I have two anxious dogs, Emma and Coco. Coco, a pit-mix, takes anxiety to a whole new level, while Emma is a little calmer overall.
I can’t stand to see my dogs suffer, but it’s hard to know exactly what to do. Thankfully, neither dog has separation anxiety. With them, it’s more about loud noises and situational anxiety.
Does your dog have an anxiety disorder? If so, I hope you’ll continue reading this post.
I’ll share some tips and tricks I’ve learned and share insight into the different types of anxiety, treatment options, vet-recommended products, and behavioral modification.
Your Dog May Have One or More of These Types of Anxiety
Some dogs have general anxiety over many things. These could include everything from separation anxiety to storm phobias. If this sounds like your dog, you’re probably spending a lot of time trying different things to help your dog feel calmer.
There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for dogs with anxiety issues, but there are plenty of options.
The trick is finding the best options for your dog. The best place to start is to identify the type of anxiety your dog is suffering from.
Noise phobias in dogs can be brought on by common events like thunderstorms and fireworks. They can also be triggered by a wide variety of other sounds, including:
- smoke detector going off
- dishwasher sounds
- microwave beeping
- squeaky doors
This is just a short list of things that can create anxiety in some dogs.
Separation anxiety often leaves dog owners feeling guilty and a little anxious themselves.
There’s nothing worse than having to leave for work while your dog pleads with those big eyes. You know the minute you leave the house that your normally happy dog is going to feel miserable anxiety.
Signs of separation anxiety in dogs can include:
- door scratching
- excessive barking
- defecating in the house (or crate)
- urinating in the house (or crate)
- destructive behavior (tearing up furniture, etc.)
- following you around the house when you are home
Some dogs seem to be anxious about everything, almost all of the time.
In addition to the typical fear response to things like fireworks or thunderstorms, a dog that is frequently anxious may show signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. My dog, Coco, shows signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder by over-grooming his paws.
The problem with this is that, after a while, the wet licking will cause the skin to break open and become sore. This is called canine lick granuloma. An open wound on a dog is at risk of bacterial infection, so it’s important to find ways to stop your dog from doing this.
New environments (moving to a new home, for example) can also cause anxiety symptoms in dogs.
Medical Conditions That May Cause Anxiety in Dogs
If your dog suddenly develops fears and anxiety, it may be due to a medical condition. Health issues that may cause anxiety reactions in dogs include:
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Senior Dogs
Anxiety affects older dogs and might be caused by cognitive decline.
Age-related illnesses like Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), which impairs memory, learning, perception, and awareness, may affect your dog.
Due to the decreased sensitivity, the dog starts to feel anxious and afraid.
Anxious behavior in dogs can sometimes be caused by hypothyroidism.
When your dog’s thyroid gland doesn’t produce as much thyroid hormone as it should, hypothyroidism develops.
Watch for indications of the other hypothyroidism symptoms, such as weight gain, hair loss, or lethargy. Take your dog to the vet for a thyroid hormone blood test if you notice these symptoms.
The symptoms of thyrotoxicosis are also associated with a rare auto immune disorder called Grave’s Disease involving enlargement of the thyroid gland.
Several other very rare but dangerous conditions are associated with symptoms of Hypothyroidism and thyrotoxicosis so consult your vet quickly if you see these symptoms.
An inflammation of the brain tissue in your dog is called encephalitis.
The most common cause of this swelling is from a bacterial infection. Infections can, although rare, enter the brain something as common as an insect bite.
Swelling of the brain could also happen when a bacterial infection starts in the neck or nasal cavities.
Along with anxiety, other symptoms to look out for with encephalitis include aggressive behavior, coma, seizures, and clumsy gait.
Dogs with hearing loss may startle easily. As a result, this could result in unusual behavior that may seem aggressive.
This kind of change to your dog’s senses could induce a lot of anxiety and confusion.
Your dog may simply not be able to hear someone approaching from behind and become startled as a result. If you believe your dog may have hearing issues (suddenly doesn’t respond to his or her name, for example), have your pet examined by a veterinarian.
Often, the most important sign of a problem is a change in behavior. Pain can cause your otherwise happy dog to growl, flinch, or hide when you try to pet them.
They may show signs of depression or anxiety when experiencing chronic pain as well. Other signs of pain in dogs include:
- keeping head down
- tail tucked between legs (also a sign of fear)
- arching back
- pawing at the mouth
- limping or unusual gait
- lack of appetite
- not interested in play or walk
Rescue Dogs with Anxiety
Congratulations if you’ve recently rescued a dog! Some dogs adopted from shelters or rescue facilities have experienced some form of hardship.
This means they may be fearful of other people, pets, or situations. Gradually and calmly introduce your new dog to a variety of situations. and note the dog’s reaction. He or she may need the help of a professional behaviorist in addition to prescription or over-the-counter medications for anxiety relief.
It’s a good idea to have a veterinarian complete a physical examination as well. Underlying health conditions may be the cause of some types of aggression and anxiety.
How Veterinarians Diagnose Anxiety in Dogs
When a dog exhibits symptoms of anxiety, the veterinarian may conduct a complete physical examination.
The examination’s objective is to rule out any illnesses that might cause anxiety. Unfortunately, there’s no blood test or x-ray that can diagnose anxiety in dogs. The veterinarian will rely on the information you provide including the dog’s health history.
25 Vet Approved Solutions for Anxiety in Dogs
Unfortunately, we can’t always know what triggers a dog’s anxiety.
As pet owners, we do the best we can to keep our dogs healthy and happy.
Having an anxious dog can have a negative impact on your family, your quality of life, and your dog’s health. Sadly, some dogs end up being surrendered, especially if they display destructive or aggressive behavior.
With a little time and patience, it’s possible to find the right treatment plan for your dog.
1. Behavior Modification
Behavior modification is an important tool to help dogs with aggression or behavioral issues.
As I’m sure you know, behavior issues can result in undesirable behaviors including excessive barking, destruction of toys or household items, door scratching, trying to escape, etc.
Behavior modification does take some time, patience, and effort, but is well worth it in the end.
Examples of behavior modification techniques include:
- spontaneous recovery
- positive reinforcement
Punishment is not a recommended form of behavioral modification. Keep in mind that not every pet parent excels at behavior modification. That’s where the services of a veterinary behaviorist come into play.
For more information on the role of a veterinary behaviorist, please read this post by the Animal College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
2. Antidepressants for Anxiety in Dogs
Antidepressants are sometimes used “off-label” to treat anxiety in dogs. This means that although the medication isn’t officially FDA approved for use in animals, it has been shown to be safe and useful in certain situations.
Types of antidepressants include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO)
If your dog is prescribed an antidepressant, it will likely be Prozac.
Prozac is an SSRI designed to increase serotonin levels in the brain. It is useful in treating aggression, separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobias, and compulsive disorders.
For more information on how antidepressants work in dogs and people, please read the article published by Veterinary Practice News: How Fluoxetine Treats a Number of Behavioral Issues in Animals.
Of course, medication does come with some side-effects. The most common side-effects include vomiting, diarrhea, sleepiness, and decreased appetite. These adverse effects usually only last a day or two in dogs.
For more information on Prozac for dogs, please read: Fluoxetine for Veterinary Use by Barbara Forney, VMD
3. Gabapentin for Dogs With Anxiety
Veterinary behaviorists have been using gabapentin as an adjunctive therapy for anxiety in dogs and cats for a number of years.
It is frequently used to treat phobias, panic disorders, compulsive disorders, generalized anxiety, and impulsivity in dogs.
Gabapentin was originally created for people to treat seizure disorders and, in some cases, to relieve pain. Do not give your dog Gabapentin without a prescription from the veterinarian.
Some forms of gabapentin may contain xylitol which is toxic for dogs.
Calming supplements have varying degrees of effectiveness.
My dogs are on Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Calming Care as suggested by the veterinarian. It’s not a quick-fix solution, however. It comes in sachets of powder and must be given everyday over several weeks.
My nervous dogs have been taking it for about 3 weeks and I’ve noticed a difference. For example, there were amateur fireworks in the neighborhood recently and my dogs didn’t even wake up from their naps!
Normally, they would be pacing the floor.
Keep in mind that my dogs’ experience with the product could be totally different from your dog’s experience. Always speak with a veterinarian about supplements for your dog.
The following are affiliate links: As an affiliate with Chewy, Amazon, and other related companies, I may earn a small commission should you decide to make a purchase after clicking a link. There is no added cost to you.
Thundershirts are designed to apply gentle, constant pressure around your dog.
It feels like a safe, comforting hug to your dog. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors and are used for a variety of anxiety issues including thunder, fireworks, travel, and separation anxiety.
Adaptil is another veterinarian recommended product. It’s an effective, drug-free solution for anxiety in dogs. It works by mimicking a mother’s the natural pheromones.
VetriScience is a calming formula that contains colostrum, l-theanine and thiamine. It’s available in soft chew form that can be given daily or only for specific occasions.
7. Rescue Remedy
Bach Rescue Remedy is thought to promote stress relief for pets. Place 4 drops into your pet’s food, water bowl, or on a treat. Repeat as required.
8. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Calming Care Probiotic Supplement
This calming probiotic supplement works wonder on dogs with anxiety issues. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other supplements, but is recommended by veterinarians. Each box contains 45 sachets of powder that can be sprinkled on dog food.
Helps support dogs with anxious behaviors and external stressors.
9. Dr. Becker’s Stress/Calming Solutions
Dr. Becker’s Stress Bites contains Chamomile, Rhodiola and L-Theanine. These were designed to help your dog chill out on days when stress levels are high.
10. VETIQ Health & Wellness Supplements for Dogs
VetIQ Health & Wellness Supplements are designed to promote relaxation while managing everyday stress. These chewable treats are thought to have a calming effect on nerves.
11. Valerian Root
Valerian root can be purchased at health food stores or pet stores in the form of drops or spray. The best way to use this product is to apply a few drops to your dog’s collar or bedding. Use sparingly. It has a strong odor but can induce calming effects.
12. Reconcile Flavored Chewable Tablets (*requires prescription)
Reconcile (fluoxetine hydrochloride) is a daily chewable flavored tablet for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs. This medication is designed to be used in conjunction with behavior modification.
Purchase at: VetApprovedRX-Reconcile
13. Natura Petz Organics Anxiety Starter Pack for Dogs
This product may help relax muscles, lower blood pressure, and promote feelings of security. It contains a blend of herbs, including valerian root, mulungu and chamomile. Important: Consult with your veterinarian to ensure this (or any) supplements are safe to use.
Some supplements can interact badly with other medication and may not be appropriate for dogs with certain underlying conditions including liver or kidney disease.
14. Petsies – Custom Stuffed Toy for Pets
You may be asking yourself how a custom stuffed toy could possible help your dog’s anxiety. In reality, it’s a great way to provide comfort for your dog when used in conjunction with calming sprays like those that contain valerian root.
In addition to using an Adaptil collar for your dog, you could also put one on your little buddies new best friend for extra benefit.
15. Bye Bye Pup Worries
If you haven’t heard of This Dog’s Life, you should check it out. They showcase a curated collection of the best dog brands from around the world!
Bye Bye Pup Worries Calming Chews support calmness and ease nervousness. They may also help with hyperactivity or destructive behavior in dogs.
16. Calming Massage Oil
This is another product by This Dog’s Life. This calming massage oil contains pure olive oil, grapeseed oil, apricot oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, organic sage essential oil, organic cold-pressed orange essential oil, and a blend of therapeutic essential oils.
#17. Brave Paws Anxiety and Stress Support for Dogs
#18. GoodGood Calming Dog Chews
#19. HomeoPet Anxiety Relief
#20. Vetoquinol Zylkene Calming Supplements for Large Dogs
#21. Calming Collar
Calming Collar uses pheromones to calm nervous dogs. The breakaway design is safe for all small, medium and large dogs.
#22. Calming Music for Dogs
#23. SmartPetLove Snuggle Puppy
The Snuggle Puppy is more than just a plush toy! This pillow-like stuffed dog comes with a safe heat pack that also provides the sensation of a heartbeat to calm and comfort your pooch.
#24. Licks Pill-Free Calming Aid Anti-Aggression
This all natural calming remedy can be used for dogs that experience situational anxiety. It’s a fast-acting aid that comes in liquipaks. Made in the USA.
#25. Doggie Shusher Portable Dog Calming Aid – Relaxing Sound Machine
This is a great idea for pet owners looking for medication-free relief for their dogs. The Doggie Shusher can be tucked next to your dog’s bed or anywhere your dog is in the house. Comes with a fast-charging USB-C cable. Bite and chew proof.
Always tell your veterinarian about any supplements or over the counter dog anxiety medications you may be giving your pooch. Even though supplements are often considered natural, they can still interact with some prescription medications, including anti-depressants.
Natural ingredients can still cause problems.
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The Anti-Anxiety Relief Journey Summary
Pet parents have a number of treatment options at their disposal.
Sometimes, behavioral therapy alone can improve the situation. Other times, your dog may need medication just for specific situations. And in some cases, dogs require a prescription for anti-depressants along with behavioral therapy.
Ultimately, it’s important to look for a solution that works long-term and that is also safe for your dog.
Remember, natural products can still cause serious interactions with prescription meds. Severe anxiety is no fun for anybody. The time you take to get it under control will be time well served.
Always consult a veterinarian before administering supplements to your dog.