A weighted blanket is a type of dog anxiety blanket with physiologically altering properties.
A weighted dog blanket is not appropriate to treat every type of anxiety.
There are many pros and cons of a dog anxiety blanket.
It’s a mistake to make a blanket statement that all dogs respond the same way to any specific treatment methods for anxiety. In certain situations, a dog anxiety blanket helps a scared dog who has been triggered.
Does your anxious Afghan hound need an afghan blanket? Do you need a quilt for your quivering Queensland heeler or a comforter for your comfort retriever? If your dog is suffering from anxiety, a regular blanket isn’t going to be enough, but a dog anxiety blanket has them covered.
What is a Dog Anxiety Blanket?
A dog anxiety blanket is specifically designed as a calming device for a frightened dog. It provides comfort and security to dogs by mimicking the sensation of a hug without squeezing too tightly. The blanket works by evenly distributing weight across the dog’s body and reducing stress and anxiety.
People have used weighted blankets for years to alleviate anxiety and sleep disorders, and dogs benefit from the same concept. When you wrap a dog in a heavy blanket, it triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine – neurotransmitters that promote calmness and happiness. The pressure from the blanket also stimulates the production of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep patterns.
Do Dog Anxiety Blankets Work?
Dr. Edward Bassingthwaighte, BVSc, is a holistic vet and founder of the Whole Energy Body Balance method. This is a healing bodywork method for pets and people that helps with silent pain, anxiety, trauma, and over-arousal problems. In a 2021 article for Dogs Naturally magazine, Dr. Bassingthwaighte writes about ways to calm your anxious dog.
“Weighted blankets are great!” he reports. “I use them with both my dogs. Pearl has thunder and noise phobias and Mitzi is genetically on the high drive side of things. He’s very easily excited and can find it hard to switch off. I’ve seen great improvements in both of them after regular blanket sessions.”
He recommends using a blanket that is 10 percent of your dog’s body weight, which is consistent with recommendations from other sources. Before you purchase a blanket for your dog, know your dog’s weight and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines because all blankets are different.
When a Dog Anxiety Blanket Is Appropriate
There are various types of anxiety and many different triggers. There’s also a wide variety of treatment methods that work for some types of anxiety but not for others. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety while you’re away for much of the day, a dog anxiety blanket isn’t the best solution because in this case, the symptoms typically go on for a long while.
A blanket is a source of comfort but if your dog is a chewer, you don't want to leave them with it while unsupervised. For separation anxiety, choose durable toys and puzzles to solve while you're gone.
An anxiety blanket is likely less expensive than replacing objects and furniture your dog has destroyed during a bout of anxiety. It’s also a preferable option to medication that has the potential to disrupt a dog’s digestive system or leave them feeling groggy.
What To Keep in Mind
When choosing a dog anxiety blanket, it is important to consider a few key factors. First and foremost, it’s important to choose a blanket that’s high quality, with durable materials that are safe for dogs to be around. Dogs are sometimes tough on their toys and bedding so you need to monitor how they treat the blanket.
Some dog anxiety blankets have synthetic materials, while others contain natural fibers such as cotton or fleece. If your dog develops a rash soon after using the blanket, remove it immediately and make an appointment with your vet to determine if your dog may be allergic to the materials.
The weight of the blanket is also important, as it needs to be evenly distributed and not too heavy for the dog to carry. Some dogs like to burrow underneath it, so the blanket must not be too heavy for them to do this.
Even though a dog anxiety blanket works well for one dog, it doesn’t mean it works for yours. As with everything in life, there are positive and negative aspects to these products. Judge for yourself if they apply to your situation as you read the benefits your dog has the potential to experience.
Use dog anxiety blankets in a variety of settings, including in the home, on the go in their crate, and in the car. Some dog anxiety blankets are even made to fit over a dog's crate or bed, making them a great option for dogs who are anxious in their sleeping area. It’s also much easier to carry a blanket than to haul around an entire bed.
If you live in a cold climate but have a dog who is not well-suited to the frigid temperatures (chihuahuas, boxers, Great Danes, and other short-haired dogs), they need another layer at times. A blanket provides additional warmth and comfort, making them an excellent option for dogs who are sensitive to the cold or have joint pain. When a dog has arthritis, cold weather exacerbates this issue.
If you have a dog that does not like to wear a Thundershirt or other calming wrap, a blanket works well. It is loose enough that the dog’s movement is not restricted, so they don’t feel trapped. It still carries the benefit of calming your dog, but you don’t have the struggle of trying to fit them into it.
Many dogs’ anxiety symptoms are more prevalent at night. They are in their own beds, separated from their owners and feeling alone. Other conditions, like arthritis or other joint pain, just make the discomfort worse. A dog anxiety blanket gives them some relief from their discomfort.
Even though pain or anxiety may keep them up at night, the properties of the blanket distract them enough to get a good night’s sleep.
You may want to focus on the positive benefits of a dog anxiety blanket but it's absolutely crucial to be aware of the possible negative effects. Your dog's safety and overall well-being are of utmost importance and ignoring these risks is potentially putting your pet in danger. Remember these are only potential risks and that you always need to consult your vet for their recommendations.
Manufacturers use glass or metal beads to create pressure and heaviness in weighted blankets. If your dog is a chewer or tends to destroy things and they’re able to tear open the lining, the beads are easily swallowed. This may cause blockage and turn into an emergency situation. It’s also not a good thing if your dog ingests the material itself.
Dr. Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB, provides behavioral consultations at the Behavior Specialty Clinic at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She consults with veterinary practices, shelters, and rescue organizations and has written books on animal behavior in dogs and cats.
In a 2018 article for PetMD, Dr. Sung writes an article about anxiety blankets for pets:
"The safety risks for anxiety blankets are especially high for pets who already have difficulty breathing due to asthma, or a flatter-faced animal like a Bulldog or a Persian cat. In addition, if your pet has a skin condition, the constant pressure of a weighted blanket on their skin may be very irritating to them."
Anti-anxiety blankets without weighted objects inside may not be heavy enough to apply the amount of pressure needed to produce the desired results. However, no matter what type of blanket it is, not every solution works for every dog. It is not usually feasible to stop and wrap your dog in a blanket in the middle of the sidewalk if they get scared while out on a walk.
It may not be easy to find the right size for your dog. If you have a large breed dog, many of the blankets aren’t big enough to cover them and most are not effective for dogs over 80 pounds. For very small or toy breeds, the blanket may be too heavy for them.
There aren’t many options in the dog anxiety blankets category. If you have a large breed dog, none of the blankets on the market may be big enough. A possible alternative is purchasing a child's anxiety blanket.
In a 2022 article on PetCareRx they say to "choose the lightest human anxiety blanket you find. Select the one marked for babies. The weight of such a product may vary anywhere between two to four pounds. A good quality blanket will have equal weight distribution across its body."
It’s also important to measure your dog's weight and still follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Many weighted blankets are too much for a dog that is under 10 pounds and may cause a lot of discomfort and panic.
A Dog Anxiety Blanket Doesn’t Cover Everything
While dog anxiety blankets are a great solution for many dogs, it’s important to keep in mind that they are not a cure-all solution. They are best used in conjunction with other forms of anxiety treatment, such as behavior modification, training, supplements, and in some cases, medication. It is also important to speak with a veterinarian before using a dog anxiety blanket, as they may have other recommendations for ways for your dog to cope.
If your dog has any respiratory conditions, a weighted blanket is probably not a good option. It’s always a good idea to monitor your dog while using any new products and this goes for a blanket as well. If they are showing a frightened reaction or seem uncomfortable, remove the blanket. You don’t want to make their anxiety worse by leaving them under there.
Your dog may not like the looseness of the blanket, they may get scared under it, or you may need a more permanent solution. For whatever reason, an anxiety blanket may not work for your dog. Don’t worry – there are other options.
If your dog needs anxiety relief for a time period longer than what the blanket provides, try a calming wrap like a Thundershirt. This is a garment that has that comforting feel and stays on for however long you need it. It works well if you know ahead of time that there is an event that causes your dog anxiety.
High-Anxiety Dog Crate
Your dog craves a den-like atmosphere, so give them a high-anxiety dog crate. This is a crate that is secure enough to prevent escape and is more enclosed to give your dog a sense of safety. If you have a regular cage-like crate, use the dog blanket to cover it to give a similar effect.
If you want a more enclosed space without buying a crate, get a covered or “cave” bed. This is more suited for small-breed dogs and is very comfortable. They don’t take up as much space as a crate and they don’t have a door and latch.
Calming Dog Bed
Your dog needs comfort at night but doesn’t like the feel of the blanket on top of them. A calming dog bed works perfectly in this case. They sink down into the soft lining of the bed, supported on the sides, but they’re free to move and get up without restriction.
Cuddle Blanket Plus
Perhaps your dog likes the feel of the blanket, but you’re afraid the beads inside are a hazard. The Cuddle Blanket Plus is a perfect option. It doesn’t contain beads, but it’s thick, plush, and comfortable. It also has a special pocket for the Calming Inserts, which contain an essential oil blend intended to calm and relax your dog.
Cover Them in Calmness
A dog anxiety blanket is a simple and effective solution for pet owners looking to help their dogs cope with anxiety. They provide comfort and security and have a positive impact on a dog’s overall well-being. Whether your dog is suffering from anxiety or needs a little extra comfort, a dog anxiety blanket has them covered.