Dogs can suffer from anxiety just as humans can. Loud noises, such as thunder or fireworks, commonly trigger anxiety behaviors in our furry friends. Vet visits are another common trigger, and so is grooming, even if it occurs outside of the vet’s office, such as mobile dog grooming or even at home with DIY dog grooming. When dogs get anxious, they display a variety of behaviors and, in some dogs, can turn to aggression if not managed by their humans.
Fortunately, several sedatives, some prescription and some available over the counter exist to help your canine pal feel better and tolerate the grooming experience comfortably.
Giving your pet a mild sedative before grooming helps make the process easier and more efficient for the groomer. An anxious, aggressive dog can be dangerous, making the whole grooming experience traumatic for the dog and difficult at best for the groomer.
Vets often use dog sedatives to relax scared or aggressive pups for x-rays and other procedures that do not require full sedation. Before deciding on whether your pet should have a sedative, speak with your vet about your pet’s specific health needs and see what medications might be appropriate.
Discuss Options with Your Vet
Depending on specific medical conditions, not all dogs can tolerate sedatives. Certain sedative medications can take a toll on weak kidneys, dogs with heart failure, and other pre-existing conditions, so prepare to discuss the different options with a vet who knows your dog’s medical history.
Some dogs have conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, that cause them anxiety. In this case, a dog behavior specialist can pay you and your pup a visit, examine the behaviors or the signs of anxiety in dogs, and prescribe a drug solution to keep your pet calmer all the time, not just during grooming.
Many sedatives can be administered to your pup orally, although your vet can offer an injectable sedative if the situation warrants one. This might be the case for very large dogs that need a larger quantity of the sedative in their system to feel the beneficial effects.
One important note: Sedatives will not work very well if your dog is already feeling anxious. The best outcome happens if the pet receives a sedative before going to the groomer’s, rather than waiting until they arrive at their appointment. It usually takes about two hours for the dog to feel the full effects of the sedative.
Using dog sedatives requires that you plan ahead and watch your sedated pup carefully but can be well worth the attention. With sedation options, regular grooming appointments no longer become something that both owner and dog dread.
Prescription Sedatives for Your Dog
Your vet will most likely offer the following sedatives, used for humans and commonly used safely for dogs.
Trazadone: Works well for pups suffering from anxiety, stress, or fear. Trazadone relaxes pets and relieves anxiety. It is one of the most popular dog anxiety medications. It is gentle on the GI tract, kidneys, and liver and has worked safely in older and younger dogs.
Acepromazine: This drug is often used but may have become less popular because some vets feel it decreases a dog’s anxiety but does not relax the pet. This could make a difference for groomers that need to move the dog’s body parts if the dog is stiff and unrelaxed. It may also reduce blood pressure, so your vet might not recommend this for older or ill canines.
Gabapentin: This drug has been used in humans for decades for nerve pain and many other applications. The drug can work well at higher doses to relax pets and cause drowsiness. It works safely for older and younger pets and does not affect bodily organs negatively.
Common Signs Your Dog is Anxious
Some dog anxiety symptoms are apparent, but canines display many more subtle anxiety behaviors. Others suffer from separation anxiety. Some of their behaviors also seem to result from something else but reveal anxiety. Common anxiety signs include the following:
- Panting, pacing (even when it’s cold)
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive or angry barking
- Pooping in the car on the way to the groomer’s
- Shivering or cowering
- Lip-licking, looking away, yawning, or lifting a paw can show mild anxiety
Your dog may try to dig out of the yard or run away from the car if anxious. If owners scold their pup because they don’t understand the behavior, this can also increase the dog’s anxiety .
Over-the-Counter Sedative Alternatives
Exercise is one of the easiest ways to help quiet your dog’s nerves. High-energy dog breeds such as border collies and Shetland sheepdogs have much less anxiety if they have played some chase for an hour or so before going to the groomer. Learn how much exercise a dog needs to make sure you are providing enough for your furry friend.
If you are looking for an over-the-counter dog sedative, you can try some of the same products that may have worked for you in the past. The following options have been studied in dogs and are generally safe, but check with your vet and consider any existing health conditions your pup has.
Benadryl: Diphenhydramine, or Benadryl, causes drowsiness as a side effect. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, dog Benadryl relieves mild and moderate anxiety in pets and can ease nausea due to motion sickness. Ask your vet about the proper dosage for your pet.
Melatonin: These are natural pet sedatives or aids for sleep that can help anxious dogs relax. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), melatonin is safe for your pup . Your vet can tell you how much to give based on your dog’s weight.
CBD Products: No studies have shown that CBD affects anxiety in dogs. However, tests have shown that aggressive dogs from shelter had less aggression after being given CBD over about two weeks. Today’s best CBD oil for dogs are a good behavior modification alternatives. This option might work if your dog tends to act out with aggression during grooming. Try the best CBD dog treats and chews as well.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What can I give my dog to sedate him for grooming?
You have several good options, although some require a prescription from your vet. Discuss your pet’s health history and ask your vet about gabapentin, Trazadone, and acepromazine. Your pet’s doctor may also have other prescription options to recommend. You can try Benadryl, a good exercise session, melatonin, or possibly CBD products as over-the-counter alternatives. Speak with a vet about dosages, which depend on your dog’s weight.
2. Is it safe to sedate a dog for grooming?
It is safe to sedate your pup for a grooming appointment when using the correct dosage of drugs known to be safe for canines. If you give too high a dosage, your dog might fall asleep, making it difficult for the groomer to do their job. If you do not give enough of the drug or supplement for larger dogs, your pet might not feel any relief from its anxiety.
3. How can I make my dog drowsy for grooming?
Speak with a vet about dog-safe options for sedation. You will need to give your dog the sedative about two hours before the grooming appointment so that the sedative has time to do its job. Some vets recommend doing a test run with a sedative before the grooming appointment so that you can watch your dog and see how it reacts to a given drug and dosage.
4. How can I sedate my dog safely at home?
Some dog owners can calm their pets simply by taking them out for a good, exhausting play session to sedate Fido safely at home. If this does not work, you can use a few over-the-counter products known to be safe to make dogs calm. This includes Benadryl, melatonin, and CBD products. The dosage amount depends on your dog’s weight. Your vet should be able to instruct you on the proper dosage to offer your pet some good anxiety relief.