Dog anxiety is common. It can stop your dog from enjoying normal doggie activities … like going for a walk around the neighborhood. So it’s important to find a way to help her relax and have fun!
While some vets may prescribe your dog pharmaceutical meds … they may not be the best choice. Medications for anxiety can have some pretty bad side effects (which I’ll talk about shortly). Luckily, there are lots of natural remedies you can try.
Before I get to those, here’s some background on dog anxiety.
Common Types Of Anxiety In Dogs
There are 2 types of dog anxiety … behavioral and situational.
1. Behavioral Anxiety
Behavioral anxiety is when your dog has ongoing anxiety about something.
Separation anxiety is a perfect example. And it’s the most common anxiety in dogs. Some experts estimate that about 14% of dogs suffer from it. These dogs are afraid of being at home alone or separated from you in any way. They’ll show signs of stress when you pick up your keys or leave the house.
But separation anxiety is just one example … there are lots of other causes of behavioral anxiety, including:
- Past trauma
- Many homes
- The loss of someone close
2. Situational Anxiety
Situational anxiety is when your dog is afraid of something specific. Common triggers of situational anxiety in dogs include:
- Storms or other loud noises
- Car rides
- Going to the vet or groomer
Many dogs also suffer chronic fear or anxiety as a side effect of over-vaccination, especially with rabies. If you think this is your dog’s case, it’s best to consult a homeopathic vet to help treat her condition. Find one at theavh.org. Most will do phone consults.
Anxiety can also get start showing or get worse as your dog ages. This is usually associated with cognitive dysfunction and disorders.
Signs Of Anxiety In Dogs
Sometimes it’s easy to tell when your dog is anxious. Other times you may have to pay extra close attention. These are some of the most common signs of dog anxiety:
- Chewing or destructive behavior
- Barking or crying
- Restlessness, pacing
- Excessive licking
- Loss of appetite, refusal to eat
- Trembling or shaking
- Excessive panting
What About Conventional Treatments For Dog Anxiety?
If you go to a conventional vet, you’ll likely leave with a bottle of anti-anxiety medication for your dog. This includes meds like Valium, Xanax, ProZac, Paxil or Lorazepam. You’ve may have even heard of these … many are human meds.
Most dogs have to take these drugs for several weeks before there’s a change. But that doesn’t mean the treatment stops after that. Some dogs can eventually stop taking them, but others need life-long treatment.
And these drugs come with a long list of adverse side effects. Some of them include:
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Lethargy and/or drowsiness
- Affected learning and memory
- Increased urination
- Upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting
- Increased aggression and anxiety
- Damage to the liver
- Skin conditions
Some drugs can even result in withdrawal symptoms if used long-term and stopped abruptly.
6 Natural Solutions For Dog Anxiety
If your dog is suffering from anxiety, you can try to distract them or help remove them from the situation. Giving your dog a treat or toy, asking them to do tricks, petting them or moving them to a safe space are good solutions in the moment. Calming music and weighted blankets can also help.
Long term, you can try desensitizing your dog to the stressor. If your dog has separation anxiety, do the activities you normally do before you leave but don’t leave. You can also slowly increase the amount of time you are gone. This will help them get used to you coming and going.
Another option is counter-conditioning. To do this, you want to train your dog to associate his triggers with something good. For example, if your dog is afraid of loud noises and something goes off, treat your dog and pet him. This will help him associate loud noises with a good feeling. If you use desensitizing and counter-conditioning together, they can be even more effective.
There are also lots of natural alternatives you can safely use to calm your dog and help her deal with her anxiety. Here are 6 of our favorites.
#1 CBD Oil
The use of CBD oil is exploding (especially with dog owners) because of its many benefits. It helps with pain management, seizures … and even cancer. And CBD Oil also showing great results when used to manage dog anxiety.
How does it work?
It’s all about the endocannabinoid system. The body has cannabinoid receptors throughout the central nervous system. Your dog’s body releases endocannabinoid chemicals on its own. These connect with the receptors that stimulate her natural ability to create serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer.
Research shows that CBD increases this ability. It interacts with the nervous system to soothe and calm your dog’s anxiety.
CBD is great for dogs with situational anxiety because it works fairly quickly. If a storm is coming or you’re heading out in the car, give your dog CBD oil 30-60 minutes before. This will help calm her down and keep her relaxed.
To give it to your dog, follow the dosing instructions on the bottle. You can add it to your dog’s food or place it straight in her mouth.
RELATED: Choosing the best CBD oil for dogs …
There are several herbs that can help soothe your dog’s anxiety.
Chamomile – There’s a reason people drink chamomile before bed … it’s a gentle herb and a powerful sedative. It can help your dog relax and soothe her stomach when she’s nervous. Use it if your dog gets nervous in the car and gets car sick.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) – Valerian is the most widely recognized herbal sedative. It’s safe and gentle and calms the nerves. It also promotes physical relaxation. Use it for stressful events or if your dog gets hysterical or overexcitable.
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – St John’s Wort is a safe, effective alternative to anti-depressant drugs. Use it for dogs with fear-based or separation anxiety (thunderstorms or fireworks).
You can use all 3 herbs as a tea, tincture or capsule.
#3 Homeopathic Remedies
Homeopathic remedies are effective because they target specific symptoms. They’re also very safe.
To give these remedies, mix 3 of the little pellets in a glass of filtered water (try your best not to touch them with your hands). Mix them with a spoon and give your dog a few spoonfuls (or use a clean dropper to put some on her gums). If she’s really resistant to the spoon or dropper idea, you can also just put the pellets in her water bowl.
Pinpoint what’s causing the fear and use one of these remedies for fast relief. Generally, you want to start with 3 doses, 12 hours apart, then stop and wait for changes before dosing again.
#4 Bach Flower Essences
About 75 years ago, English physician Edward Bach made an exciting discovery. He found that the essence of certain flowers helps restore emotional balance. That makes them perfect for relieving stress and calming down an anxious dog. (It’s also good for your own stress too).
These remedies are gentle, non-toxic and your dog can’t overdose on them. You can use individual essences that fit your dog’s specific anxiety and fears or you can use Rescue Remedy.
Rescue remedy is a pre-made blend of Bach Flower Remedies:
- Star of Bethlehem
- Rock Rose
- Cherry Plum
It can help in all kinds of stressful situations. Use it to relieve stress before going to the vet or the groomer. It’s also good for separation anxiety or for situations you know will cause fear.
The version that’s made for pets uses glycerin, rather than brandy and is available at most health stores.
#5 Essential Oils
Essential oils like lavender and violet leaf are great for calming your dog’s anxiety. You can also try blending oils. These blends are from aromatherapist Joy Musacchio:
- Separation Anxiety: Neroli, Violet Leaf, Vetiver, Lavender, Rose hydrosol.
- Fear of Thunder and Fireworks: Frankincense, Rose Otto, Hops, and Cornflower hydrosol.
- General Anxiety: Frankincense, Violet Leaf, Linden Blossom, Roman Chamomile, Hemp.
For each recipe, combine 5 drops of each oil for a stock blend. When the recipe calls for a hydrosol, mix 5 drops of each oil into 2 oz of the hydrosol.
Spray the diluted oil on your dog’s bed or blanket or in the air. You can also use a diffuser but make sure your dog has a way to leave the room if the oils make her uncomfortable.
Caution: Never allow your dog to ingest oils in any way. Don’t ever use undiluted essential oils on your dog.
Essential oils are very powerful for dogs so hydrosols can be a much gentler option. Hydrosols are leftover from the essential oil-making process. They’re far less concentrated than the essential oils and considered safer for dogs.
This calming spray from canine herbalist Rita Hogan is great for general anxiety. The chamomile and lavender hydrosols in it will soothe and calm your dog.
- ½ oz neroli (Citrus aurantium) hydrosol
- ½ oz blue chamomile (Matricaria recutita) hydrosol
- 5 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
Mix the ingredients together in a spray bottle. Shake before using and mist your dog. Refrigerate for up to six months.
If your dog has to deal with anxiety, it can impact her quality of life (and your own). But these natural solutions may help her get some relief.