Cynophobia is the overwhelming fear of dogs. People with this anxiety disorder feel intense fear and anxiety when they think about, see or encounter a dog. In severe cases, this phobia can cause people to avoid places where dogs might be. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help people manage cynophobia.
What is cynophobia?
Cynophobia is an extreme fear of dogs. The name of this phobia comes from “cyno,” the Greek word for dog. Children and adults with this disorder go out of their way to avoid dogs. They may have severe anxiety or a full panic attack when hearing a dog bark, watching a movie about a dog or going to a place where a dog might be.
In severe cases, people with this disorder avoid friends or stay indoors because they worry about meeting a dog. Several types of therapy can help people with this phobia.
How common is cynophobia?
Healthcare providers aren’t sure how many people have this particular phobia. Some studies show that intense fear of animals is one of the most common types of specific phobias. And about 1 in every 3 people with a phobia of animals has an overwhelming fear of dogs.
Around 9% of adults in the U.S. have a specific phobia disorder. People of all genders can get specific phobia disorders, but women are more likely to get them.
Who is at risk of cynophobia?
This disorder commonly affects children, but people of all ages can develop cynophobia. Cynophobia is widespread among people with autism and sensory or intellectual differences. You’re more likely to have cynophobia if you have:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
- A history of mental illness, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks or panic disorder.
- Other phobias or a history of phobias in your family.
- Substance abuse disorder.
People who have had a scary encounter with a dog are also more likely to develop this phobia. Even if the dog didn’t actually bite you, being chased or threatened can cause cynophobia. The terrifying memories can return whenever you think about or see a dog. This phobia can develop as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What causes cynophobia?
Providers think that phobias result from a mix of genetics, personal history and environmental factors. People who have anxiety disorders or mental illnesses are more likely to develop a phobia. They may be more vulnerable to developing cynophobia if they have a scary experience with a dog or another animal.
What are the triggers of cynophobia?
People with this disorder don’t necessarily need to come into contact with a dog to have severe anxiety. Triggers of cynophobia include:
- Seeing a dog, even if the dog is on a leash or in an enclosure.
- Hearing a dog bark or growl.
- Seeing a picture or watching a movie containing a dog.
- Thinking about a dog or thinking about going someplace where a dog might be.
What are the symptoms of cynophobia?
People with this phobia experience extreme anxiety, fear and panic attacks when they think about or see a dog. They feel as if they’re in danger. Signs of cynophobia include:
- Crying, screaming, panic and other intense emotions.
- Difficulty swallowing or feeling like you’re choking.
- Dizziness, dry mouth and headaches.
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
- Feelings of dread and/or catastrophic thoughts (feeling like something terrible will happen).
- Increased heart rate, chest pain or heart palpitations.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) or fast breathing.