Like most breeds, the Maltese are prone to developing symptoms of anxiety. There are many causes of anxiety which range from separation anxiety, noise anxiety (loud noises such as thunders storms) social anxiety,to illness, or medical conditions. Anxiety may be caused by fears and phobias, unfamiliar environments or people, fear of abandonment, are particularly prevalent in those who are from shelters, or have had multiple owners or homes.
Symptoms of Maltese anxiety or nervousness include trembling or hiding. Your pet may turn their ears backwards, show tension on their face, particularly around their eyes and mouth. They may freeze and withdraw from the cause of their fear including the object or person. They may crouch and keep themselves close to the ground in an attempt to reduce their size by making themselves smaller. Their tail may be stiff and tucked beneath them. They may also bark, growl, and whine as well as pace. Often, they will stare at the source of the threat or anxiety, helping you to identify the trigger and remove this. Your dog may also refuse to eat. With separation anxiety, your dog may bark, or display destructive behavior such as chewing furniture, digging in the garden, urinating, defecation, diarrhea, excessive salivation, and vomiting.
Treatment for anxiety will depend on the case. To reduce the occurrence of separation anxiety, it is important to train your dog to be left alone from an early age. Training may begin by leaving you dog for short periods at a time, leaving them alone in room for a few minutes. Continue to gradually increase the time apart until you are able to leave them for a few hours and finally until you are able to leave the house for a few hours. This will also help to mitigate instances where you need to leave for longer periods of time, leaving your pet in the care of others or within boarding kennels. For dogs that experience social anxiety, it is important to train puppies from a young age to feel comfortable around others. There are many dog training classes available which provide professional instruction, helping to socialize your pet to other people and other dogs. For noise anxiety,particularly thunder, thunder shirts use pressure wrap treatments also known as body wraps which have proven useful for some dogs. Alternatively, for noise and social anxiety, behavior modification treatments use desensitization treatment to help reduce your dog’s response to the trigger through gradual exposure to these. If you cannot determine the cause of your dog’s anxiety, it is important to have your veterinarian carry out a physical examination to determine if there is any underlying medical cause. In some cases, conditions which cause pain, infections, and degenerative conditions may lead to symptoms of anxiety in the Maltese.