Dogs are an awful lot like their human owners. Much like humans, dogs can suffer from fairly severe anxiety. In fact, dogs can get so anxious that they will stop enjoying the things that they used to love and that their health will suffer. It makes sense, then, that dog owners would want to find ways to help their dogs deal with anxiety issues.
Before we can really talk about how to treat your dog for anxiety, we need to look at both what anxiety means for a dog and how to figure out if your dog really is dealing with symptoms of anxiety. Once that’s been determined, we can look at the different things you can give your dog to help calm him or her down.
Anxiety in Dogs – What Does It Mean?
As you can imagine, anxiety looks a little different in dogs than it looks in humans. When we talk about dog anxiety, we are usually talking about two different categories of issues.
The first is behavioral anxiety – the kind of anxiety that your dog continuously displays when something worries him or her. The most common way that we as dog owners see this is in separation anxiety. It’s fairly easy to tell when this kind of anxiety occurs because your dog will start to get upset as soon as you get ready to leave your home. There are other types of behavioral anxiety, of course, and identifying them is usually the first step in helping your dog.
The other type of anxiety occurs when a specific issue triggers your dog’s panic. This type of situational anxiety can range from a dog’s fear of loud noises to a fear of specific people, but it usually presents in a fairly overt way. Situational anxiety can sometimes feel easier to deal with because it only tends to rear its head in specific situations, but in truth, it’s still just as devastating for your dog.
What Does Dog Anxiety Look Like?
The good news is that it’s usually fairly easy to tell when your dog is starting to get anxious. He or she might start chewing on things, barking, or start shaking. In other cases, the signs might be a little more subtle – your dog might, for example, start pacing around the house or he or she might stop eating.
One of the reasons that anxiety tends to be such a big issue for dogs is that it results in a number of different behaviors that are not always all that easy to separate from those caused by many other types of problems. When it’s hard to figure out exactly why your dog acts in a certain way, it can be difficult to get to the root of his or her problems.
A Note on Conditioning
Before you start looking at what you can give your dog for anxiety, it is worthwhile to think about what else you can do for your dog. As the Central California SPCA points out, there are a number of methods you can try that don’t involve supplements.
If you have the ability to remove the harmful stimulus from your dog’s area or to give your dog a toy or another distraction to get him or her to calm down, it’s usually a good idea. This will help you to start the process of helping to cool your dog’s reaction to his or her stressors.
Some of the best ways to deal with anxiety require trying to reduce the impact of stressors. Showing your dog that the activities that tend to lead to his or her non-favored stimulus won’t lead to something bad is typically a good idea, as is trying to get your dog to deal with his or her stressors for short bursts of time.
One of the more effective ways to deal with anxiety is behavioral conditioning. During this process, you will work to help your dog make positive associations with the thing that tends to trigger his or her anxiety. If your dog is afraid of going on a car ride, for example, you can give your dog a treat and praise him or her every time he or she is in the car. This helps to make some strong connections in your dog’s mind between what he or she loves and the actions that might otherwise stress him or her out.
What You Can Give Your Dog for Anxiety
Of course, conditioning takes time and you may want to look for ways to keep your dog a little calmer while you train him or her. Below are a handful of things you can give your dog for anxiety.
Now that CBD is legal, it’s become incredibly popular among both humans and goes owners. CBD seems like it can help with just about anything, but one space in which it has proven a great deal of effectiveness is with anxiety.
CBD is a fairly simple product that helps your dog to produce more serotonin and thus feel less anxious. Good dog CBD products tend to be formulated in a way that allows your dog to quickly shake off signs of anxiety and feel distressed. Most CBD products can be given about an hour before a stressful incident is going to occur, after which your dog will be able to relax more fully.
Herbal supplements are already incredibly popular among humans who deal with anxiety, so it does make sense that they would work well for dogs. It’s important to remember that your dogs do need specific herbal supplements that are safe for them, though, as not everything you take is suitable for a dog.
One of the more popular herbs for dogs with anxiety is chamomile, as it provides the same kind of gentle sedative effect that works for humans. It’s also a very good choice for those dogs who tend to get nauseous when they get nervous, as it soothes their stomachs. Valerian, on the other hand, tends to be a better choice for those dogs who still need the sedative effect but who tend to get hyperactive any time that they get nervous.
St. John’s Wort is also a good choice for those dogs who get fearful when they get anxious. It tends to work as something of an antidepressant for dogs and is favored for those dogs who have strong fear responses.
There are a number of safe and effective homeopathic treatments that are favored for dogs. Aconite, phosphorus, pulsatilla nigacans, gelsemium, and borax all tend to be used with dogs, as they are all mixed easily with filtered water and thus can be added to a dog’s water dish.
It’s important to find the right homeopathic, though, and to keep up a fairly regular regimen with the product as you start using it. You’ll have to give the treatment to your dog about once every twelve hours at first, and you’ll certainly want to watch to see how he or she reacts.
Bach Flowers are a specific kind of remedy developed by an English doctor in the mid-20th century. These flower essences tend to be good for relieving stress and calming down dogs, and they tend to be preferred because they literally can’t cause harm to your dog even if you get the dosages wrong. There are several different types of ‘essences’ that tend to be preferred, though a mixture of all of them can actually do a great job of helping your dog to feel calm.
Note that this is a remedy that generally has to be given to your dog ahead of time. This makes it effective both for dogs who have issues like separation anxiety as well as for those who have issues with specific stimuli. Giving the essences to your dog before the triggers occur is always recommended.
Essential oils are always a good choice if you’re trying to deal with issues like anxiety. Again, this is something that works very well for humans and tends to work very well for dogs. If you’re looking for a simple solution, you can try just using lavender or violet sprays or fragrances around your dog. You can also use very specific blends to deal with specific issues.
There are essential oil blends for separation anxiety, loud noises, and even general anxiety. There are blends that are meant for hyperactivity, blends for nervous stomachs, and even blends for dogs who get aggressive. Each of the blends is made of several different oils and the effects certainly vary between dogs.
Note that this is not something that your dog is supposed to eat or drink. Instead, you’ll spray the blend from a bottle into the air or use a nebulizer that continuously pumps the oil into the air. Note that some dogs do get uncomfortable with these oils, so never use them if your dog doesn’t have a way to leave the room in which they are used.
Finally, there are hydrosols. Hydrosols are basically the byproducts of making essential oils and they have the benefit of being significantly less powerful than essential oils. This is vital for some dogs, as essential oils can be too strongly scented for these animals to handle.
Most hydrosols are available in the form of calming sprays, which you can spray in the air around your dog or even onto your dog’s bedding. Don’t spray them directly on your dog and make sure that your dog never ingests these products.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What can I give my dog for anxiety over the counter?
There are dozens of different products that you can give your dog for anxiety over the counter. These range from essential oil sprays and herbal supplements to CBD oils and special anti-anxiety supplements that are designed specifically for dog physiology. The most important thing to remember is that all of these remedies work differently for different dogs and that you may have to spend some time searching for the remedy that works best for your pet.
2. What medication can I give my dog for anxiety?
If you’re looking for medication for your dog’s anxiety, you will absolutely need to speak to a licensed veterinarian. Though there are some fantastic supplements out there that can really do a lot to help calm your dog down and to help deal with his or her anxiety, there aren’t really any over-the-counter drugs that you can give your dog. Instead, you’ll talk to your vet and get some recommendations as to what kind of anti-anxiety medication might be right for your pet and then you’ll have these prescriptions filled at a pharmacy of your choice. Note that many medications do have side effects, so you might want to look into other solutions before you settle on those.
3. What home remedy can I give my dog for anxiety?
There are many different home remedies that you can give your dog for anxiety. Some of the most popular are the same kind of herbal mixtures that are popular for humans. You can give your dog chamomile or St. John’s Wort, for example, and you can even think about putting essential oils in a nebulizer to keep your dog calm. Many of the same kinds of tips and tricks that you would use to soothe a human who is suffering from anxiety can work just as well for your dog, so trying things like deep pressure or even a soothing atmosphere can have a huge impact on your dog’s nerves.
4. Can I give my dog Benadryl for anxiety?
Yes, you can give your dog Benadryl for anxiety. It’s actually a very popular choice, but it’s one that can have some very dangerous side effects. Benadryl doesn’t so much calm your dog down as it makes him or her a bit more drowsy, which can make it harder for your dog to act out due to his or her anxiety. If you are going to give your dog Benadryl, you’ll want to be very careful. Not only should you make sure that you’re giving your dog the right dose, but you’ll want to monitor your dog the first time that you give him or her Benadryl to make sure that there are no unwanted side effects.