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Help! Why is My Dog Acting Paranoid All of a Sudden?

Dogs act paranoid all of a sudden due to underlying fear, phobia, separation anxiety, or physical health issues.

Although the complexity of a paranoid dog hasn’t been thoroughly analyzed, it’s a fact that some canines suffer from this.

Fear as a defense mechanism is widely spread among dogs and it’s not that easy to eliminate. Most aggression cases are fear-based and it’s a real issue.

Continuous exposure to fear produces phobia.

What can make a dog act paranoid? Dogs with phobia experienced persistent fear and now they constantly anticipate it even when the trigger isn’t apparent.

Persistency isn’t a hard and fast rule. Even a single fearful experience can turn into a phobia that surpasses rational responses.

Both fear and phobia can make a dog paranoid, though with phobia the symptoms are much more expressed. So many triggers can be responsible for the condition but I’ll try to guide you through them all.

Symptoms of a paranoid dog are:

  • Pacing
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Flattened ears
  • Tucked tail
  • Avoiding eye contact

No dog should be blamed for developing fear, anxiety, or phobia. They understand the world much differently than we do so we need to learn how to help them cope with whatever intimidates them.

Why is My Dog Anxious All of a Sudden?

Many medical and non-medical reasons cause sudden anxiety in dogs. Dogs can get unsettled due to stuff that seems mundane to us. No age, gender, or breed is excluded from this.

Dogs can act paranoid all of a sudden and one indicator might be that your dog is acting like he's seeing things.

Let’s look at the most common reasons for a dog’s mental distress with paranoid behavior as a resulting outcome.

Fear

A dog that is afraid is a dog that often starts acting paranoid.

Most commonly dogs fear sudden loud noises, objects/people that look suspicious, unpleasant smells, etc.

Fear appears when the trigger is in the dog’s proximity.

Different dogs show different symptoms of fear.

Some hide in dark and isolated places while others become alert and aggressive. If you know your pet well enough you might have an idea of what produces the sudden onset of fear.

When you can’t find the exact cause right away, don’t blame yourself. It’s advisable to talk to a veterinarian and even take your pup for an exam.

A vet along with a canine trainer can guide you in relieving the level of fear and stress in your beloved furry friend.

Trauma and Phobia

Although age isn’t the key factor, most dogs develop phobia as a result of a traumatic experience when they’re puppies or between 1 and 3 years of age.

Anxiety crosses the line and turns to phobia due to incidents like mistreatment, abandonment, abuse, etc.

Phobic dogs make it hard for themselves even when the trigger for the phobia is nowhere to be seen or heard.

Whatever the cause is, this type of anxiety takes a great toll on your dog’s physical and mental health.

We mostly see chronic phobia due to past trauma in rescue dogs.

Many of them had abusive owners and now anything that might remind them of the past experiences produces paranoid episodes.

Never try to medicate your phobic dog on your own.

Once professional trainers and veterinarians discover why and when anxiety occurs, they should give you instructions on how to desensitize the pet first.

Mild cases of anxiety may be bettered by using a dog thundershirt.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is pretty common in dogs and it’s easy to diagnose. Whenever dogs with this condition are left alone they can start acting paranoid and turn to destructive or clingy behavior.

For some, it takes just a few minutes for the symptoms to kick in, while for others it takes a few hours.

The outcome is the same either way.

If the problem is not promptly addressed to it can take a serious toll on your dog’s mental health (as well as on your furniture and relationship with your neighbors).

The dog simply thinks that the owner won’t ever come back for him.

Either a rescue already had separation anxiety or the owner didn’t train the pup to stay alone.

Breed Predisposition

Some dog breeds are naturally more anxious compared to others.

Behavior that can be observed as acting paranoid all of a sudden in new environments is more common among Cocker Spaniels, Pekingese, German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Dalmatians, Poodles, and Siberian Huskies.

Highly intelligent and energetic dogs are prone to anxiety if underexercised and not mentally stimulated.

However, every individual’s temperament is different, no matter the breed.

Lack of Socialization

The first few months of a puppy’s life are very important for proper social and environmental experiences.

Letting this key segment slip can make a puppy habitually fearful as he grows up.

One of the most common culprits of an anxious dog is poor socialization.

Various stimuli during young age give a dog the general idea that the world is filled with surprises that can be loud, sudden, and weird looking but cannot hurt him.

Puppy classes and walks in parks or around the city are a great way to avoid these problems.

Social paranoia in dogs can also be caused by early separating a puppy from the mother and other littermates.

This happens when you take the dog away before he reaches 8 weeks of age.

Bad Course of Training

Luckily, more and more people rely mainly on positive reinforcement as means to train their dogs unlike the old methods of using physical punishment and violence for bad doggy behavior.

Punishing the dog’s normal puppy behavior like accidents inside the house can produce all sorts of phobias in the long run and the only product of the process is a paranoid dog.

Moreover, this may also result in a general distrust to the owner and a lack of bonding.

Health Problems

Quite a few health conditions can make your dog turn paranoid all of a sudden including encephalitis, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and thyrotoxicosis as the most frequent behavior modifiers in dogs.

Paranoia in dogs can be one of the reasons why this small dog suddenly acts anxious and hides under a brown blanket.

The most important thing worth remembering is that dogs can suddenly become jumpy, alert, and paranoid when they suffer medical issues.

Both discomfort and pain are things that can turn an otherwise relaxed dog into a paranoid one.

Every disease is a potent stressor that can easily alter the canine’s behavior. We humans also experience psychological problems when we are physically sick.

If it’s a health condition causing your dog to be anxious and paranoid you can expect some symptoms that will tell you something isn’t right.

Why is my dog not acting like himself? Has he been eating properly for the last few days? How long since the last vet check-up?

Answer these questions and if there is the slightest possibility for a health concern don’t wait to make an appointment at the vet office.

Especially when your dog is older and has never before had behavioral issues you must have him thoroughly checked.

Senior dogs with nervous system disease can experience anxiety.

Toxic substances leading to acute poisoning may alter the dog’s behavior in minutes.

My Dog is Acting Like He is Seeing Things

If your dog is acting like he is seeing things, he may actually hear them before actually seeing them.

However, dogs who persistently act like they see things might suffer from fly-snapping syndrome, eye issues (i.e. floaters), or neurological problems, perhaps even causing hallucinations.

A dog’s hearing capabilities are four times stronger than humans’.

They can hear something distant and try to focus on it by looking in that direction.

The frequencies your dog is picking up cannot be heard by people so he might look strange as if he sees things.

A syndrome called Fly-Snapping can be the reason why your dog seems like seeing things as well.

The FS Syndrome is caused by epilepsy and seizure. There is a possibility that the syndrome is hereditary.

Eye problems like vitreous floaters are conditions when collagen fibers clump within the vitreous and cast shadows on the retina.

In this case, your dog does see these clumps that appear as flies in front of his eyes which makes him fix his gaze strangely.

Dogs that have a history of abuse or ones that lack socialization can also suffer from Fly-Snapping Syndrome.

Hallucinations can appear because of neurologic disorders or certain medications and make a dog keep looking up and around.

What to Do If Your Dog is Acting Weird and Restless?

If your dog starts acting weird and restless you first need to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself on sharp objects, the stairs, etc.

In the meantime, do a little brainstorming to try and figure out the potential cause and any coincidences.

If you are still not able to find what the cause is, take your dog to the vet asap.

You can sometimes spot a dog acting like something is crawling on him as a response to boredom, so not all weird behaviors are as serious as one might think.

Dog Suddenly Scared of Something in the House

Dogs can be suddenly scared of recently added objects inside the house such as a new sofa, rug, plants, or even just moving something in the house, especially if’s something that provided comfort to your canine like the dog bed or crate.

Another cause of this onset of fear can be unfamiliar noises, often causing a dog to hide or bark compulsively if not socialized well enough.

However, anything that’s causing uncertainty in your dog can make him suddenly scared.

If your dog is acting paranoid for a prolonged time, make sure to take your dog to the vet for a check-up and evaluate whether or not external factors contribute to this (new objects inside the house, stress, boredom, etc.).

About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.