Dog anxiety is common. It can stop your dog from enjoying normal doggie activities … like going for a walk around the neighborhood. So it’s important to find a way to help her relax and have fun!
While some vets may prescribe your dog pharmaceutical meds … they may not be the best choice. Medications for anxiety can have some pretty bad side effects (read about these in a bit). Luckily, there are lots of remedies that provide natural calming for dogs..
First, here’s some background on dog anxiety.
Common Types Of Anxiety In Dogs
There are 2 types of dog anxiety … behavioral and situational.
1. Behavioral Anxiety
Behavioral anxiety is when your dog has ongoing anxiety about something.
Separation anxiety is a perfect example. It’s the most common anxiety in dogs. Some experts estimate that about 14% of dogs suffer from it. These dogs are afraid of being at home alone or separated from you in any way. They’ll show signs of stress when you pick up your keys or leave the house.
But separation anxiety is just one example … there are lots of other causes of behavioral anxiety, including:
- Past trauma
- New home
- Loss of a loved one
2. Situational Anxiety
Situational anxiety is when your dog is afraid of something specific. Common triggers of situational anxiety in dogs include:
- Storms, fireworks or other loud noises
- Car rides
- Going to the vet or groomer
Many dogs also suffer chronic fear or anxiety as a side effect of over-vaccination, especially with rabies. If you think this is your dog’s case, it’s best to consult a homeopathic vet to help treat her condition. Find one at theavh.org. Most will do phone consults.
Anxiety can also get start showing or get worse as your dog ages. This is usually associated with cognitive dysfunction and disorders.
Signs Of Anxiety In Dogs
Sometimes it’s easy to tell when your dog is anxious. Other times you may have to pay extra close attention. These are some of the most common signs of dog anxiety:
- Chewing or destructive behavior
- Barking or crying
- Restlessness, pacing
- Excessive licking
- Loss of appetite, refusal to eat
- Trembling or shaking
- Excessive panting
What Are Conventional Treatments For Dog Anxiety?
If you ask your vet about treating dog anxiety, you’ll likely leave with a bottle of anti-anxiety medication for your dog. This includes meds like Valium, Xanax, ProZac, Paxil or Lorazepam. You’ve may have even heard of these … many are human meds.
Most dogs have to take these drugs for several weeks before there’s a change. But that doesn’t mean the treatment stops after that. Some dogs can eventually stop taking them, but others need life-long treatment.
And these drugs come with a long list of adverse side effects, including …
Side Effects Of Conventional Treatment
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Lethargy and/or drowsiness
- Affected learning and memory
- Increased urination
- Upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting
- Increased aggression and anxiety
- Damage to the liver
- Skin conditions
Some of these drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms if they’re given long term and stopped too quickly. But there are many natural solutions.
Natural Remedies For Dog Anxiety
Before we talk about remedies, here are some ways to help your dog with her anxiety over the longer term.
Training Tips For Dog Anxiety
If your dog is anxious, you can try to distract her or help remove her from the situation. Giving your dog a treat or toy, asking her to do tricks, petting her or moving her to a safe space are good solutions in the moment. Calming music and weighted blankets can also help.
Long term, you can try desensitizing your dog to the stressor. For example, if your dog has separation anxiety, practice the activities you normally do before you leave … but don’t leave. Pick up your keys or your coat, then set them down again. When you do leave, be matter-of-fact about it and don’t fuss over saying goodbye your dog. Greet her calmly with no fuss when you come home again, too. You can also practice with short absences, and slowly increase the amount of time you’re out. This will help her get used to you coming and going.
Another option is counter-conditioning. To do this, you want to train your dog to associate her triggers with something good. For example, if your dog is afraid of loud noises and something goes off, treat your dog and pet her. This will help her associate loud noises with a good feeling. If you use desensitizing and counter-conditioning together, they can be even more effective.
There are also several alternative remedies for natural calming for dogs to help ease her anxiety. Here are 6 of our favorites.
#1 CBD Oil
The use of CBD oil for dogs is exploding because of its many benefits. It helps with pain management, seizures … and even cancer. And CBD oil also shows great results in managing dog anxiety.
How Does CBD Oil Work?
It’s all about the endocannabinoid system. The body has cannabinoid receptors throughout the central nervous system. Your dog’s body releases endocannabinoid chemicals on its own. These connect with the receptors that stimulate her natural ability to create serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer.
Research shows that CBD increases this ability. It interacts with the nervous system to soothe and calm your dog’s anxiety.
CBD is great for dogs with situational anxiety because it works fairly quickly. If a storm is coming or you’re heading out in the car, give your dog CBD oil 30-60 minutes before. This will help calm her down and keep her relaxed.
To give it to your dog, follow the dosing instructions on the bottle. You can add it to your dog’s food or place it straight in her mouth.
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RELATED: How to choose the best CBD oil for dogs …
There are several herbs that can help soothe your dog’s anxiety.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L) – There’s a reason people drink chamomile tea before bed … it’s a gentle herb with sedative effects. It can help your dog relax and soothe her stomach when she’s nervous. Use it if your dog gets nervous in the car and gets motion sickness.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) – Valerian is the most widely recognized herbal sedative. It’s safe and gentle and calms the nerves. It also promotes physical relaxation. Use it for stressful events or if your dog gets hysterical or overexcitable.
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – St John’s Wort is a safe, effective alternative to anti-depressant drugs. Use it for dogs with fear-based or separation anxiety (thunderstorms or fireworks).
You can use these herbs in various forms – as a tea, tincture or in capsules.
If you brew a tea, pour it over your dog’s food or into her water.
1 to 20 lbs … 1/4 cup, 1-3 times per day
20 to 50 lbs … 1/4 – 1/2 cup, 1-3 times per day
50 to 100 lbs … 1 cup, 1-3 times per day
If you use a tincture, add to water or food or put directly in her mouth.
1 to 20 lbs … 1-4 drops, 2-3 times daily
20 to 50 lbs … 5-10 drops, 2-3 times daily
50 to 100 lbs … 10-20 drops, 2-3 times daily
If you give your dog a capsule, open it up and put it on your dog’s food. You can also place it in a chunk of meat, cheese or banana and give it to your dog that way.
1 to 20 lbs … 1/2 – 1 capsule, 1-3 times daily
20 to 50 lbs … 1 or 2 capsules, 2-3 times daily
50 to 100 lbs … 1 or 2 capsules, 3-4 times daily
#3 Homeopathic Remedies
Homeopathic remedies are effective because they’re chosen to match specific symptoms. They’re also very safe.
To give these remedies, mix 3 of the little pellets in a glass of filtered water (try not to touch them with your hands). Mix them with a spoon and place some of the liquid on your dog’s gums using a teaspoon or clean dropper).
Pinpoint what’s causing the fear and use one of these remedies for fast relief. Generally, you want to start with 3 doses, 12 hours apart, then stop and wait for changes before dosing again.
Aconite is a good remedy to start with. It helps with fear in general and you can give it every 15 minutes during a storm. Continue only until you see improvement. If you don’t see improvement, try another remedy.
Phosphorus is good for all noise phobias. You can give it once or twice a day.
Pulsatilla 6C or 30C
This is a good remedy for dogs with separation anxiety.
Borax is specific for fears of thunderstorms and you can give it twice a day.
Gelsemium 6C or 30C
Gelsemium is often used for separation anxiety. There may even be diarrhea or involuntary urination when under extreme stress with a dog who needs this remedy.
#4 Bach Flower Essences
About 75 years ago, English physician Edward Bach found that the essence of certain flowers helps restore emotional balance. That makes them perfect for relieving stress and calming down an anxious dog. (It’s also good for your own stress too).
These remedies are gentle, non-toxic and your dog can’t overdose on them. You can use individual essences that fit your dog’s specific anxiety and fears or you can use the well-known blend, Rescue Remedy. It’s available at most health stores.
Rescue Remedy is a pre-made blend of Bach Flower Remedies:
- Star of Bethlehem
- Rock Rose
- Cherry Plum
It can help in all kinds of stressful situations. Use it to relieve stress before going to the vet or the groomer. It’s also good for separation anxiety or for situations you know will cause fear.
RELATED: Read more about flower remedies for dogs …
#5 Essential Oils
Essential oils like lavender and violet leaf are great for calming your dog’s anxiety. You can also try blending oils. These blends are from aromatherapist Joy Musacchio:
- Separation anxiety: Neroli, Violet Leaf, Vetiver, Lavender, Rose hydrosol.
- Fear of thunder and fireworks: Frankincense, Rose Otto, Hops, and Cornflower hydrosol.
- General anxiety: Frankincense, Violet Leaf, Linden Blossom, Roman Chamomile, Hemp.
For each recipe, combine 5 drops of each oil into 2-3 oz of a carrier oil such as almond oil or apricot kernel oil.
Spray the diluted oil on your dog’s bed or blanket or in the air. You can also use a diffuser but make sure your dog has a way to leave the room if the oils make her uncomfortable.
Cautions: Never allow your dog to swallow essential oils, and. never use undiluted essential oils on your dog.
Essential oils are very powerful for dogs so hydrosols can be a much gentler option. Hydrosols are leftover from the essential oil-making process. They’re far less concentrated than the essential oils and considered safer for dogs.
This calming spray from canine herbalist Rita Hogan is great for general anxiety. The chamomile and lavender hydrosols in it will soothe and calm your dog.
- ½ oz neroli (Citrus aurantium) hydrosol
- ½ oz blue chamomile (Matricaria recutita) hydrosol
- 5 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
Mix the ingredients together in a spray bottle. Shake before using and mist your dog. Refrigerate for up to six months.
Anxiety can impact your dog’s quality of life (and your own). But these natural solutions may help her get some relief.