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19 Alarming Signs That Your Dog Is Having A Panic Attack

Dog Panic Attack

Here’s a concerning fact:

Your dog’s anxiety can easily turn into a panic attack.

So you must know about the latter’s indications to help your pooch.

And in this article, I’ll talk about them and more.

Continue reading to find out:

  • How long a dog’s panic attack can last.
  • 19 troublesome signs of a panic attack in dogs.
  • 9 easy ways to calm your canine during a panic attack.
  • And much, much, more…

19 dog panic attack signs

Note: The indications I listed below are similar to the symptoms of anxiety and phobia in dogs. Those manifest when a trigger or the anticipation of it is around. But for a panic attack in a dog, there’ll be no stimulus present.

#1: Fast heart rate

A panic attack puts your pooch under much stress.

With that, their body responds automatically by releasing a surge of adrenaline.

Which is the hormone that enables the “fight, flight, or freeze” response.

Now, when adrenaline floods your dog’s body…

PetMD says it leads to a fast heart rate (HR). 

And according to vets, these are the average HR for canines:

Dog sizeNormal heart rate 
Toy breeds180 beats per minute
Small to medium breeds160 beats per minute
Giant breeds140 beats per minute

Quickly take your pup’s heart rate using this method

  1. Prepare a timer that’ll count down to 15 seconds.
  2. Use your index and middle fingers. Locate Fido’s pulse in either of these areas: behind your dog’s forelimb or your canine’s hindlimb.
  3. Start the 15-second countdown on your timer. 
  4. Count every beat you feel, which is equal to 1 pulse.
  5. Once the timer finishes, multiply the rate you got by 4. Doing so puts the pulse rate equivalent to a minute.
  6. Use the above table to identify whether Fido’s HR is too fast.

#2: Rapid breathing

During a panic attack, your dog’s mind is in a blur.

And as you learned, their body reacts by flooding their system with adrenaline.

Which also causes your pooch to breathe faster.

Now, vets say this is the standard breathing rate (BR) in dogs:

15 to 30 breath cycles per minute.

So, if their BR goes beyond that…

It’s a clear indication Fido has a panic attack.

Quickly take your canine’s breathing rate

  1. Get a timer and set it to count down to 15 seconds.
  2. Sit your dog in front of you. Or lie them down flatly. 

Note: Ensure you can see their chest and abdomen in whatever position they’re in.

  1. Start the 15-second countdown on your timer. 
  2. Count your dog’s BR by tracking their breath.

Note: 1 breath = 1 inhale (chest rising) and 1 exhale (chest falling).

  1. Once the timer finishes, multiply the BR you got by 4.

#3: Trembling or shaking

Why does your canine’s body react that way toward a panic attack?

Well, the rapid heart and breathing rates are all necessary…

Because they enable faster energy production.

Moreover, their prime muscles will contract and prepare for a possible escape.

But while Fido is still anticipating the threat or it’s not really present…

Their muscles will still be acting, which leads to shaking or trembling.

#4: Sudden panting

As I mentioned, your pup’s system is making and spending energy rapidly.

So when they have a panic attack…

Despite staying still while it all happens…

It’s physically and mentally exhausting for them.

That leads to sudden panting, which is a sign of fatigue in dogs. 

#5: Excessive drooling

Excessive Drooling

Since your canine has their mouth open while they pant during a panic attack…

It stimulates excessive drooling in them.

Read also: 21 Reasons Why Your Dog Suddenly Drools (& Acts Strange)

#6: Pacing

A panic attack causes an upset mind…

And it makes your pooch unable to settle down.

So instead of relaxing…

Your pooch will be pacing back and forth.

#7: Digging or scratching

Your dog’s body makes so much energy during a panic attack…

With that, they need a safe outlet for it.

Otherwise, they’re going to feel more overwhelmed.

So they dig into anything they can.

Or they’ll also scratch their bed, the couch, or your sheets.

Now, apart from reducing their stamina…

Repeated actions also stimulate the production of endorphins.

Those are hormones that have opiate-like chemicals.

That means they can put Fido in a state of euphoria and calmness.

And although this study was centered around humans…

Dogs can also gain these benefits from an endorphin rush:

  • Enhanced self-esteem.
  • Reduced pain and discomfort.
  • Improved memory and cognitive function.

All of those can help them relieve their panic attack in no time.

#8: Frantically seeking your attention

A panic attack is an intense manifestation of fear and anxiety.

It’s very frightening and can leave your dog feeling helpless.

And as your pup goes through those emotions…

They’ll turn to you for comfort.

But since those feelings are very strong…

The way your canine seeks your attention will be frantic.

So they’ll fiercely paw or jump at you.

They might even desperately cling to your legs for support. 

#9: Hysterically trying to hide

As a natural predator, your dog understands the consequences of weakness.

So when they have a panic attack…

They’re extremely vulnerable, therefore, an easier target.

Atop the immense anxiety and fear they’re already going through…

That fact stresses them more.

With that, your pooch will try to hide.

Which is their way of fleeing from their fear.

However, they’ll try to hide hysterically.

One vet even reported:

A canine patient going through a panic attack hectically pulled open the oven drawer. 

Then, the pooch hid under the opening.

That’s how badly a dog needs to cover themself up.

#10: Gastrointestinal (GI) upset

Have you heard the expression “gut-wrenching experience?”

Well, Harvard revealed why we use phrases like that…

And it’s because of the gut-brain connection.

They stated that anxiety and stress could lead to intestinal distress.

That’s why when Fido is going through a panic attack…

Their gastrointestinal tract gets affected, and they experience stomach pain.

#11: Vomiting

The GI upset your panicky canine goes through will only be minor.

However, VCA Hospitals state that such cases can still lead to nausea and vomiting.  

#12: Diarrhea

This is another manifestation of the gut-brain connection…

When your pooch develops GI upset due to a panic attack…

It’ll turn into sudden diarrhea.

#13: Peeing or pooping indoors

Your pooch is confused when they have a panic attack.

And since they’re also experiencing GI upset during this…

They won’t do well in holding back their poop or pee.

So, they’ll let go inside the house.

Continue reading: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Suddenly Poops In The House (Again)

#14: Vocalizing

When fiercely pawing or jumping at you won’t work…

Your pooch going through a panic attack won’t still give up.

This time they’ll seek your attention through extreme vocalization.

So, they’ll whine and bark non-stop to make you focus on them.

#15: Trying to escape

Apart from hiding, your frantic pooch will flee from their fear through escaping.

And according to the Humane Society, these are ways that dogs run off:

  • Digging under the fence.
  • Climbing or jumping over the fence. 
  • Rushing out the door when it’s open.

Fun fact: There are 2 types of avoidance: active and passive. Running away is considered active avoidance. While passively avoiding something means ignoring it.

#16: Frightened body language

A panic attack makes your pooch cower in fear.

And since canines mainly communicate non-verbally…

You’ll notice terrified body language from Fido.

And according to ASPCA, here’s how fear appears in your dog:

Body partBody language
EarsPulled back and flattened.
EyesTheir pupils are dilated. Which makes them appear glassy.
MouthClosed due to tension. And their lips are pulled back at the corners.
TailIt’s lowered and tucked between their legs.

#17: Loss of appetite

As I mentioned, a panic attack floods your dog’s body with adrenaline.

And that hormone puts their nervous system into overdrive.

But your pup’s body can only take so much…

So while their nerves are vigorously preparing…

Other systems decrease in activity or get put on hold.

Ultimately, it can lead to the shutdown of your pup’s appetite. 

#18: Extreme and sudden aggression

Pain and fear can meet during a panic attack.

And based on ASPCA’s list of the types of aggression in dogs…

Those are factors that bring out hostile behaviors in your canine.

So when they get aggressive, VCA Hospitals say it’ll show through:

  • Yawning.
  • Growling.
  • Snapping.
  • Licking the lips.
  • Intention to bite.
  • Avoiding eye contact.

#19: Self-harm

Research disclosed that canines are a bit self-aware.

Although not in the same intensity as humans do…

Regardless, dogs understand their body in some sense.

Moreover, they can recognize the consequences of their actions.

Now, since they’re self-aware, that means:

They have the ability to intentionally harm themself when under immense anxiety.

And they do it by:

  • Biting and chewing their skin.
  • Excessively licking their skin (especially wounds).

Reading tip: Can Dogs Be Suicidal? 9 Shocking Stories Revealed

How long can a dog panic attack last?

A dog panic attack can last from 5 to 20 minutes. Then, its intensity subsides over time. 

However, in rare cases, a panic attack can take up to an hour. 

To avoid that from happening, check out the next section for ways to calm your pooch.

But if their panic attack is persistent after an hour…

It’s time to call their veterinarian.

How to calm a dog panic attack?

To calm a dog during a panic attack, you can do the following:

#1: Stay calm

A panic attack is worrying as a dog parent.

But you have to be strong for Fido and keep a straight face. 

Because research tells us that dogs can sense their human’s emotions.

They do it by reading your facial expressions.

As well as detecting your voice’s tone.

And when they catch your panic from your voice and face…

They’ll absorb it too, which can intensify their panic attack.

So, avoid being anxious with your pooch. 

Instead, you must stay calm as well.

#2: Redirect them to play using a toy

Did you know that dogs are easily distracted?

That innate behavior is due to their predatory instinct.

Which is why they chase cars and other animals in motion.

Now, you can use this to your advantage…

Grab your pup’s favorite toy and show it to them.

This initiates play, and doing so shifts their focus to the toy.

Thus helping their panic attack subside.

#3: Distract them using training

Another way to divert their attention is by using treats and recall training.

However, keep it simple since it’s not an official session.

So do basic obedience cues only. 

Moreover, for this strategy to work, you must let your pooch win.

With that, tell Fido a command they already know.

And once they do it, you must reward them with a treat.

#4: Take them for a peaceful walk

This time, you’re going to distract your pup with an activity.

And apart from diverting their focus…

Doing this can also provide them with the comfort they need.

So take Fido out for a walk.

But only once you notice their panic attack have subsided by a bit.

Moreover, ensure the route you’ll take is peaceful.

The best one will be the path with the least disturbances.

Doing this can help your pooch transition from a frightful state to a calm condition. 

#5: Stroke or brush their fur

Your pooch will feel better if you do this.

Because based on a study’s findings:

Stroking your dog’s fur for 15 minutes can increase their oxytocin (OT) levels.

Which has the nicknames “love hormones” and “cuddle hormones.”

As OT leaves your pooch to feel good, thus calming them.

#6: Massage them

This has been growing popular in the veterinary scene…

Because massage therapy has numerous benefits for dogs.

And one of them is relieving anxiety.

Oxytocin is still a contributor to that advantage.

Moreover, massage strokes help improve blood flow.

Which removes the tension in their muscles. 

Then, it promotes relaxation and calmness.

With all those effective benefits…

Here’s how to massage your pooch to ease their panic attack:

Learn more: 7 Best Techniques To Massage Your Dog (For Anxiety)

#7: Provide a safe hiding spot for them

As you learned, your pup will be desperately looking for a hiding spot.

And that could make them reckless.

Which exposes them to danger and possible injuries.

So, the best you can do for your panicky dog is to give them a safe space.

Start by putting their bed and a few toys in a small room.

Then, ensure that the area is well-ventilated and lit.

Moreover, it needs to have the least foot traffic around the house.

Remember: They’re supposed to be hiding at the moment. There shouldn’t be anyone walking by the room. Because it won’t give your dog the same feeling as hiding.

However, for their safety, don’t shut the door.

The sense of confinement can only stress them more.

Instead, leave it open and use a dog gate to contain them inside.

#8: Prevent any other stressful stimulus

While your pup has a panic attack…

You must prevent other fearful stimuli from occurring.

Otherwise, it’s going to escalate your dog’s fear.

So, according to MSDVM, here are the triggers to avoid:

  • Strangers.
  • Loud noises.
  • Unfamiliar canines.
  • Visual stimuli (ex., hats).

#9: Play calming music

Believe it or not, dogs have a musical preference.

That’s what renowned canine psychologist Dr. Stanley Coren stated.

And the findings of this research backed that up.

As it reports that classical music lulled kenneled dogs to sleep.

While heavy metal music made them more nervous.

With that, play some Mozart or Beethoven tracks.

Or you can try any soothing music to relieve their panic attack.

I personally recommend this Spotify playlist. Which is specifically crafted to comfort your anxious dog.