Can Dogs Sense Panic Attacks?

Can Dogs Sense Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can be debilitating and are often traumatic in and of themselves. The sensations experienced during one often feel as though the body is turning on itself, and it can be hard to escape the intense feelings of fear and panic and return to a state of calm.

Many dog owners find comfort in their pets, and it is common to wonder if their dogs are able to sense their distress. After all, the dog always seems to know when they’re not okay. Well, that’s because the dog does know that something is wrong.

Yes, dogs can sense panic attacks. If you’d like to learn more about how dogs do this and how they can help those who suffer from panic attacks, then keep reading.

How Dogs Sense Panic Attacks

Dogs absolutely are able to sense panic attacks, and there are a few ways they do it. The first is via smell. According to a study from 2017, dogs were able to detect fear through their sense of smell. Not only that, but while we are experiencing stressful situations, the scent of our breath and sweat changes, and dogs can smell this change!

Not only do dogs have an incredible sense of smell, but they are keen observers. They can easily pick up on differences in our body language, facial expressions, and vocal tones.

When people are experiencing anxiety, they may start to fidget, pace, or exhibit other behaviors they don’t typically exhibit. Their expression may change from a neutral one to a worried one. Their breathing may also begin to accelerate. Dogs notice these changes.

Not only do dogs notice these changes, but many dogs may even want to help. Anyone who has ever owned a dog has probably noticed that when they are upset, their dog often approaches them. There have even been studies done in the past that further support the idea that dogs can recognize distress and will try to approach the distressed person.

How Dogs Can Help With Panic Attacks

Just because dogs can sense panic attacks and may want to help doesn’t mean they are always able to. Many dogs have to be trained how to respond to an impending panic attack. It is very common for psychiatric service dogs to be trained to recognize and respond to panic attacks.

Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to alert to a panic attack when it is oncoming, and they may do this by pawing at or nudging their owner. They can also be trained to provide deep pressure therapy, where they will put their weight on their user to provide comfort.

Of course, psychiatric service dogs aren’t the only kind of assistance animal that can be of help to those who suffer from panic attacks. Emotional support animals and therapy dogs could also provide comfort just by their presence alone.

Many dogs are sensitive to human emotions, especially if the dog has a strong bond with that person. It’s common for dogs to approach their owners when they show signs of distress and offer behaviors that we find comforting. Just having a dog to pet and hug while experiencing heightened anxiety can provide some amount of respite.

Of course, any dog can be trained to help with panic attacks. Your dog does not have to become a service dog to do so. However, if your dog is not a service dog, they won’t be able to accompany and help you when you’re in public. If you do plan to train your dog to respond to your anxiety, you’ll need to know what your “tells” are.

For example, when you start to get anxious, maybe you tend to grab your earlobe, tap on something, or itch the back of your hand. You’ll need to recognize your symptoms before you can train your dog to respond to them.

Training your dog to alert you to an impending panic attack will take time and you’ll need to remain consistent with the training. However, once you are successful, having these alerts could provide a fair bit of comfort as, once your dog alerts you, you can use any techniques you’ve learned to help yourself calm down. You may even be able to prevent a full blown panic attack.

The Most Comforting Companions

Not only are dogs wonderful companions, but they are incredible at recognizing changes in humans, whether that change be in scent or body language.

Dogs are able to sense panic attacks both via their noses and via their keen observation skills. Some dogs may approach their owners when they notice distress, but many dogs won’t know how exactly to help and will need to be trained.

Dogs can be trained how to alert their owners to impending panic attacks or how to provide deep pressure therapy for comfort. Of course, even untrained dogs can provide comfort simply through their willingness to be pet and hugged during an episode. Dogs truly are human’s best friend!

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