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?
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.
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.