quietly with GAD all their life. It could have just been part of her life before but now she’s in a place where someone might recognize it for what it actually is.
The first step is recognition, then it’s a good idea to go to an excellent vet and dis-cuss formal diagnosis and whether medication will help the dog to cope. There are a number of medication types that are used for canine mental health; often they are also used with people. Medication may be a good first step, yet it should always be used alongside changes to the environment and restriction of potential triggers. As with all medication for mental health issues, it should be used alongside a holistic plan, always discussed in detail with your veterinarian and only prescribed by a vet. Don’t be tempted to dismiss medication based on any preconceptions; used at the beginning of a bigger plan it can work really well for dogs that need relief from GAD and other anxiety disorders.
As with all imbalances and conditions whether mental or physical, we must look at the basic holistic health and balance of the dog. A good diet with careful supple-mentation for holistic health is important.
We then have to be sure that all the dog’s needs are met properly and in a way suit-able to her. We can look to the Five Free-doms for this as a checklist.
The Five Freedoms of Wellness:
The five freedoms were initially created to offer farmed animals a level of protection from bad practices. To ensure that their basic needs were met. Since their creation, the five freedoms have been adopted by many organizations, for general animal welfare, and when used properly they can provide us with general guidance for the welfare of even the most complicated dog.
The five freedoms include:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst. This can be extended beyond the basic provision of food and water by choosing a bespoke diet for the dog. In addition, we can use nutraceuticals for supplementation, to ensure extra support for wellness where the dog needs it.
- Freedom from discomfort by providing a comfortable and safe resting area. In the case of a dog suffering from anxiety that might mean turning on classical music to drown out sounds in the environment. The idea is to make them feel safe, even though we already know they are.
- Freedom from pain, injury, and disease which we can do by being educated and aware of the signs of ill health — both mental and physical — then taking our dogs to the vets if they appear unwell. We can also do much more, by managing the wellbeing and everyday balance of our dogs to prevent disease be-ginning and progressing wherever possible.
- Freedom to express normal behavior which is covered perfectly by social care, enrichment, foraging, and general games which allow the dog to fulfill her natural needs to capacity.
- Freedom from fear and distress means that we both create a safe space and environment for the dog in this life and help them to get over fears learned in the previous ones. This is particularly relevant to puppy farm dogs and dogs that have suffered at the hands of people.
It’s really worth spending some time with the five statements above and working out exactly how they may fit into your own dog’s life.