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What Can I Give My Dog for Anxiety?
Dealing with dog anxiety? From massage to training tips and even CBD treats, we have recommendations to help every kind of dog.
What Can I Give My Dog for Anxiety? A Guide to Calming Tools for Dogs
UPDATED JUNE 3, 2022 | CARING FOR YOUR DOG
By Heather Logue
Updated by Nia Martin
This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Dealing with dog anxiety? You’re not alone. Anxiety isn’t fun for your pup or for you, and interest in how to handle it is on the rise. According to the Rover Cost of Pet Parenthood survey, 60% of pet parents have invested in products, training, and medications to address a pup’s anxiety.
Dog anxiety and associated behaviors can be especially tough to solve because they aren’t the root of the problem—anxiety is usually a symptom of an underlying issue. For example, your dog might be having trouble with separation, or they might be triggered by certain events like visitors or like fireworks.
If you’re not sure what your dog’s triggers are, watch for the moment when signs of anxiety start—like flattened ears, hunching, shivering, drooling, and panting. You might also see destructive behaviors like obsessive chewing, destroying items in the home, and indoor accidents. If your pup remains a mystery, a veterinarian or animal behaviorist is a great resource to help you get to the bottom of things.
smrm1977 via iStock
Once you’ve identified your dog’s triggers, it’s a lot easier to figure out what solutions are likely to work for you. For example, pups who need help with situational anxiety—that’s anxiety triggered by particular events, like loud noises or thunderstorms—are likely to benefit from temporary calming measures, which might include pressure wraps, calming treats, or distracting puzzle toys and lick mats.
Dogs who experience generalized anxiety—nervousness around the clock—might be good candidates for pheromones and specific types of behavioral training.
Below, we explore a wide range of remedies to help you build the anxiety-busting toolkit that’s most likely to work for you and your pup.
Gear and Toys for Dog Anxiety
A lot of anxiety-reducing gear is about two things: 1) safety and 2) distraction.
For example, one way to help a situationally-anxious dog feel safe is to create a comfy, dog-designated area that’s just for your pup. It could be a room, a crate, a pen, or just a quiet corner with their favorite blanket or plush toy. When your dog’s trigger is imminent—for example, if a storm is rolling in, or if you’re about to leave the house—help your pup get settled in that space and offer a special toy, something they don’t get at other times.
fotyma via iStock
The ideal anxiety toy will be something that requires some brainpower, consumes a dog’s attention for a significant amount of time, and engages their instincts. With repetition, a dog can come to associate their trigger with positive things, like a safe spot and treats, instead of scary ones.
Gear usually requires some trial and error; not every toy or safe spot appeals to every dog. But we think the experimentation is worth it, since finding the right gear is like having an ace up your sleeve—it’s a trusty solution that you know won’t let your pup down when they’re under pressure.
A dog crate is one of the simplest and most effective designated safe spots for your dog. For it to be a cozy place, your pup will need to be crate trained (something that can happen either as a puppy or as an adult). Different crates work best for different dogs, so it’s a purchase that needs some thought. For example, a puppy’s crate will ideally be accident-proof and portable, while a heavy-duty chewer requires sturdiness first and foremost.
For most adult dogs, the perfect crate will be whatever makes them feel safest, whether that’s something light and airy that lets them see their environment or an enclosed cave that offers cozy, quiet darkness. Your best guide is what your pup seeks out on their own: are they big-time burrowers or open-air sprawlers? Do they hide under the furniture when anxious, or do they plop themselves in the middle of the room?
Puzzle toys are perfect for keeping dogs distracted while something scary is happening—like when you’re in the process of leaving, which can be the most stressful part for dogs with separation anxiety. The tricky treat ball is a particular favorite.
These chews will give your anxious dog something to focus on. Just be careful: bully sticks, bones, and other types of chew toys can sometimes fragment, so they aren’t the best to give without supervision. Safer options include naturally-shed antler chews or a Kong with frozen peanut butter. A safe chew can help distract and soothe dogs if you’re popping out to run errands or if they’re spending some time in their crate.
Much like the long-lasting chew, a lick mat is all about distraction. Its advantage is that it encourages a naturally soothing behavior—licking—and rewards it. It can take a pup quite a while to get a lick mat clean. Though dog peanut butters and other spreadable treats can be calorically expensive, they generate a lot of enthusiasm, so we’d say go ahead and pick your dog’s very favorite to keep them calm when triggers are around. For lower-stakes treating, try unsweetened applesauce or canned pumpkin.
What can I give my dog for anxiety? 5 dog anxiety medications
When your pup is scared, sometimes an Rx can help. These dog anxiety medications are available at your local pharmacy.
What’s important to know about treating dogs with anxiety
By Katy Anderson | Mar. 22, 2021 Medically reviewed by Emma Ryan, DVM
Do your dogs get upset when you leave them alone? Maybe they howl or bark or even destroy furniture while you’re away. Do loud noises, such as fireworks, cause your pup to run away in fear? These are all signs your beloved pet could be experiencing a form of anxiety. Dogs experience anxiety the same way that humans can.
“Dogs typically experience one of three main types of anxiety: general fear such as noise sensitivity or a fear of strangers, separation anxiety, and stress due to aging and health concerns,” says Danielle Bernal, BVSc, MRCVS, a Massachusetts-based veterinary professional with WHIMZEES Daily Dental Treats.
When it comes to treating dog anxiety, there is a lot to consider including implementing changes to your pet’s environment, providing plenty of opportunity for play and exercise, removal of triggering stimuli—and even medication in more extreme cases.
What are the signs of anxiety in dogs?
Dogs can’t tell their owners in words if they are feeling stressed and anxious, but there are some signs to watch for in the form of troubling or even aggressive behaviors. According to Michelle Burch, DVM, from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, some of these behaviors may include:
Excessive barking, howling, or whining
Pacing Shaking Yawning Drooling Licking
Changes in pupil dilation
Changes in ear position
Changes in body posture
Shedding suddenly Panting
Sudden urination or defecation
Trying to hide or escape
These behaviors are normal under some circumstances but can be clues as to how a dog is feeling. “Signs of anxiety can range depending on the severity from mild to severe,” Dr. Burch says. “Anxiety and fear can also change depending on the situation.”
What breeds are prone to anxiety?
Dog anxiety is not unique to any particular breed, but there may be some breeds that are more prone to it. “Any dog can develop anxiety,” says Dr. Burch, who adds that dogs who are highly active, and/or “working dogs that do not have a job” may be particularly prone to developing anxiety. Examples of breeds that could fit into these categories include:
German shepherd Australian shepherd Labrador retriever Vizsla Border collie
Dogs of any breed can experience anxiety. As Bernal points out, “A study conducted in Finland analyzing 264 breeds found that pet parents thought more than 70% displayed some form of anxiety.” With anxiety being such a common issue for dogs, a multifaceted approach to treat it may be best.
How can I calm my dog’s anxiety naturally?
You may be wondering, “What can I give my dog for anxiety?” First, it’s important to consider what changes can be made to help your dog at home, says Dr. Burch.
“The first thing I recommend is using pheromone diffusers and collars,” Dr. Burch says. “The pheromones used are synthetic hormones that mimic the ones produced by mother dogs to calm their young. Having this pheromone available for your dog to smell and stimulate the olfactory system can reduce anxiety.” You can buy D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone) over-the-counter at your local pet store. It’s frequently sold under the brand name Comfort Zone, Adaptil, or Thunder Ease. Most diffusers are plugged into the wall for a set amount of time and collars should be worn by the dog continuously. Sprays are also available for short term or more specific situations like traveling. Follow the instructions on the package, and consult with your vet for more details.
Another natural remedy to consider for dog anxiety involves compression products such as a compression shirt or jacket, sometimes called a thunder vest. It’s a technique that is used for people who feel anxious, too. “Similar to swaddling a baby or using a weighted blanket, a compression shirt will apply gentle and constant pressure to your dog’s torso,” Dr. Burch says. “The gentle pressure releases the calming hormone oxytocin and endorphins.”
Work to identify any anxiety triggers, or sources of stress for your pet. “If you notice any triggers that you can easily avoid or limit, like a loud television or vacuum cleaner, take that step,” Bernal says. “Your dog is relying on you to create a safe environment with as few stressors as possible!”
In addition to removing stressful triggers, Bernal also recommends softly petting your pup when they are stressed, or distracting them with a treat or dental chew. Redirecting their attention to a simple task they can succeed in can help keep them from panicking. Dogs thrive on positive reinforcement, so be sure to reward good behavior!
Creating a safe environment
Another tip from Bernal involves creating a safe space for your pet such as a small room located far from the main entrance of a space and filling it with comforting items like a familiar toy and of course, plenty of food, water, and treats. “This space will serve as a place to retreat when anxiety starts to take over,” she explains. Offer your pet treats in this area or store his favorite toys here when there’s no stressful activity happening to help build a positive association with the space.
Can You Treat Dog Anxiety With OTC Supplements and Calming Products?
Are you looking for natural remedies for dogs with anxiety? Here are a few OTC dog anxiety medications and calming supplements you can try.
Can You Treat Dog Anxiety With OTC Supplements and Calming Products?
Written by: PetMD Editorial
PUBLISHED: AUGUST 08, 2019
UPDATED: AUGUST 08, 2019
Vet Reviewed by: Jennifer Coates, DVM
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Reviewed for accuracy on August 8, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM
If your dog is suffering from mild to moderate anxiety, it may be worth discussing over-the-counter (OTC) options with your veterinarian.
Some natural remedies for dog anxiety include nutritional supplements, homeopathic treatments, pheromones and calming aids that you can try to help reduce your dog’s stress.
Here’s a breakdown of OTC dog anxiety treatments you can discuss with your veterinarian.
Calming Supplements for Dogs
Anxiety supplements for dogs are most likely to be successful in mild to moderate cases.
The following active ingredients are commonly used in dog calming supplements.
Supplements that contain L-theanine (like Virbac Anxitane tablets or VetriScience Composure chews) are thought to work by increasing serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the central nervous system.
SAMe for dogs (like Nutramax Denosyl tablets or Virbac Novifit supplements) works in the same way that it does for people. These supplements are thought to work by increasing serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain.
Using Homeopathic Treatments to Help With Dog Anxiety
Scientific evidence is lacking to support the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments, but some owners do use them and report being satisfied with the results.
Homeopathy is based on the theory that “like treats like;” in other words, it works by stimulating the body’s natural ability to respond to stressors.
Homeopathy gets around the problem of potentially making matters worse by diluting the active ingredients to the point where the solution is only “remembering” their presence.
Rescue Remedy is a popular homeopathic treatment for anxiety in dogs. It’s made from an extremely diluted combination of five flower essences—star-of-Bethlehem, rock rose, cherry plum, impatiens and clematis.
HomeoPet’s Anxiety Relief is another popular option. The many active ingredients in this preparation include calcium phosphate, jimsonweed and valerian root.
Calming Aids and Dog-Appeasing Pheromones
Pheromone therapy can be a good option when dogs are only mildly anxious.
The dog-appeasing pheromone is a version of the hormone that canine mothers produce to calm their puppies while they are nursing. Products containing the dog-appeasing pheromone are available as diffusers, sprays and collars.
Calming aids like The Anxiety Wrap or the ThunderShirt provide consistent body pressure, which seems to help some dogs with anxiety.
These products are most useful when dogs become anxious only under particular conditions, like during a thunderstorm for a trip to the veterinarian.
A Holistic Approach to Treating Dog Anxiety
In all but the mildest forms of dog anxiety, combining one or more forms of treatment (prescription medications, nutritional supplements, pheromones, etc.) with a behavioral modification protocol offers the best chance of success.
Behavioral modification for anxiety typically involves teaching dogs to remain calm when they are exposed to mild versions of their triggers, rewarding them and gradually increasing the intensity of their exposure as long as they remain calm.
If you are unsure of why your dog is acting anxious, talk to your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. They can make a diagnosis and determine the best course of action, whether that includes OTC calming solutions, behavioral modification protocols and/or anti-anxiety medications.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Kerkez
Related Video: Tips for Calming Dogs During Fireworks
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