Dogs feel anxious sometimes, just like their human counterparts do. In fact, dogs can also suffer from generalized anxiety disorders, resulting in unwanted behaviors like excessive barking and crying, restlessness, and even aggression toward people or other dogs.
There are several forms of anxiety medication out there that are safe for dogs to use and provide much-needed stress relief. Some veterinarians recommend SSRIs to remedy constant anxiety or benzodiazepines for isolated fear-inducing events, but many owners prefer to use remedies with natural ingredients as much as possible. Let’s explore the ins and outs of dog anxiety as well as some of the best ways to treat it naturally.
What Is Dog Anxiety and What Causes It?
Much like human anxiety, dog anxiety is characterized by overwhelming feelings of nervousness, fear, or unease. An anxious dog will show that she is nervous or scared with compulsive behaviors like barking excessively, chewing or self-mutilating, whining, or even shaking.
Though some dogs have an anxious demeanor, there’s usually a root cause of a dog’s nervous and fearful behavior. Some of the most common causes of dog anxiety include:
- Separation from owners, even for a short time
- Changes in environment
- Old age
- Car rides
- Long walks in new places
- Loud noises like fireworks or thunder
- Unfamiliar animal pheromones
Some of these common issues can be solved with calming products like Thundershirts or anxiety wraps. These items apply an even amount of light pressure to your pet’s body, which acts as a soothing presence and allows them to feel more at ease.
Though Thundershirts and similar products are typically designed for thunderstorms, fireworks, and other loud noises, they can also help dogs in distress while riding in the car, experiencing separation anxiety, or exploring a brand-new location.
While some dogs maintain the same personality throughout most of their life, some will develop certain tendencies as they age, such as increased anxiety or even depression. It’s important to alert your vet regarding any changes in your dog’s demeanor, as they could potentially point to a deeper health issue.
The presence of unfamiliar pheromones in an environment, whether it’s within your home or in the outside world, can make your dog feel uneasy and put him on the defensive. Pheromones are naturally secreted chemicals that both humans and animals produce, alerting other animals to their presence and mood. For example, if your dog is anxious while meeting another dog, the other dog will likely be able to sense the anxiety through pheromones.
Dog owners can use pheromones to their advantage by utilizing a pheromone diffuser in their homes. These products mimic the chemicals secreted by mother dogs after giving birth, which is scientifically proven to help your dog feel more safe, comfortable, and at ease.
What Is Herbal Dog Anxiety Medication?
If you’re wondering how to help dog anxiety without the use of prescription medications, you’re not alone. Many dog owners try to avoid medicating their dogs because medication use can sometimes change your dog’s personality and behavior in undesirable ways or even cause medical side effects that are difficult to manage. Plus, finding the right dosage for your dog can take a lot of trial and error, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
However, unless you’re able to fix your dog’s fearful behaviors through regular training, dog anxiety rarely goes away on its own. This is why many pet owners turn to natural remedies such as essential oils and herbal substances to help their dog’s fear and nervousness. These treatments can come in various forms, including oral supplements, dog treats, garments, diffusers, and more.
Let’s learn more about what types of natural anxiety treatments there are to choose from. Remember to ask your vet whether a treatment is safe for your dog’s current health status before utilizing any calming products.
Herbal Dog Anxiety Medication Home Remedies
The best thing about natural remedies for dog stress relief is that herbal remedies are extremely scalable. You don’t have to worry about a harsh medication causing an unwanted side effect or even changing the way your dog behaves for the worse, as the majority of natural remedies such as essential oils and herbal supplements are incredibly gentle on your dog’s system.
If you’re wondering how to help dog anxiety with an all-natural calming aid, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best stress relief products that we recommend to concerned pet owners everywhere.
Smell tends to be every dog’s strongest sensory faculty. In fact, your pup's sense of smell is between 1,000 and 10,000 times more powerful than yours! Therefore, it’s no surprise that aromatherapy can be just as effective for easing anxiety in dogs as it is in humans, if not more so.
Many dog owners see positive changes in their dog’s demeanor after using a pheromone diffuser. This product releases a chemical that mimics the pheromones mother dogs create after giving birth, which helps to make dogs feel safer and at ease as soon as they sense them. Some dogs also respond well to aromatherapy diffusers that emit soothing scents like lavender, geranium, or chamomile.
Since your dog's sense of smell is so strong, be careful not to overwhelm them with this type of therapy. You should dilute the essential oils before putting them in the diffuser.
Also, be sure to keep these devices out of your pet's reach!
There’s a reason why dog owners use treats to train their pets. Dogs get excited about treats and enjoy their taste, which inspires feelings of happiness and increased well-being that can translate into reduced anxiety symptoms.
Though it may take some trial and error, it’s important to find treats that your dog truly loves. For example, many dogs enjoy the taste of peanut butter and even find it to be more soothing and relaxing than other flavors. You can even keep multiple flavors of treats on hand that elicit different responses in your dog to stay on track with his different moods and needs.
Herbal Dog Anxiety Medication You Can Find in Stores
Many pet owners incorrectly assume that all-natural dog calming products such as dog treats, dog food, essential oils, or garments might be difficult to find in major pet stores. However, many pet stores and natural food stores offer several high-quality options to pet parents looking for a gentle calming aid. Let’s look into some of the best options for all-natural anxiety treatments you can find in stores.
Calming Supplements, Soft Chews and Calming Treats
Since there are so many natural herbs and substances that help create a sense of calm and comfort, dog owners have equally as many options that desire a non-medical remedy for their pet’s anxious behavior.
Whether you prefer an oral supplement to disguise in your dog’s food or a yummy treat to reward them with, there are lots of great options for any owner and dog.
CBD Oil or Hemp Oil
CBD oil is an extremely popular remedy for anxiousness and pain in both animals and humans. Generally, CBD oil is applied topically for maximum effect. This cannabinoid product can soothe anxiety while simultaneously relieving joint pain and even boosting heart health. Some dogs gain more from CBD oil use than others. Still, this natural remedy is certainly worth a try if your dog is feeling anxious from separation or even experiencing physical pain.
Hemp oil is similar to CBD in that it is made from basically the same ingredients. However, while CBD oil utilizes the hemp plant’s stalks, flowers, and leaves, hemp oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant referred to as Cannabis sativa. Hemp oil traditionally offers more benefits in terms of nutritional value, but it can also have relaxing properties that work similarly to CBD oil.
Many companies that produce CBD or hemp oil products for dogs mix the oil with other helpful substances such as coconut oil, which can ease itchiness on your dog’s skin while helping to treat his anxiety or joint pain. However, pure hemp or CBD oil is also available at most pet or natural food stores.
Much like natural plant oils such as CBD and hemp, you can find several healing remedies through the use of flower essences. Studies have shown that flower-based remedies have reduced situational and general anxiety for humans, and the substances have very similar effects on dogs.
Several different flower essences can create positive effects on your dog’s behavior, especially around situations and events that typically cause him stress. Here are some of the most common, which you’ll probably recognize by name.
Melatonin is an all-natural, plant-based remedy that is usually used for sleep issues. With regular use, small doses of melatonin can help dogs (and people) get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer without interruption.
In addition to helping users regulate their sleep cycle over time, melatonin can also be used in isolated doses to help your dog relax in a stressful setting or during the aftermath of an anxiety-inducing event. You can easily scale the size of your dog’s dosage and disguise a melatonin supplement within a tasty treat or her regular serving of dinner.
Most people have heard of chamomile tea, a natural, gentle supplement used to help people relax and wind down. Chamomile supplements or even chamomile essential oils can have a very similar effect on dogs exhibiting anxiety symptoms.
Chamomile also has other benefits of use. Many pet owners have seen improvements in their dog’s muscle pain or soreness and any inflammation that may be occurring in addition to the positive psychological effects.
I-tryptophan and I-theanine
I-tryptophan and I-theanine are naturally occurring chemicals known to produce certain reactions in both humans and animals. I-tryptophan and I-theanine are amino acid compounds that exhibit the effects of an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication without having to subject your dog to the other harsh chemicals that can sometimes be included in such products.
Though I-tryptophan and I-theanine have complex-sounding names that can sometimes put off all-natural pet owners, rest assured that these compounds are naturally found in foods such as turkey, green tea, and many pet food brands. I-theanine and I-tryptophan supplements can be extremely effective for calming down an upset dog or even helping a dog to get to sleep that tends to struggle with it. All you have to do is add a small amount in supplement form to their regularly scheduled meal or hide it in a tasty treat.
Homeopathic medicine is an alternative treatment method that focuses on all-natural healing and wellness. There are so many organic substances found in nature that have provable healing properties. This is why homeopathic treatment is so popular among many owners of anxious dogs who want to avoid medicating them as much as possible.
Speaking with a Vet
Many veterinarians are active supporters of the homeopathic method and even opt to use all-natural treatments for their own pets. However, vets are also thoroughly trained to understand the effects and benefits of medications and when a medication may be necessary over a homeopathic treatment.
If you’re unsure how to effectively help your anxious dog or his fear-based behaviors are escalating, the best step you can take is to talk to a vet right away. Your vet will be able to thoroughly examine your dog’s physical state and rule out any underlying health issues that could be causing his behavior while also determining what the best method of treatment might be. In some cases, vets will suggest combining medication, homeopathic remedies, and behavioral training to fix the issues.
Rescue Remedy is a specially formulated stress relief oil that is made from flower essence. With a list of all-natural active ingredients, Rescue Remedy is popular among dog owners that prefer a homeopathic approach to dealing with an anxious dog. The product is safe to use for all breeds, weights, and ages, and you can use your discretion to determine what dose does the trick for your dog and her needs.
Pet owners use this product for long car rides, flights, stressful situations, and loud events, all of which are common causes of anxiety in dogs. Plus, Rescue Remedy is non-drowsy, which means your dog will still be lively and able to enjoy whatever situation she’s in while her anxiety symptoms drastically diminish.
Differences Between Herbal Dog Medications and Prescription Dog Medication
When it comes to homeopathic vs. medical treatments, there are a few key differences that dog owners should be aware of when choosing how to handle their pet’s anxiety symptoms.
One of the primary reasons a pet owner might choose natural remedies instead of medication is the lack of physical side effects. Herbal supplements are designed to work gently, which means they’re much likely to produce unwanted side effects unless your dog is allergic to one of the ingredients.
Additionally, some dog owners have experienced changes in their dogs' personalities after using medication to treat their dog’s anxiety issues. Many owners will opt for natural remedies to reduce stress as there’s no danger of your pet’s moods or demeanor becoming affected, especially in small, controlled doses.
Though many of the side effects and personality changes created by medication are temporary and completely reversible, it can be stressful and unpleasant for your dog to experience uncomfortable physical side effects or even psychological ones.
The Benefits of Using Herbal Dog Medications for Your Dog
There’s a reason why many veterinarians opt to prescribe SSRIs or benzodiazepines to dogs that need serious relief from their anxiety. These medications can completely transform a dog's personality with severe anxiety issues, which can improve the dog’s quality of life as well as his relationship to his owner, other people, and other dogs.
However, if your dog’s issues with fear and nervousness are on the milder side or you’re worried about the potential side effects of medication, several distinct benefits come along with using herbal medicine for treatment.
Many herbal anxiety treatments also perform other positive functions like relieving joint pain, easing muscle tension, and even increasing heart health. Plus, unlike medications prescribed by a vet, owner and pet can even share certain anxiety treatments, including CBD oil, hemp oil, and essential oil diffusers.
The lack of side effects is a primary reason why owners of anxious pets opt for natural remedies. If your dog is already exhibiting distressing signs of fear and nervousness affecting your or your pet’s quality of life, the last thing you want to deal with is medical side effects that could be potentially more concerning than the anxiety itself.
Anxiety in pets is a very common occurrence, and you can treat it through various methods. Though some pups might need the extra help of medication, homeopathic methods can be extremely effective in many cases. Talk to your vet to find out what treatment path is best for you and your dog, and don’t start any anxiety treatments until your vet approves.