Anxiety is a condition that is common in both humans and our furry friends. It can be related to a specific event, like riding in a vehicle, or it can be a more general condition that triggers from many different situations.
Anxiety comes about due to different fears or phobias. We see anxiety manifest in varying forms. Sometimes it’s depression, sometimes it’s aggression and destructive behavior, or it could be in other behaviors like accidents in the house, drooling or persistent barking.
It’s critical to understand the source of your dog’s anxiety to implement effective treatment. Is your dog anxious about being left alone? Being confined? Could it be loud noises, travel or changes to their environment? Maybe it’s certain objects, people or places that cause anxiety. Knowing will go a long way to helping with treatment.
Many of these forms of anxiety can be helped through training and conditioning. However, some dogs are simply anxious by nature, or they need help calming down enough before training can be effective. There are pharmaceuticals that can be prescribed by veterinarians in extreme cases. To minimize the risks and potential side effect of medicating your dog, consider some of these options.
Most of us know that exercise is a great stress reliever for humans and the same goes for dogs. A tired dog is a happy dog. Sometimes getting them outside of the house to play and exercise is the best remedy for anxiety. Even older dogs need exercise as long as it’s activities that are easier on their aging joints.
Exercise can help in a couple different ways. First, it stimulates the production of serotonin which is a chemical that is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It’s also found in humans and helps with sleeping, eating and digesting. Second, it helps get rid of all that excess energy that build up as well as the tension that increase anxiety. Go for a long walk or hike with your dog, let them run alongside for a bike ride, or maybe play a long game of fetch in the yard. Anything that wears them out will do the trick.
“Music has charms to soothe the savage beast.” Most of us have heard this old proverb and it does ring true in many of us. Music has a soothing or calming quality in many species, not just humans. Try leaving a radio or tv on when your pet is home alone. This can help a dog feel comforted and diminish separation anxiety. If you decide to do this, be sure to play the music at times when you are home as well.
What kinds of music do dogs like? There are actually several music genres that have shown to be more effective for soothing dogs. Reggae and soft rock have been the most relaxing for dogs and classical music also helps calm dogs in stressful environments. Studies have shown that dogs do get used to background noise after about 7 days and begin to show more anxiety and stress. Mix up the stations or music that you leave on for your dog. Everyone enjoys a little variety, right?
Looking for some playlists? Check out Preventive Vet on Spotify or the Soft Rock for Dogs playlist on Spotify
Essential oils can be toxic if ingested, especially to our pets. You should never apply them directly to your pet.
With that said, you can still use essential oils for aromatherapy in your home if you use them properly.
Diffusers are a safer way to implement these essential oils so that your dog can benefit from their soothing properties. Lavender and frankincense are generally the most effective essential oils for your pet’s anxiety. Others that may have calming properties if you want to mix them in are orange, tangerine, ylang ylang and patchouli
Again, essential oils are not safe for direct application to dogs. If you have essential oils in your home, be sure to store them in a place your pet cannot access. Our pets are much more sensitive to essential oils than us humans. Many oils can be toxic and pose danger to most pets.
The ThunderShirt is a popular solution for dogs with storm anxiety. If your dog is panic stricken during thunderstorms it can wreak havoc, not only on your dog’s health, but also your household’s ability to sleep. The ThunderShirt is a wrap that is designed to apply gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear and over excitement due to environmental triggers, especially weather-related anxiety.
Read more What’s important to know about treating dogs with anxiety
Be careful not to overuse this wrap. Try to limit its use to high-anxiety times. Using it too frequently can make it less effective.
Who doesn’t find a massage relaxing? Your dog sure will. Dog massage can lower blood pressure and reduce stress for the dog and for the human who massages the dog. Bonus!
Massaging the top of the head, feet and ears are great for stress relief as these are natural pressure points. Just 10-15 minutes a day can have a huge impact on your dog’s anxiety. Need some tips on how to become a better pooch masseuse? Check out this article from Modern Dog Magazine.
6. Brushing & Grooming
Don’t forget to pamper your pup. Therapy for your dog could be as simple as 10-15 minute of brushing every night. It feels great for your dog, and it gives them more time to spend with you. This is also a great time to look for any sores, abrasions or lesions on the skin which could be signs that it’s time to get your dog checked by a vet.
7. Mental Stimulation/Distraction
If your dog’s anxiety is tied to certain situations, like a thunderstorm or being in crowd of people, consider some way of distracting your dog. Making your dog think will help them to focus on something other than the anxiety causing environment. Mental exertion can have the same calming effect as physical exercise.
Try working on new tricks. It doesn’t matter what tricks they are. You are going to be spending one-on-one time with your dog and that is what they crave. Many dogs develop stress behaviors because they are not getting enough stimulation. Boredom can lead to unwanted behaviors.
One of the most common supplements for dog stress is melatonin which is a hormone that naturally rises when your dog sleeps. This supplement will work to calm your dog for short periods of time and can also help with sleep.
Another supplement for mild to moderate anxiety is L-tryptophan. Studies have shown that this supplement can bring improvements in anxiety-related behavior.
CBD oil and chews have recently become available. There is, however, no regulation about potency so this can be a difficult supplement to utilize.
Rescue Remedy is a popular supplement for those seeking herbal treatments. This is a blend of natural herb and flower extracts that can help with anxiety.
Before giving your dog any supplements, you should discuss the proper doses with your veterinarian.
9. Managing YOUR Stress
We feel the stress of others in our lives and it can have a significant impact on our anxiety. Dogs will feel our anxiety as well. Most of us have experienced the empathy that a dog. Coming to us in our time of need. Managing our stress and anxiety will have a positive effect on our dog’s well being. We must care for ourselves as well as our furry friends.
If you have serious concerns with your dog’s anxiety, be sure to schedule an appointment with you veterinarian to discuss all your options. Veterinarians are the only people specifically trained to advise you on all treatments for your dog. Read as much as you can, ask questions, and be an advocate for your pet’s health.
— Update: 20-03-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article What’s important to know about treating dogs with anxiety from the website www.singlecare.com for the keyword what to give dog for anxiety.
Do your dogs get upset when you leave them alone? Maybe they howl or bark or even destroy furniture while you’re away. Do loud noises, such as fireworks, cause your pup to run away in fear? These are all signs your beloved pet could be experiencing a form of anxiety. Dogs experience anxiety the same way that humans can.
“Dogs typically experience one of three main types of anxiety: general fear such as noise sensitivity or a fear of strangers, separation anxiety, and stress due to aging and health concerns,” says Danielle Bernal, BVSc, MRCVS, a Massachusetts-based veterinary professional with WHIMZEES Daily Dental Treats.
When it comes to treating dog anxiety, there is a lot to consider including implementing changes to your pet’s environment, providing plenty of opportunity for play and exercise, removal of triggering stimuli—and even medication in more extreme cases.
Causes of anxiety in dogs
Common causes of anxiety in dogs are loud noises (like storms, fireworks, or vacuums/roombas), being left alone (separation anxiety), being in strange places, or meeting new people and animals, says Gary Richter, DVM, a veterinarian and veterinary health expert with Rover. For some dogs, being in a car can trigger anxiety, too. Different types of anxiety are also affected by an individual dog’s training and personality, Dr. Richter says.
What breeds are prone to anxiety?
Dog anxiety is not unique to any particular breed, but there may be some breeds that are more prone to it. “Any dog can develop anxiety,” says Dr. Burch, who adds that dogs who are highly active, and/or “working dogs that do not have a job” may be particularly prone to developing anxiety. Examples of breeds that could fit into these categories include:
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- German shepherd
- Australian shepherd
- Labrador retriever
- Border collie
Dogs of any breed can experience anxiety. As Bernal points out, “A study conducted in Finland analyzing 264 breeds found that pet parents thought more than 70% displayed some form of anxiety.” With anxiety being such a common issue for dogs, a multifaceted approach to treat it may be best.
Symptoms of anxiety in dogs
Dogs can’t tell their owners in words if they are feeling stressed and anxious, but there are some signs to watch for in the form of troubling or even aggressive behaviors. According to Michelle Burch, DVM, from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, some of these behaviors may include:
- Excessive barking, howling, or whining
- Changes in pupil dilation
- Changes in ear position
- Changes in body posture
- Shedding suddenly
- Sudden urination or defecation
- Trying to hide or escape
- Destructive behavior
These behaviors are normal under some circumstances, but can be clues as to how a dog is feeling. “Signs of anxiety can range depending on the severity from mild to severe,” Dr. Burch says. “Anxiety and fear can also change depending on the situation.”
Preventing anxiety in dogs
You may be wondering, “What can I give my dog for anxiety?” First, it’s a good idea to consider what changes can be made to help your dog at home, says Dr. Burch.
“The first thing I recommend is using pheromone diffusers and collars,” Dr. Burch says. “The pheromones used are synthetic hormones that mimic the ones produced by mother dogs to calm their young. Having this pheromone available for your dog to smell and stimulate the olfactory system can reduce anxiety.” You can buy D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone) over-the-counter at your local pet store. It’s frequently sold under the brand name Comfort Zone, Adaptil, or Thunder Ease. Most diffusers are plugged into the wall for a set amount of time and collars should be worn by the dog continuously. Sprays are also available for short term or more specific situations like traveling. Follow the instructions on the package, and consult with your vet for more details.
Another natural remedy to consider for dog anxiety involves compression products such as a compression shirt or jacket, sometimes called a thunder vest. It’s a technique that is used for people who feel anxious, too. “Similar to swaddling a baby or using a weighted blanket, a compression shirt will apply gentle and constant pressure to your dog’s torso,” Dr. Burch says. “The gentle pressure releases the calming hormone oxytocin and endorphins.”
Dog owners should work to identify any anxiety triggers, or sources of stress for your pet. “If you notice any triggers that you can easily avoid or limit, like a loud television or vacuum cleaner, take that step,” Bernal says. “Your dog is relying on you to create a safe environment with as few stressors as possible!”
In addition to removing stressful triggers, Bernal also recommends softly petting your pup when they are stressed, or distracting them with a treat or dental chew. Redirecting their attention to a simple task they can succeed in can help keep them from panicking. Dogs thrive on positive reinforcement, so be sure to reward good behavior!
Creating a safe environment
Another tip from Bernal involves creating a safe space for your pet such as a small room located far from the main entrance of a space and filling it with comforting items like a familiar toy and of course, plenty of food, water, and treats. “This space will serve as a place to retreat when anxiety starts to take over,” she explains. Offer your pet treats in this area or store his favorite toys here when there’s no stressful activity happening to help build a positive association with the space.
You may also want to play some calming music for your pet. “I have dogs respond well to classical music being played, especially when left at home alone,” Dr. Burch says. “Certain songs are scientifically proven to decrease anxiety in your dog and create a calming environment.”
Providing exercise and entertainment
Lastly, it’s important to consider the role that boredom can play in leading a pet to feel anxious. “Ensure your dog is getting adequate exercise needs or has a job to complete,” recommends Dr. Burch. “Dogs should be exercised daily for at least an hour of cardio.Without regular exercise, stress can manifest as tension—which leads to health problems like chronic pain and digestive issues,” explains Dr Burch. She also recommends adding enrichment into your environment with puzzle toys, Snufflemats, lures, and other novel toys to help keep your dog engaged even while you are away.
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If you’ve tried all you can at home to help your anxious dogs but are concerned that they may need more help, it’s important to contact a veterinarian. “Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination to rule out any painful area that can lead to anxiety. Additionally, they may recommend baseline blood work to rule out any metabolic or organ disease leading to the symptoms,” Dr. Burch says. Based on these results, a veterinarian may then recommend some natural supplements or medication.
Supplements for dog anxiety
Before turning to dog anxiety medication, there are some natural supplements your veterinarian may recommend. “Multiple products are available on the market to help reduce our pets’ anxiety for both situational events and long-term needs,” says Dr. Burch. She recommends looking for products containing:
- Magnolia extracts
- Phellodendron extracts
- Whey protein concentrate
Dr. Burch says it may take up to six weeks to see the full effects of these supplements.
12 medications for dogs with anxiety
When traditional methods have failed for more extreme cases, a veterinarian may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs to treat your dog’s anxiety.
“Your veterinarian should examine dogs that are not improving within four to six weeks of changes to your environment,” Dr. Burch says. “Dogs that show almost all of the signs of anxiety typically need prescription medication in addition to environmental changes and should be evaluated,” she adds.
When it comes to the best medication for dogs with anxiety, Dr. Richter says it’s a decision for your dog’s personal veterinarian—they know your dog’s history, so you should consult with them before giving your pet any medication. “Also, it’s important to understand that anxiety cannot simply be medicated away,” Dr. Richter says. “Specific [behavior] training needs to happen along with medication.”
Some medications that are commonly used to treat dog anxiety include the following, but be sure to talk to your vet before giving your pet any medication. It can be dangerous in the wrong dosage:
The best dog anxiety medication
|The best dog anxiety medication|
|Drug name||Rx or OTC?||How it helps||Drug class||Learn more||Get coupon|
|OTC||Best for situational anxiety, such as fireworks||Antihistamine||Learn more||Get coupon|
|Rx||Daily med that helps with separation anxiety and generalized anxiety||Antidepressant|
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)
|Learn more||Get coupon|
|Trazodone||Rx||Can be used for both generalized anxiety and to relieve situational anxiety-related behaviors like fear-based aggression, for example before a vet visit||Antidepressant|
serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs)
|Learn more||Get coupon|
|Zoloft (sertraline)||Rx||Daily med for generalized anxiety and anxiety-related behaviors like fear-based aggression or compulsive licking||Antidepressant|
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
|Learn more||Get coupon|
|Paxil (paroxetine)||Rx||Daily med for generalized anxiety and anxiety-related behaviors like fear aggression or compulsive licking||Antidepressant|
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
|Learn more||Get coupon|
|Rx||Best for situational anxiety, for example when taken before a stressful or noisy event||Benzodiazepine GABA receptor agonist||Learn more||Get coupon|
|Rx||Daily medication used to treat separation anxiety and generalized anxiety||Tricyclic antidepressant||Learn more||Get coupon|
|Amitriptyline||Rx||Daily medication used to treat separation anxiety and generalized anxiety||Antidepressant||Learn more||Get coupon|
|Buspirone||Rx||Daily medication to treat fears and phobias||Anxiolytic||Learn more||Get coupon|
|Dexmedetomidine||Rx||Best used for situational anxiety from sound aversion, for example taken before fireworks||Alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist||Learn more||Get coupon|
|Valium (diazepam)||Rx||Helps with panic disorders including noise aversion and phobias||Benzodiazepine||Learn more||Get coupon|
|Ativan (lorazepam)||Rx||Helps with panic disorders including noise aversion and phobias||Benzodiazepine||Learn more||Get coupon|
If your dog suddenly becomes anxious, do your best to get them away from the place or thing that is causing their discomfort, advises Dr. Richter. In a time of crisis and anxiety, always be calm and reassuring towards your dog.
If you decide to try over-the-counter options for treating anxiety in dogs (like Benadryl, hemp or CBD), be sure that you only use products that are specifically formulated for animals, Dr. Richter says.
Side effects of dog anxiety meds
“I recommend speaking with your veterinarian about specific dosages and management with prescription medication,” Dr. Burch says. “Each patient is going to require different dosages and needs.” A veterinarian can also discuss any potential side effects your dog may experience from anti-anxiety medications, which may include:
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty walking
- Increased body temperature, or hyperthermia
Dog anxiety may be a common issue, but there are many ways to combat it and help our beloved companions. It’s the least we can do for our pets who give us so much in return.