Imagine, it’s a stormy evening and you cannot get your normally peaceful dog to calm down! All you want is to sleep, but all she can do is pant excessively and pace the floor. You are almost to the end of your rope of patience; however, you understand this is no fault of your pet. But how do you reduce dog anxiety naturally?
Anxiety is a common problem seen in humans and pets alike. It impacts different animals, including dogs, in different ways and at different times. Some dogs are consumed with fear and will seek refuge while other dogs become irritable and aggressive. Still, others will engage in destructive behaviors that not only harm property but bring harm to themselves. If left untreated, dog anxiety can even cause permanent anxiety disorders and impact their overall well-being.
No matter how much comfort and attention we give to our pets during these high-stress times, many of them will continue to suffer without appropriate treatment.
WHAT IS DOG ANXIETY
Just like humans, our pets have bouts of anxiety. This is a natural emotional response and is not in and of itself a cause for warning. However, when dog anxiety becomes chronic, long-term issues can arise.
Specific causes of anxiety can range from traumatic experiences to feeling severe levels of fear relative to sounds such as thunder, gunshots, or fireworks. It can occur when certain people or other dogs are near, during car rides, separation, and age-related issues.
Regardless of its cause, the reality is your fur baby requires intervention and assistance to help with her distress.
For the past twelve years, my dog has suffered from an anxiety disorder. She is a rescue and did not indicate any past traumas or abuse. During thunderstorms, she would exhibit destructive behaviors to our property to escape the rumbling. Over time, our efforts to keep her safe failed. She clawed her way out of her kennel; she dug through chicken-wire and tore through screen doors. She destroyed every baseboard and wall adjacent to every door in my home. Her behaviors began to turn on her, with aggressive paw licking, chewing, and other nervous behaviors that were unsightly and annoying.
I have discovered that natural remedies are not only a saving grace during stressful times, but they also help maintain and even improve her health and wellness. With fewer dangerous side effects than prescription, chemical-based medications (often human medications), these botanical preventions and treatments have proven effective!
NATURAL ANXIETY TREATMENTS
During my training as a wellness coach, finding natural solutions to help my human clients return balance to their lives was integral for successful outcomes. Dogs are no different. They need a balance of nutrition, rest, movement, and stress reduction as part of an overall wellness lifestyle. Without balancing these specific wellness pillars, overall vitality is challenged and can get out of alignment rather quickly. This imbalance not only creates issues but can also lead to complex behavioral health problems.
When dogs are stressed, their behaviors may change dramatically, transforming the cute and loyal furry companion into a destructive, almost possessed wild animal! I have watched my loyal rescue dog eat through a door from our house security cam due to a rogue pop-up thunderstorm. In the time it took us to get from our location back home, she had destroyed the door frame and ate a hole in the door big enough for her to escape into the garage area.
After consulting with our local pet medical professional who recommended human-based drugs such as Valium, Xanax, and Prozac, we decided this was not the route we wanted for our companion. The list of possible side-effects and adverse reactions were horrifying. Seizures and liver damage topping the list of long-term indications, to name a few.
We began using a botanical tincture recommended to us by the owner of the local dog rescue who had experience with dog anxiety. The results were dramatically positive, not only for us but for our stressed-out girl.
Herbs and Herbal Blends
Herbal treatments for pet anxiety are nothing short of magic! However, there are so many varieties and blends on the market, it can become overwhelming, even a little anxiety-inducing in and of itself. Highlighting the most effective herbs and blends might help you make a sound decision when it comes to naturally reducing your dog’s anxiety.
One of the most well-known calming herbs found in pet-specific herbal anxiety remedies is Chamomile. It helps with reducing mild stress and anxiety, even transitioning your dog into a more relaxed state. Another herb used for the reduction of dog anxiety is Valerian Root. This herb is often used as a mild sedative but also helps to reduce anxiety and induce restful sleep. Other herbs like Skullcap and St. John’s Wort can assist with acute incidents of stress and anxiety while serving as a prophylactic treatment in upcoming stressful situations that may create pet anxiety.
Because herbal treatments come in a variety of combinations, blends, and formulas, it is a good idea to experiment with different modalities relative to administering. For example, some dogs may respond well to calming sprays and mists to infuse their bedding or even sprayed on them directly. Others may respond well to tinctures dispensed directly into the dog’s mouth as soon as you notice their stress.
Flowers and Other Botanicals
Although many herbs are considered flowering botanicals, it is important to highlight that some highly effective anxiety relief products come from a host of different flowers.
Passionflower is one of the most well-known flowers used to treat moodiness and help calm dogs. Compared to Valerian Root, which can cause sleepiness, Passionflower improves mood and temperament. Rock Rose is another flower essence to help dogs with severe anxiety or an unnatural fear for their life. Cherry Plum helps with destructive anxiety, similar to my dog’s anxiety, eating doors, and digging through chicken wire fences to escape the sounds of thunder.
Flower treatments can be found in dropper bottles like tinctures but typically labeled as flower essences or supplements. They are frequently used in products blends of both herbal remedies and flower essences to create multi-targeted anxiety prevention and treatment.
CBD and Hemp
It is no surprise that CBD is a rising start in the treatment of anxiety and its indications are relevant in our beloved pets. CBD or commonly known as Cannabidiol is essentially the compound found in cannabis and hemp plants. It has none of, or extraordinarily little, of the specific compound responsible for that euphoric or high. Most pet CBDs are extracted from the hemp or the non-THC producing plant.
CBD oil used to treat anxiety in dogs is indicated by users as having a calming, even sedating effect if used in higher doses. Those who have seen the day to day impacts it has on their dog’s overall wellness swear by CBD! CBD improves stress and induces a calmer and happier animal. It is indicated for animals with separation anxiety and issues with sounds.
CBD products for dogs and other pets come in many forms such as edibles, oils, and sprays. Do your research and find a product that seems to align with what you and your dog need during stressful times.
Other Natural Remedies
Aside from using oral products for the treatment or reduction of dog anxiety, there have been many other proven methods you may wish to consider.
Exercise and creating distractions are two of the best direct methods to help your pet deal with anxiety. One is more of a preventative strategy to help increase serotonin and improve well-being and overall mood while the other is more of an acute treatment that requires intervention by giving your pet their favorite treat or a bone during stressful events.
Playing music for your dog may be just what he needs to drown out the loud sounds or soothe his spirit. There are even playlists on YouTube and Spotify targeted for calming an anxious dog. Some innovative folks have services and subscriptions to pet-specific music and TV programming designed to help your beloved fur family member remain calm and relaxed while you are away or during times of extreme anxiety.
Other simple acts such as brushing your dog, giving them a doggie massage, essential oils in a diffuser, and simply providing them with some extra attention can help in stressful situations as well.
As a disclaimer, it is not only necessary but imperative that you make sure to use appropriate products designed for your pet. Selecting pet-specific formulas when treating dog anxiety with herbs or flowers is imperative to their overall safety and wellness. Using a pet-safe product as indicated will also help reduce the possibility of unknown reactions, although the incidence with botanicals is much less than with chemical prescription medications. Should you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s anxiety, consult with your veterinarian.
Our beloved pets are family members and require attention. This means paying a specific mind to their behaviors and affiliated root causes. When it comes to stressful situations, our babies don’t have words to describe their feelings. Being aware of anxiety and helping reduce dog anxiety is our responsibility.
With so many natural remedies on the market, being mindful of what we give our dogs and other pets is no longer something we can blindly hand over to chemicals with their long-term side effects.
Our dogs deserve calm and balance like their human counterparts.