Derived from the wild, domesticated dogs are still very instinctual and remain tapped-in to the primal urges and fears that have kept them safe since dogs first walked the Earth. That’s why dogs show signs of anxiety when exposed to loud noises, wild storms, unfamiliar environments, or being separated from their loved ones. In fact, separation anxiety is the number one cause of anxiety in dogs. Dog anxiety can take many forms such as shaking, panting, hiding, seeking comfort, barking, excessive licking, chewing, and even aggression. Dog anxiety can be mild or severe and can be short term or it can linger on for days, even descending into generalized anxiety they carry with them all the time.
Your vet might be able to prescribe some medication for anxiety. It happens to be the same medication a person with high anxiety would take such as; valium, xanax, prozac, paxil, or lorazepam. But keep in mind, these drugs come with a lot of hefty side effects such as:
- 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
If your family pooch is going through a rough bought of anxiety or is prone to react with intense anxiety to events that you cannot control (such as thunderstorms) then you’ll be happy to know there are plenty of all natural anxiety remedies for dogs. From different types of therapy to homeopathic oils and cures, there is something out there to help every dog. Much like people, the same cure doesn’t work for every dog, so you might have to try a few to find the right fit.
Hemp Oil & CBD Oil For Dogs
Hemp oil is a fantastic natural cure for dog anxiety and one of our personal favorites. There are a lot of misconceptions about hemp oil. For example, hemp oil will not get your dog “high.” It is safe for both dogs and humans. The oil comes from the hemp plant. Hemp plants are a form of cannabis sativa that is typically grown for industrial purposes like textiles. These plants contain low levels of cannabinoids including the two most commonly known: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). The hemp oil, however, is extracted from the seeds and since hemp seeds to not contain THC neither does the hemp oil. This is why you can safely give your dog help oil without worry that your getting your puppy pal stoned. CBD oil refers to oil that contains a higher concentration of CBD, or cannabidiol. It also won’t get you high for the same reasons as the hemp oil. Many people refer to hemp oil and cbd oil interchangeably although there could be subtle differences.
CBD oil is beneficial to dogs for several reasons. First, it can naturally calm and soothe an anxious animal. The oil works through the body’s central nervous system to enter the brain and release serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that helps us feel happy and relaxed. It can calm worried nerves and reduce anxiety in dogs significantly.
As an added benefit, CBD and Hemp Oils also help with many symptoms of aging such as general pain relief for arthritis. It can also help control seizures, lower blood pressure and has many other great benefits that will help your furry friend enjoy his regular doggie activities for well into his senior years. It’s even been shown to stop cancer cells from growing. It can help a senior dog increase their appetite and control nausea from medical conditions, anxiety or old age.
Devil Dog Pet Co has sourced the best possible hemp oil for your pets. Pure Hemp Naturals Full Spectrum Hemp Oil For Dogs & Cats comes in a 250 mg vial and is safe for dogs and cats. Their dosing advice is clear and easy to understand. “While the best way to give your dog their full spectrum hemp oil is by administering it on their gums or under their tongue, it can also be placed on treats or even in their food. Just keep in mind that when given with food or treats, it needs to work through their digestive tract and can take upwards of 30-60 minutes to be absorbed and take effect.” Devil Dog Pet Co won’t sell any product we don’t use ourselves. We use this oil with our own dogs with great success.
Play Calming Music, Household Sounds & Voice Recordings
This is a great 100% natural remedy for anxiety that can help your anxious pup during times of stress or help with separation anxiety when you are at work all day. You may have realized that your body has a physical response to different types of music, the same is true for dogs. Soothing music reduces stress-promoting cortisol levels, while decreasing anxiety-induced spikes in heart rate and systolic blood pressure. Now comes the question, what type of music do dogs like best? Some studies suggest classical while the Journal of Physiology and Behavior suggests dogs prefer the sounds of reggae or soft rock more than any other genre. Find the right tunes for your dog and you can turn on that genre of music for you dog while you are away or during a thunderstorm. Researchers have even suggested that animal shelters play calming music and have noticed a reduction in stress behaviors.
Dogs with separation anxiety might also be soothed by the normal household sounds while people are home or the sound of their owner’s voice. You can record the background noise of your home while everyone is home or you can record yourself reading from a book or magazine to play for stressed out doggo during the day when no one is home.
You can find hours of great dog anxiety music and sounds playlists on Spotify and Youtube.
Herbal Supplements For Anxiety
As natural remedies are becoming more and more popular with humans, the same goes for what we choose to heal our pets. If you are looking for a safe and natural supplement to decrease anxiety for your dog, there are several herbal supplements that could help. There are three commonly used herbs that have a known effect on stress and anxiety in both people and animals.
- Chamomile - has been used as a traditional herbal medicine for its calming effect, it is also a natural sedative which is why people drink chamomile tea before bed.
- St. John’s Wort - this herb has long been touted as a cure-all for depressing and anxiety. Although many people swear by it, there isn’t a lot of science to back it up. It is however safe and non-toxic for dogs if you’d like to try it.
- Valerian - known the world over as one of the most powerful natural sedatives, valerian root helps with insomnia and has a calming effect that could be good for anxiety.
Always talk to your vet before using herbs and supplements, especially if your dog is on any prescription medication or has any medical conditions as even all natural herbs can have an adverse effect when mixed with medicines. Herbal remedies are often preferred for pets because they don’t have the same harsh side effects as pharmacy meds. Some herbal remedies can have side effects though so make sure to research any supplement before giving it to your dog.
Relaxing Massage Therapy For Dogs
It’s a dog’s life! Obviously, your dog loves to be pet, who wouldn’t want constant massage and affection? Touch can actually improve your dogs health! Canine massage is a form of alternative therapy that promotes a dog’s physical and emotional health. Massages for very good dogs are great for puppers who suffer from nervousness, anxiousness and arthritis. You can pay for therapy or you can do it yourself at home.
Dog massage benefits include:
- Increased oxygenation of the blood
- Pain relief
- Improved flexibility
- Improved immune system
- Reduced age-related issues
- Reduced arthritis and hip dysplasia discomfort
- Muscle tension, soreness, weakness and spasm relief
If the weather is rumbly or the fireworks are zipping and popping away then a soothing doggy massage can be a real blessing. Softly rest your palm on top of your dog’s head or neck and make long strokes along the spine and down the tail. Repeat this slowly as many times as you and your doggo wish. You can increase or vary the pressure to suit your dog’s taste. You can also do in-clinic dog massage with vets or licensed dog massage therapists. Regular massage can help keep anxiety levels low for dogs that are generally anxious all the time or experience separation anxiety on a regular basis.
Zen Crates & Safe Spaces
When your dog is stressed it needs a safe place to go. Left over from their wolf days, dogs seek shelter in cave-like areas they can retreat to which is why many dogs benefit from crate training. Creating a calming place your dog can escape to for some alone time reduces anxiety and helps your dog cope with stressful situations. Heck, even dogs that don’t suffer from full blown anxiety can use some alone time now and then, can’t we all?
A safe place for your dog could include a soft bed, sound damping, a fan, soothing music and dimmed lights. ZenCrate is a brand name for a beautiful dog crate that combines all of these features and then some. It actually uses smart technology to turn on the fan and music when your pet enters and has a camera and app so you can monitor your pet while you are away.
Distraction Techniques For Acute Anxiety
Some of these stress relieving measures work best for separation anxiety and others work best for acute anxiety, or anxiety that is happening right now due to a cause that is imminent like a thunderstorm or fireworks. Sometimes you can use distraction the same way you would use it with a toddler who is about to get a shot or is moments away from a public meltdown. Dogs can have pretty short attention spans and if you can get their focus off of their fear it could help them relax. A dog can be distracted by playing, treats, music, or just the sound of your voice. A frozen Kong full of peanut butter might do the trick! Try talking to your dog, petting them or trying to get them interested in their favorite toy if they will tolerate it. If your dog is showing signs of aggression or fear, back off and let them go to their safe spot instead.
Engaging the dog’s mind with puzzles and training works as well. When you dog applies himself to the processing of information, by training or any activity that requires him to concentrate or think, he’s less likely to be focused on his own anxiety. You can buy toys that engage the mind as well, some give treats as rewards for solving puzzles. In the summer time you can freeze big blocks of ice that contain toys and treats for the dog to work on by licking (and licking is a stress behavior in dogs). The possibilities are endless!
Dog TV Is A Real Thing Guys
Does your dog freak out if you leave the house? Separation anxiety can be brutal but there is scientific research to suggest that leaving your TV on for dogs could be calming. DOGTV is an audio-visual therapy tool for dogs who suffer from anxiety. When your dog is home alone or experiencing stressful situations, DOGTV offers scientifically-developed content for dogs. It can be relaxing or stimulating depending on your dogs needs. You can also find free dog TV shows on YouTube and other video streaming sites. Yes, dogs really do watch TV. Domestic dogs can perceive images on television similarly to the way humans do, and they are intelligent enough to recognize onscreen images and sounds. So turning on the TV for your dog is starting to sound less and less crazy, isn’t it?
If you don’t want to subscribe to a specialized streaming channel for dogs you can still find great dog TV online for free or you can simply leave the TV on set to home movies or your dog’s favorite channel. Maybe he likes Animal Planet?
Walk The Dog, Walk The Dog, Walk The Dog
If you are fortunate enough to know that an anxiety episode is around the corner (such as fireworks on the 4th of July or a trip to the vet) then you can prepare. A tired and sleepy dog is less anxious. So get out there and talk a nice long walk, play with your dog and really tire them out before the stressful event. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins that make us feel happy, even though cardio does sometimes feel like cruel and unusual punishment to humans.
Exercise and play time can help relax a scared pupper. Make sure that your dog gets at least 30 minutes of calm exercise per day. Chewing is another a great outlet for dogs with anxiety. You could try Devil Dog Pet Co’s split antler chews that are 100% all natural. Some dogs that are anxious have a tendency to chew things up anyway - better this antler chew than your new leather shoes or the legs of your dining room table.
Bach Flower Essences
Flowers to soothe anxiety? Hear us out. Almost 100 years ago, English doctor and bacteriologist Dr Edward Bach made an unusual discovery. He found that the flowers of certain native plants had the ability to restore balance to unhealthy emotional states. Each flower corresponded to a certain emotion, and when you drink tea made from these flowers, that emotional extreme was brought back into a healthy balance. For dogs you can buy drops that go on the tongue or gums. Here are some of the flowers that are used to help with canine anxiety:
Chicory is the essence of choice when normal, desirable attachment and loyalty has become exaggerated into over-dependence or even outright controlling behaviors. Great for separation anxiety that is caused by over-attachment.
Heather combines well with Chicory. Indicated when the dog exhibits noisy attention seeking behavior. Perfect for barkers.
Red Chestnut helps the dog who experiences fear and concern, not for himself, but for the owner. Some dog anxiety isn’t fear for their own safety but fear for their family (you) as well.
Honeysuckle is a good choice for the dog that pines away for the owner when left behind. Cue sad puppy eyes, don’t go to work mom, stay home and cuddle!
Comfort Blankets & Anxiety Jackets (Thunder Jackets)
Many years ago, it was discovered that being confined or constricted actually helped calm some people and animals when they were frightened or over-stimulated. Used extensively for autism, the same comfort pressure points work for anyone who is experiencing fear or anxiety (as long as you aren’t claustrophobic). Anxiety wraps or jackets are wearable garments designed to calm anxious dogs. The vests work under the theory that pressure applied to the dog's torso causes a calming effect similar to swaddling a crying infant or hugging a sad person. They also make weighted blankets for dogs as well. Some dogs do not enjoy being covered by a blanket so the vest or jacket might work better, especially if you dog prefers to move around or pace when stressed.
Essential Oils For Doggos
Essential oils and aromatherapy are super popular at the moment. It’s not a bad trend though because they happen to work for many people and animals. This is one of the less-scienfic more go with your gut remedy but it makes perfect sense. Science can tell us that certain smells can make us physically feel things and stir up emotions. When you diffuse an essential oil into the air you release a scent that could be calming, focusing, invigorating or many other sensations. One common go-to oil for promoting calmness and relaxation is lavender. Pairing it with cedarwood kicks up the calming effects even more. Frankincense is another popular pick for anxiety. Chamomile, orange, lemon, sandalwood, rose, and bergamot are also great choices.
To reduce your dog’s anxiety with essential oil, you can make a spray from diluted oil. The oils are too strong too directly apply to your dog’s skin or fur. That is why it is necessary to dilute it and to find alternative methods of applications. You can also buy a diffuser for your living room or any room your dog spends a lot of time.
Leaving A Bit Of Yourself Behind
Speaking of aromatherapy, a dog's sense of smell is highly evolved. They associate smells strongly with memories. Leaving behind an item of clothing you have worn for them to cuddle with is a great way to bond with your pet when you aren’t home. This can be useful for separation anxiety or for times when you’ll be away on a trip. Besides being much more comfortable than the floor, this is one more reason your dog hops up on your bed to sleep while you are away. They want to be as close to you as possible.
That’s A Wrap On Natural Remedies
As you can see, there are a ton of options you can try to naturally relieve dog anxiety before resorting to medications with unhealthy side effects. Most of these remedies are completely side effect free or have more natural side effects like dry mouth or sleepiness. Compassion is the key, recognize your dog’s anxiety behavior for what it is and instead of punishing them, work with them to control the anxiety.