6 Natural Solutions for Dog Anxiety
You may be surprised to know that like much like humans, dogs can suffer from debilitating anxiety. Although dogs don’t have to hold down a job, deal with finances, or attend social events, anxiety in a dog can be extremely detrimental to his health and happiness, and consequently that of the pet owner too.
Sometimes it’s very obvious that a dog is anxious – certainly, some breeds are well known for being “high-strung” and nervous. Anxiety manifests in many ways, however, and signs may not be totally obvious if you don’t understand what your dog’s body language is telling you.
Some common signals that your pet is experiencing anxiety:
- Chewing, scratching, digging and other destructive behavior
- Frequent whining and barking without an obvious reason
- Pacing or restlessness
- Excessive licking and chewing of body
- Pickiness; lack of appetite
- Excessive panting and drooling
- Aggression toward people or other animals
As in people, traditional medical interventions for anxiety often include medications like Xanax or Zoloft that interact with brain chemistry to address the root causes of the behavior. Regrettably, these medications are often accompanied by troublesome side effects like lethargy and gastrointestinal problems, and may not ultimately be helpful for every patient.
Fortunately, medication is not the only solution. There are a host of natural remedies on the market that have been shown to be effective in dealing with dog anxiety. Natural solutions typically have fewer undesirable side effects and are often a less aggressive way to approach the problem overall.
Here are a few things to consider as part of a treatment plan for your dog’s anxiety:
#1 – Cannabidiol, or CBD Oil
As the public’s understanding of the potential health benefits of cannabis and hemp increases, understanding of its medicinal applications for dogs is also on the rise. The use of CBD oil to treat pet ailments is soaring; it’s been shown to be helpful with everything from cancer treatment to epilepsy. CBD works with your pet’s natural bodily receptors to stimulate his ability to return to “homeostasis,” or balance, within the body’s many systems.
One area showing great promise is the use of CBD oil for mood regulation. In dogs, CBD oil can be administered through food or directly in the mouth, and often has a soothing, calming effect. CBD can be helpful both with dogs who are chronically anxious (behavioral), or with situational anxiety triggered by loud noises (like fireworks), travel, or having new people enter the home.
It should be pointed out that CBD does not contain the psychoactive compound found in THC, so it has no inebriating effect, but like any treatment, it’s important to consult with a trusted veterinarian before administering CBD to your pet.
Make sure to check out our Top 10 CBD Dogs article for more information.
#2 – Exercise & Nutrition
Getting outside for regular walks and free play improves your pup’s mood in addition to keeping him physically fit; if their bodies feel good, dogs are much less likely to feel anxious. Socialization, fresh air and exercise are vital foundations of good health in animals and can be a helpful preventative measure in avoiding anxiety altogether.
Offering high-quality food is important for overall health. It’s a good idea to talk to your vet about what food might be best suited for your particular pet’s needs. Also, spreading out feedings into two or three small meals throughout the day can help avoid a dip in blood sugar that can contribute to agitation or upset in your furry friend. Avoiding a “hangry” dog can go a long way to keeping him happy and stabilizing his mood.
#3 – Mental Stimulation
Oftentimes, anxiety develops in dogs as a result of simple boredom. While it can be enough of a challenge to keep your dog well-fed and in shape, if your pet is displaying symptoms of anxiety she might need more mental stimulation in addition to standard, everyday care.
Teaching your pooch new tricks, hiking together, taking obedience classes, or even just playing catch or Frisbee can be great ways to have fun, give your pet some much-needed attention, and acts as a mood-enhancer (for both pet and person). After all, isn’t that one of the main reasons for having a dog in the first place?
#4 – Oils, Herbs & Supplements
While it’s very important to consult a veterinarian before giving anything to your dog that may have medicinal properties (some substances that are safe for humans are toxic to dogs), some natural remedies like essential oils, herbal supplements, and herbal applications have shown some evidence that they can be helpful in easing pet anxiety.
A few drops of lavender oil on a pet’s blanket or bed can have a soothing effect on anxious dogs, particularly in cases of situational anxiety like car travel. Valerian, melatonin, l-tryptophan and chamomile are all herbal or natural applications that promote relaxation, calm nerves, and may even have a sedative effect for dogs that are highly tense and overwrought.
#5 – Massage & Acupuncture
It may sound excessive or ridiculous to talk about massage for dogs, but pet massage can be extraordinarily beneficial in many ways. First and foremost, massage helps with stress and anxiety reduction (although your dog will need to be in a relatively calm state to massage in the first place). Massage can speed healing after an injury, improves circulation and creates a trusting bond between person and animal. Grooming your dog regularly can also act as a calming massage of sorts.
In cases where anxiety is a result of pain or bodily imbalance, acupuncture can be especially effective in treating arthritis, hip dysplasia, skin disorders, gastrointestinal issues, and even allergies. Acupuncture is virtually painless and often induces a relaxed, sleepy state after treatment. Obviously, acupuncture should only be administered by certified veterinary specialists.
#6 – Pheromones
A dog’s sense of smell is about 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute as a human’s. They have up to 300 million receptors in their noses, compared to our approximately 6 million. Unlike people, dogs have two “pathways” for inhalation, one for respiration and one for olfaction, making their sense of smell radically more sensitive and proficient than ours.
It should come as no surprise then, that “smell therapy” can be quite effective in calming dogs who suffer from anxiety. Pheromones are naturally occurring substances that the body excretes that can create a response in other animals. Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) mimic the hormones released by a nursing mother to her pups to pacify and soothe. It can be administered via plug-in diffusers, sprays or wipes, and is undetectable to humans.
Anxiety is upsetting no matter who is experiencing it, and dogs are no exception. In certain situations, anxiety in your dog may be a life-long issue, requiring a multi-faceted treatment plan including medications, behavior training as well as other interventions. It can’t be stressed enough that any treatment for anxiety in pets should be administered under the supervision of a skilled veterinarian.
Fortunately, there are a plethora of natural remedies that are gaining a reputation for gentle, effective treatment for our beloved canine companions.