Are Dog’s Mouths Cleaner Than Human’s?

This is one of those questions that catches me by surprise every time someone asks it…worse, it completely floors me on the rare occasion where a client in an exam room states it like a known fact. Are dog’s mouths cleaner than human’s?

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As I’m checking in a client who allowed their dog to lick themselves into a major injury, it can be hard to keep a straight face when they tell me they let him lick because “dog’s saliva is sterile.” Ummm, no. Not it isn’t. Not even close. So where does this myth come from? And what’s the truth?

Let’s just start with the correct answer: No.

I mean, have you seen what the average dog puts in their mouth? They gobble down rotting garbage. They eat (and roll in) feces and dead animals. They think drinking dirty puddle water is the best! I won’t even go into butt sniffing and such.

How this can possibly translate into a clean mouth I have never understood!

And yet, this myth persists. I have no proof, but I suspect this is one of those Old Wives Tales that has been passed down from the times before we understood germ theory. Let’s look at this this old myth and put it to rest!

Famous Mythology – Are Dog’s Mouths Cleaner Than Humans?

Ok, this is my theory as to how this whole thing got started. I am not alone in suspecting this base cause, just in case you thought I was the originator of this idea!

Way, way back in antiquity (many times, likely), someone noticed that their dog had an injury. Given that veterinary care wasn’t really known as a specialty until modern times, this human likely treated the dog similar to how they would have treated a human’s injury.

Maybe they washed the wound with herbs. They likely didn’t try to bandage it, since the dog would have chewed it off anyway. Regardless, at some point the human sees the dog licking the wound. The dog eventually heals from the injury, and the human observer concludes that the dog’s saliva healed the wound!

Correlation= Dangerous Assumptions

Now, there is a famous scientific saying I am going to quote here. “Correlation does not equal causation.” This means that just because two things seem to be related does not mean that one of them is causing the other, or even that they are related at all!.

Real world example. If you poll people in the US and Canada who have been convicted of a major crime and asked them what they ate the day they were convicted, you will probably find bread products listed very high on the list. Toast, sandwiches, rolls etc. One could conclude that eating bread was correlated with getting convicted of a crime.

So, using bad science, a researcher could write a viral internet post stating that eating bread causes someone to get convicted of a crime at trial. Which is clearly absurd. That is the same methodology people use when they ask, “Are dog’s mouths are cleaner than human’s?” after a dog appears to heal a wound with saliva.

Dogs Lick Their Wounds- And Often Make Them Worse

Let’s take on the question of dog’s licking their wounds next. Does it help them heal?

No! It often makes things much, much worse, in fact. I can’t tell you the number of dogs who have come in for a minor wound or injury that was turned into a major wound just from them licking it!

Are Dog's Mouths Cleaner Than Human's?
What do you think? Does your dog have better breath than yours??

Think about hot spots. Many dogs will get them, and some dogs get them frequently. What is a hot spot?

Hot Spots are Created by Licking!

A hot spot is not a wound or an infection, not at first.

A hot spot is primarily created when your dog starts licking a part of their body. The saliva creates an environment where there is constant moisture and warmth, and bacteria growth flourishes in this area. Soon, you have a patch of irritated, red, oozy skin.

Sometimes hot spots start in areas where there is a minor wound or insect bite. But I have seen plenty that start where there was nothing wrong- the dog started licking and created the entire thing, just from the saliva!

In veterinary medicine, we call these “moist derms,” which is short for the technical term moist dermatitis. In common English, this means wet, inflamed skin. Most of the time, the moisture is caused almost entirely by the constant bath of saliva.

A dog with a minor skin infection may have few symptoms other than some redness of the skin, and maybe a bit of itchiness. Sometimes all they need is a little topical antibiotic ointment, and things get better. Add in a saliva bath, and now you are looking at topical and oral antibiotics…and a cone of shame!

Your vet bill just doubled, at least. From licking.

Dogs Lick People- And Make Them Sick!

In addition to causing damage to themselves, dog’s can transmit infections to humans through licking as well. Sometimes these infections can be life threatening if the bacteria in the dog’s saliva invades the human’s body.

This past summer, a man in the US lost several limbs and almost died  when he caught a systemic infection from one of his dog’s licking him.

The culprit was a bacteria called capnocytophaga, which is very common in the canine mouth. Most dogs carry this bacteria, even puppies. Usually, it doesn’t cause any problems to humans.

In the case above, the licking dog managed to get a bit of saliva carrying the bacteria into an area on the man’s skin where there was a defect. The bacteria invaded his bloodstream, causing an almost fatal sepsis that resulted in him losing limbs to save his life.

Ok, this is a rare and drastic case! Most of the time, a dog licking you isn’t likely to have this kind of impact.

But you should be careful to wash your hands if your dogs licks them, and avoid letting a dog lick any open wounds. Dog’s mouths are NOT clean, and certainly not sterile by any stretch of the imagination!

Dog Mouth vs Human: Which is Cleaner?

It actually isn’t very useful to compare a dog’s mouth to a human’s.

Each species has a different group of common oral bacteria found in their mouths, so it’s like comparing apples and bananas. They are both fruit. But they are not really similar beyond that.

Even if dogs had fewer kinds of bacteria in their mouths, would this really translate into “cleaner?” Is 200 kinds of bacteria really cleaner than 400? Does the number really matter?

No, it doesn’t really matter. Dogs do not have clean or sterile mouths. Neither do humans. We all have bacteria in our mouths, all the time.

That’s the key point. Dogs have oral bacteria in their mouths, and the proof of this is right in front of your eyes!

Periodontal Disease – Are Dog’s Mouths Cleaner Than Human’s?

Lift up the average dog lip and take a good look at those teeth. What do you see?

Ok, not all dogs have bad teeth.

But most dogs over the age of 1 have some level of periodontal disease. Especially smaller dogs and dogs with awkward muzzle designs (chihuahuas, shih tzus, pugs, and English bulldogs all pop to mind).

When you lift up a lip and see thick chunks of brown tartar covering the gum line, you are seeing the results of periodontal disease. And what causes this? Oral bacteria.

It isn’t the point of this post to go into detail about periodontal disease, but the fact is, if dogs had clean mouths, they would never have rotten teeth, swollen gums or heavy tartar build up. They wouldn’t need dentals to keep their mouths healthy.

I can tell you, I have done hundreds of doggy dentals, and every one of those dogs had tartar build-up. Even the ones who had great home dental care! The ones who get regular dentals and home care usually have healthier mouths…but the effects of oral bacteria were still obvious.

A Dog’s Mouth is Not Clean

As I said above, it doesn’t really matter which species has MORE types of bacteria in their mouths. Neither species has a clean mouth, that’s the key takeaway. To read more of the science behind the bacteria in dogs vs humans mouths, you can check out this National Geographic article 

Don’t let a dog or a human lick your open wounds! Any bite that breaks the skin can cause an infection.

All mouths carry bacteria that could cause a life-threatening infection under the right circumstances. When asking, “Are Dog’s Mouths Cleaner than Human’s?” take a minute and think about it.  Think about all of the weird and unsanitary things that go into, and sometimes come out of, that dog’s mouth.

Don’t let your dog lick their wounds, either. Use an e-collar to prevent this.

I have saved myself hundreds of dollars in vet bills by slapping an e-collar on my dog at the first sign of a problem. E-collar, cleaning and topical treatment, and 95% of the time things heal up without using prescription medications. The key is to catch things early and prevent the licking from making it worse.

Don’t buy into the hype. Dog’s mouths are not clean, they are not sterile, and preventing your dog from licking at a wound is much more likely to help the situation than make it worse.


Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician.  Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges. You can find more of her work on her website https://MyWickedTribe.com.

How to Drain a Cyst on a Dog

It’s tempting to consider how to drain a cyst on a dog. They look like pimples, and who doesn’t want to squeeze a pimple?  Unfortunately, draining a cyst on your dog without medical intervention can cause pain while leaving your dog vulnerable to a skin infection.

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Cysts can be something like pimples.  They most commonly occur on the skin and are filled with fluid. Some cysts will actually come to a head and erupt on their own. Most of the time, if the cyst isn’t bothering anything, it’s best to leave them alone.

By the time you’re finished with this post, you’ll have a better understanding of when you should and shouldn’t drain a cyst on a dog. You’ll also learn about different types of cysts, the difference between cysts and tumors, and how to care for a ruptured cyst.

What is a Cyst?

A cyst is a general term used to describe a fluid-filled lump under the skin. Cysts develop from hollowed-out cavities within the body.  The body finds hollowed out cavities in tissue and, because the body is good at taking care of business, works to fill in those spaces.  

Cysts, somewhat like calluses and blisters, act as a protective buffer around injured tissue.  In some cases, dogs develop cysts internally on or around organs.

Since we’re talking about how to drain a cyst on a dog, this post will focus on the various cysts that develop beneath the skin.

 Examples of different types of cysts include the following:

True Cyst

A true cyst is non-inflammatory and contains a lining known as an epithelium.  This lining is made up of secretory cells that discharge fluid into the cavity.  The big difference between a “true” cyst and other cysts is that this type isn’t formed by the accumulation of pus.  

False Cyst

A false cyst does not contain a secretory lining. These usually occur due to an injury of the tissues.  In many cases, these cysts wall themselves off and are not a bother.

Follicular Cysts 

Just as the name implies, follicular cysts develop around dilated hair follicles. A follicular cyst can be considered sebaceous or epidermoidal. 

Sebaceous Cysts

A sebaceous cyst is a common occurrence in older dogs.  They occur as a result of inflamed hair follicles.  The over-production of sebum (oily substance) Sebaceous cysts on a dog will take one of three trajectories:   1) It will dissolve on its own.   2) It will rupture naturally.   3) It will wall itself off.

Dermoid cysts only happen in utero. In this case, the cyst develops within the body of the unborn puppy.  It’s possible for the dog to live a long time before anybody realizes it’s there.

Will Your Veterinarian Drain a Cyst on a Dog?

Veterinarians are highly skilled professionals. They are the only people who should attempt to drain a cyst on a dog. Even though they know how to drain a cyst on a dog, it doesn’t mean they will. 

Once the veterinarian has determined that your dog has a benign cyst (after microscopic examination) the decision to surgically remove would depend on the comfort and safety of the dog.

If the cyst is very large (some grow to the size of a golf ball or larger) and is uncomfortable for the dog, the vet may opt to surgically remove it. Small, uncomplicated cysts are typically left alone. 

How to Treat a Ruptured Cyst on a Dog

If your dog’s cyst doesn’t go away, but instead erupts, you’ll need to take care of the wound. It’s important to keep it open and draining freely to get all of the fluid out.  

A warm compress should be applied to the draining cyst for up to 10 minutes, two or three times a day.  At this stage, it’s important to watch for signs of infection.  Signs of infection could include additional swelling around the cyst, redness, pain, pus, and a foul smell from bacteria/yeast.

The idea is to keep the liquid draining until it is all gone.  Keeping the area moist will prevent a scab from forming.  When a scab forms, the remaining fluid is trapped inside. This can cause a bacterial infection, or can cause the cyst to reoccur.

Be sure to swab the wound with a bacterial cream or wipe several times a day.   

The most difficult part of this is keeping your dog’s mouth away from the wound.  The best suggestion is – of course – the Elizabethan collar. These days, there are a lot of variations that might prove more comfortable for your dog.

Open Cyst Drainage

Doctors may decide to perform open cyst drainage surgery if the cyst has become infected.  That decision will depend on the health of the dog.  These types of cysts tend to develop in older dogs.  General anesthesia could put your dog in a risky situation where heart failure is possible.

If you’re still wondering how to drain a cyst on a dog, you should ask your veterinarian about open cyst drainage surgery. 

This procedure is especially useful in reducing the pain and pressure of a large cyst.  It must be done in a sterile environment, such as the animal hospital or clinic.

If the veterinarian feels your dog is strong and healthy enough, he/she may decide to go ahead with the removal.  The first thing will be to put your dog under general anesthesia.  The surgeon will cut into the skin to expose the cyst.  He/she will then slice an opening to allow the pus (if it’s infected), keratin, or sebum, to drain.  

The surgeon will monitor your dog while he or she is under.  Once the fluids have completely drained, the surgeon will then cut out the remaining sac of tissue.  Your dog will be sutured and sent home to rest.  Again, in my experience, one of the hardest things to do is keep the dog from messing with the incision,

The veterinarian may send you home with antibiotics for your dog.  If so, make sure to give your dog the full prescription as indicated.  When people stop antibiotics early, bacteria could come back.  The second time this happens, the bacteria are stronger. The more this cycle continues, the greater the risk of developing antibiotic resistance.  

Drain a Cyst on a Dog and You Risk The Following:

Popping a cyst on a dog is painful to the dog and could worsen the condition.  The risk of infection goes up when it’s popped superficially.  In fact, you risk pushing the fluid deeper into the tissues (which could cause another cyst to appear). The open wound is then subject to bacterial infection.

Even if you insist that you know how to drain a cyst on a dog, you should still get medical assistance.  Draining it with a small needle puncture is going to be painful for the dog, and messy for you.

Be prepared for a foul smell and a period of drainage that will require keeping your dog from licking the open wound.

How to Tell if it’s Just a Cyst, or Something Else.

The only way to tell if it is a benign cyst or cancer is to perform a fine-needle aspirate or tissue biopsy. 

Veterinarians, however, are highly skilled professionals who can probably detect a cyst from a tumor a mile away.   Even so, they can’t give an absolute diagnosis without looking at it first.

Some telltale signs that it is a benign cyst and nothing more include the fact that it is easy to move. A benign cyst will be soft, painless, and easy to move around.  

In addition, benign cysts are common in aging dogs.  A dog is considered senior at seven years of age.

Is Your Dog Just a Puppy?

Cysts can still occur in younger dogs.  Sometimes, however, they are more likely to appeaas the dog ages.

When a puppy gets a cyst, it is usually considered genetic. This is called a dermoid cyst and they usually develop before the puppy is even born. They are considered rare.

Dog Breeds Prone to Cysts

The dog breeds most prone to various types of cysts include:

Mexican Hairless

The Mexican Hairless comes in a toy, mini, and standard sized variety. These dogs are elegant but active. They make good watchdogs, but not guard dogs.

Chinese Crested

The Chinese Crested is also a fur less dog. This dog is affectionate, lively, and playful.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks

AKA the African Lion, this dog was designed for hunting and guarding.  

 Cocker Spaniels.

The Cocker Spaniel was designed as a hunting dog.  They’re lovely and love to play.

Could it be Cancer?

Tumors can be malignant or benign.  Malignant tumors in dogs grow quickly, express discharge, and can suddenly change shape, texture, or color.

If it does turn out to be a tumor, thank your lucky stars you found it early.  The general rule of thumb is that the earlier you spot a tumor, the greater chance of success.


Why You Shouldn’t Worry

If you’re anything like me, you’ll poke and prod at that cyst until you drive yourself insane. You’ll compare it to images on the Internet and might even take pictures of your own to share with others.

If you have seen a veterinarian and that person has confirmed it is a cyst, you can stop worrying.  The veterinarian may have suggested leaving it alone.  A cyst will either dry up on it’s own, or continue to grow until it ruptures.  

My Own Experience

I recently went through a situation like this. My senior lab developed a lump on her chest. It wasn’t on or in the nipple, so I knew it wasn’t mammary cancer.  It was smooth with a margin all around.  The center of the cyst had a dark line, as if there were dark pus inside.

The veterinarian was very confident that it was a benign cyst. She didn’t do a fine-needle aspire or a biopsy. Instead, she told me to watch it.  “If it doubles in size over the next month, bring her back.”

That was three months ago. The cyst is still there,  but it hasn’t grown. It doesn’t hurt and there’s no sign of infection.

Read More About The Differences Between Cysts and Tumors HERE

Prevent Cysts from Returning

There’s no guaranteed way to ensure your dog will not get any more cysts. However, there are some thing you can do to lessen the risk.

The only sure way to prevent cysts is to avoid injury to your dog. Dogs run and play, they jump and bump.  It’s impossible to keep a dog from encountering minor injuries, especially if you have an active and healthy dog.

Learning everything you can about cysts now will ease future worry should it happen again. Next time around, you’ll have more confidence and knowledge.

I’m sure you have some questions after taking the time to read this post.  It is a bit confusing.  Please share.  Also, please leave me your comments below.  Have you had to drain a sebaceous on a dog?  What as that like?

How to Drain A Cyst on a Dog
This dog doesn’t have a cyst! It’s a Christmas bulb!

Get The Right Melatonin Dosage for Dogs

The melatonin dosage for dogs is, roughly:

  • Dogs less than 10 pounds- 1 mg of melatonin
  • Dogs 10-25 pounds- 1.5 mg of melatonin
  • Dogs 26-100 pounds- 3 mg of melatonin
  • Dogs over 100 pounds- 3 to 6 mg of melatonin

It seems unlikely that dogs would have trouble sleeping, but sometimes they do.  Do they suffer from a health condition that alters their sleep patterns, like dementia or Cushing’s disease? Is your dog a big ball of stress? Then you might be interested in starting your dog on melatonin supplements!

The melatonin dosage for dogs is one simple way we have to treat sleeplessness, restlessness and anxiety in our pups that is both safe and effective!

Melatonin is a commonly available supplement that can help reduce stress and anxiety in your dog. It is also produced naturally in our bodies (and our dog’s bodies too).

I recommend you consult with your veterinarian before starting your dog on a new supplement like melatonin. They can give you the most accurate information on dosing and side effects, and can help you figure out how often your dog should take it.

Melatonin has been a game changer for many dog owners! Read on and I will introduce you to this wonderful supplement.

Melatonin Dosage for Dogs

Melatonin doses vary, depending on the health of the dog, reasons for treatment and other medications they may be taking. You should discuss melatonin dosage for dogs with your vet before starting your dog on this supplement.

How To Give Melatonin to Your Dog

Generally, veterinarians recommend starting low and observing how the melatonin dosage for dogs specifically affects your pup.

For issues that are related to nighttime problems, like dementia or restlessness, your vet may have you only give the supplement in the evening. This mimics the way our own bodies produce melatonin.

For other problems, like general anxiety, your vet may have you give the supplement up to three times a day.

These are just the basic guidelines. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a dose precisely calculated to your dog’s condition and health problems.

Side Effects of Melatonin in Dogs

While melatonin is naturally produced in our dog’s bodies, that doesn’t mean that the supplement has no side effects.

Usually, the most common side effects from melatonin use in dogs is sleepiness and relaxation.

Sometime dogs may also get an upset stomach when they start taking it. So if your dog has a really sensitive stomach, be aware that this supplement could cause some surprises.

In dogs with medical problems, melatonin can sometimes cause an increased heart rate, or can make diabetes harder to manage. This is not a common side effect, but it’s another reason to talk about using melatonin with your vet before you start giving it.

Get the Right Melatonin Dosage For Dogs
This guy accidentally took the melatonin dosage meant for the dog!

Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?

Melatonin is usually considered a safe supplement to give your dog!

This doesn’t mean that your dog couldn’t have a bad or allergic reaction to it, though. Keep an eye on them when giving the first few doses. If you see any side effects that concern you, contact your vet for advice.

One thing to note for safety. If you are using a human version of the supplement (and you likely are), check the label before giving it to your dog.

Be sure the melatonin does not contain xylitol! This ingredient is often used in foods and supplements intended for humans, but is highly toxic to dogs! Do not give the supplement to your dog if it contains xylitol.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, in the middle part of our brain. This hormone helps regulate our sleep cycle (circadian rhythms) by telling our bodies it is time to wind down and sleep.

When the brain senses it is getting dark, this prompts the pineal gland to produce melatonin. The melatonin relaxes the body and helps you feel sleepy. During the day, the body does not produce melatonin, so you feel alert and awake.

Melatonin is a very necessary hormone! Without it, the sleep cycle gets out of whack, leaving people and dogs grumpy and restless at night.

How Melatonin Helps Dogs

Melatonin can help dogs in the same way it helps humans, by regulating the sleeping cycle.

If you have ever suffered from insomnia, then you know how much it hurts to be exhausted but unable to sleep. Melatonin can make a huge difference in insomnia!

Dementia- Sundowner’s Syndrome

One very frustrating side effect of advanced age in dogs is dementia. Often, this dementia gets much worse as the sky darkens into night. My own schnauzer has this problem, and she usually spends her evenings pacing across the kitchen.

Sundowner’s syndrome is the name of this common dementia symptom. Often, dogs who suffer from it are pacing, panting, drooling and generally keeping their families up all night.

We don’t know exactly why this happens, but using melatonin has shown to relieve these symptoms and help older dogs (and their owners)  get rest at night.


Since the main side effect of melatonin is sleepiness, it is a great supplement to try for anxiety!

Whether your dog has general or separation anxiety, or anxiety specifically triggered by an event, melatonin can bring them down a notch and give them a sense of peace. It can also be used in combo with other meds and supplements to create a sense of well-being.

Some dogs with noise phobias do very well with just a daily dose of melatonin! Talk to your vet about this. I’ve seen it work for anxious pets, and it is nice if you don’t have to use a more powerful sedative all the time.

Cushing’s Disease

Nighttime sleeplessness is a common complaint from owners whose dogs suffer from Cushing’s disease.

Cushing’s disease is a complicated medical condition that impacts every dog differently. Cushing’s dogs have problems regulating their own hormones, often due to a tumor on their pituitary gland. The medications given to help regulate these hormones can also have side effects. Cushing’s disease is complicated and no fun to manage.

I have seen many Cushing’s dogs successfully treated with melatonin, and it can make a huge difference in regulating their sleep cycles!

Melatonin For Dogs

Overall, melatonin is a safe and effective way to treat sleep problems and anxiety in dogs. The melatonin dosage for dogs will be best determined by your vet. Melatonin can help with anxiety and dementia by regulating the dog’s sleep cycles. This will relax them AND you, since you won’t be up all night pacing with them!

Just be careful that the supplement you choose does not contain the ingredient xylitol, as this is a deadly and toxic substance to dogs.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to your comments.  Have you ever given your dog melatonin?  I’m curious! Send me a reply through email: latheriault@hugspetproducts.com or through the comment section below.

Thank you for sticking around. There’s a lot more where this came from, including Mast Cell Tumor Dog Life Expectancy, and more!


Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician.  Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges. You can find more of her work on her website https://MyWickedTribe.com.

Dog Tranquilizers – What You Need to Know

As a former veterinary technician, I get asked a lot of questions when I’m chatting with other dog owners. One topic that frequently comes up are questions about dog tranquilizers.

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Folks like to pick my brain, comparing the kinds of medications that I’ve used to whatever their veterinarian prefers to prescribe.

It makes sense.  I was a technician for 10 years and worked with many different veterinarians. I have seen just about every kind of tranquilizer currently used in dogs.

When it comes to questions about dog tranquilizers, your best resource is your veterinarian! They can give you specific advice, based on your dog’s unique medical history.

You might be interested in:  Calming Music for Dogs

If you are looking for some information about tranquilizers and how they are used in dogs, then I hope this article can answers your questions!

Dog Tranquilizers

There are a lot of different drugs that can be used as tranquilizers. But first, what is a tranquilizer anyway?

A tranquilizer is a medication that is given to reduce anxiety or tension. Often the words “tranquilizer” and “sedative” are used the same way, even though they have different meanings.

A sedative is used specifically to make an animal sleepy. Many sedatives also work as tranquilizers (it’s hard to be tense when you are sleepy), but not all tranquilizers will have this effect.

It is important that you explain what kind of effect you are looking for when talking to your vet about tranquilizers. Are you looking to reduce anxiety, or do you want a sleepy puppy?

Once your vet understands why you want a tranquilizer, they can point you to an over the counter or prescription product that fits your needs.

Types of Dog Tranquilizers

Most dog tranquilizers are prescription products. While over the counter (OTC) medications often work as sedatives, they don’t tend to be much help in reducing general anxiety or with behavior problems.

Depending on your needs, you may be able to get by with an OTC at times. But if you have a bigger issue, like a dog recovering from surgery, or one with separation anxiety, you will definitely want to go with a prescription product.

Over the Counter

There are no medications specifically marketed as dog tranquilizers that are OTC. But many folks take advantage of the sedative effect of antihistamines, and use them to make their dogs sleepy. Benadryl is probably the most common one used for this reason.

Most often used for loud holidays like New Years Eve, these kinds of products work pretty well, up to a point. While a dog may be a bit sleepy for a few hours after taking the medication, it doesn’t take much to wake them up.

Read this:  The Use of Medications in Canine Behavior Therapy

For a dog with a mild fear of fireworks, Benadryl may be enough to keep them calm. But for an animal who is truly terrified of fireworks, it doesn’t take much to get them excited and override the sedative effects of the Benadryl. They can power through the drug in seconds.

That is the big downside to using an OTC product for a tranquilizer- a bit of adrenaline in your dog’s system will quickly make the medication useless. Once a dog is excited, no tranquilizer or sedative will work until they have calmed down.

OTC products are best used for short term, temporary situations lasting no more than a few hours.


There are many different prescription medications used as dog tranquilizers.

Acepromazine is one of the most common tranquilizers prescribed to dogs, but is not an ideal one for noise phobias. Some dogs actually get very reactive to noises while on Acepromazine. But for sedation and mild anxiety, acepromazine can work very well.

Gabapentin and trazodone are also often used in veterinary medicine. These medications act as sedatives. I personally really like both of these options for short-term use. Trazodone especially seems to do a great job in reducing problems with fireworks and other stressful situations. These are both great options for after a surgery.

For dogs with bigger issues, there are controlled drugs like alprazolam that work very well as tranquilizers. Other antidepressants and anti anxiety medications are also used by vets. It just depends on your dog’s history and what your vet prefers to prescribe.

Prescription tranquilizers work well for both short and long term use, and can be used for situational anxiety as well as for more general anxiety.

Why Use Dog Tranquilizers?

There are many reasons why someone would want to use a dog tranquilizer. In most of these cases, a prescription product is a better choice than trying an OTC.

Surgery Recovery

It is very common to use tranquilizers after your dog has surgery, to keep them quiet and calm as they recover.

This is especially important for major surgeries, like TPLO’s, where a dog has weeks of minimal activity on the horizon. But even for a spay or neuter, a dog who is too active afterwards can cause complications. Sometimes expensive complications.

If your dog is a bouncy, energetic one, then definitely request a sedative to go home with you after surgery!

Behavioral Problems

Most of the time, behavior problems are best treated by a combination of prescription tranquilizers and training. Anxiety in dogs can be expressed in many different ways, from destructive chewing to escape attempts.

Often, these behaviors are also potentially dangerous to the dog (and owners). If you dog has severe anxiety, then medications may well be the difference between life and death.

OTC drugs may work for mild anxiety at times, but they wear off quickly and don’t work at all for dogs with bigger problems.

Stressful Situations

This is probably the most common reason for an owner to request a sedative. Whether your dog hates nail trims or the groomer, or gets scared in the car, there are just times you need them to be calm.

The following video shows a trainer clipping the nails of a pretty scared little dog. It’s hard to watch in places, but she did a great job.

Both OTC and prescription drugs can work for these situations. Whether one is a better choice than the other will really depend on your dog. I can get by using Benadryl for the 4th of July holiday, because none of my dogs have a strong reaction to fireworks. But if I had a dog who was really scared of them, I would use a prescription product in a heartbeat.

The key to using a tranquilizer for situational anxiety is to get the medication on board about an hour BEFORE the stressful event starts. Once your dog is worked up, oral tranquilizers simply won’t work. You have to dose your dog before they start getting anxious, and re-dose them as needed to keep them calm.

Alternatives to Dog Tranquilizers

There are alternatives to using drugs for anxiety, and it is usually a good idea to try these before you move on to using medications!

Calming Supplements

You can find a lot of calming supplements for dogs online, and I have used many of them successfully.

These supplements are usually given mixed with food, or as a treat. Often featuring the word “calm” in the label, you can find all kinds of options out there. You will have to play around and find what works for your dog.

I particularly like a product called Zylkene, which is made from milk proteins. It has a natural, mild calming effect. It can be given daily or just when you need your dog to relax. It can also be used with other OTC and prescription products.

CBD-based products are also becoming more common. I haven’t tried them for anxiety in my dogs, but I have had several clients who use them and loved the effect.

Most of these products will help calm your dog, but their effect is limited. I like to say they work by bringing your dog down a notch on the anxiety scale. If your dog is really anxious, these kinds of supplements alone might not be enough.

Pheromone-Based Products

These products mimic the pheromones produced by mothers while nursing their young. They come as sprays, diffusers and even as collars your dog can wear. All your dog has to do is be around the product (you can’t smell it) and the pheromones will reduce their anxiety.

The diffusers and collars can work for a full month at a time. They are great for events like moving, holidays and even vet visits. Many veterinary clinics use pheromone products in house, and sell them as well. You can easily find them online too.

The great thing about pheromone based products is that they can be used alone or in combination with other supplements and medications. They are safe to use in puppies and in older dogs too.


Thunder shirts are specially designed clothing that a dog wears when exposed to a stressful situation.

The shirts work by putting gentle, constant pressure on your dog’s body. Like being wrapped in a blanket, this sensation often causes a dog to relax. I have seen several dogs who were terrified by thunder get through storms calmly wearing a thunder shirt.

This is a great option when you need to keep your dog calm and there isn’t time to use medication. It is definitely worth trying if your dog doesn’t need tranquilizers for general anxiety, but just needs a bit of help from time to time.


There are a lot of options when it comes to dog tranquilizers. You can go for an OTC, a prescription medication, or try one of the alternatives. It takes some trial and error to find the best solution for each individual dog, so don’t feel down if your first choice doesn’t work.

Sometimes the best option is a combination of products. I often use calming supplements along with OTC medications and pheromone products in my dogs. Mix and match and see what works best for your dog!

5 Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs

Symptoms of bloat in dogs appear in deep chested, large dogs like German Shepherds and Boxers.Symptoms of bloat in dogs occur in three phases:

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Phase One – Serious!

(1) Attempts to vomit but is not producing anything. This happens because the stomach is actually twisted inside and nothing can be expelled.  This is very painful for the dog.

(2) Excessive drooling.  Don’t mistake this for the natural drooling that occurs in some large breeds.  This will be a steady flow.

(3) Stomach begins to swell.

Phase Two – Critical!

(4) Whining, drooling, gums turn dark red.  At this stage, your dog is very distressed.  He/she is trying to communicate that something is seriously wrong.

Phase Three – Dire!

(5) Abdomen is large and hard, gums turn white, high heart rate. Do not wait to get to phase three. Take your dog to an emergency clinic the minute you suspect bloat.

What is Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat in dogs, or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) is a condition where the dog’s stomach fills with gas and fluid. The dog’s stomach becomes so swollen that it can actually twist on itself.  A twisted stomach pinches both ends and prevents blood from circulating.

What Causes Bloat?

Experts agree that there is no individually specific cause of bloat in dogs. Instead, it appears to occur as a result of factors including genetics, breed, food (dry kibble) ingredients, and feeding routine.

The size of rib-cage/chest in relation to the abdomen, and the dog’s emotional state are also factors that play into the risk.

Dogs with first-line relatives who have suffered from bloat are at risk.

READ This Study Published by The Canadian Veterinary Journal.

Causes of Bloat in Dogs Explained

Genetics/Breed Type

As mentioned above, there are several large breeds that are susceptible to symptoms of bloat in dogs.  These include the German Shepherd, Basset Hound, Doberman Pinscher, Boxers, and many others.

NOTE: Although large breeds tend to be more at risk, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of smaller breeds suffering the same condition.

Dry Kibble

Some websites claim this is a myth while others claim its validity.  A report conducted in 2017 suggests the possibility of small particle kibble leaving the dog at higher risk of bloat. However, further studies revealed that kibble had no great effect on the risk.  At this point, there don’t appear to be any hard facts on the topic. 

Click on the link below for more information on the dry kibble study

Get the details of this report HERE (veterinaryevidence.org)


Many dogs settle into a temporary kennel or boarding situation just fine. Others, however, become very stressed. My dog, for example, wouldn’t eat much while I was away. When I return, she wants to devour an entire bag of food.

She’s so excited for me to be home that she always wants to run and play after a big meal.  I decided not to put her in a kennel when I go on vacation now.  I have someone stay at the house while I’m away. There’s less chance of having to deal with the symptoms of bloat in dogs this way.

How Can I Prevent Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs?

There are a few things you can do to prevent symptoms of bloat in dogs.  First, watch how much food your dog gets at one sitting, and how fast he/she eats.

A. Interactive Bloat Stop Dog Bowl

Eating too quickly and then engaging in strenuous play or exercise can bring on an episode of bloat.  To avoid this, consider purchasing a special bowl for dogs.  These bowls are designed to force the dog to eat slowly.

I’ve actually seen these in action and they make a big difference. Instead of being able to gobble down the food in one gulp, the dog has work for the food.

Outward Hound Kyjen 51002 Fun Feeder Slow Feed Interactive Bloat Stop Dog Bowl, Large, Blue

Great Danes have the highest average like time risk of 42.4%. 

B. Canned Dog Food

In order to properly use the “bloat stop dog bowl” listed above, you need good quality canned dog food. The idea is to smear the food into the grooves. This slows feeding time down.

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Wet Dog Food, Salmon & Vegetable Entrée Canned Dog Food, 12.8 oz, 12 Pack

C . Michigan Ave Animal Hospital suggests this: Feed a dry food containing a calcium-rich meat meal (meat/lamb meal, fish meal, chicken by-product meal, meat meal, or bone meal) listed in the first four ingredients of the food.

Here is a clinical document that describes the symptoms of bloat in dogs.

Is There Anything I Can Do at Home to Treat Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs?

No. If you suspect your dog has bloat, there are no at-home treatments that will work. It is vital that you get your dog to an emergency clinic ASAP.

Bloat in dogs is more than just an upset stomach.  The dog’s stomach can actually twist and pinch off vital oxygen.  One of the symptoms of bloat in dogs is pale nose and gums.  Inadequate blood flow means there is no oxygenation happening. In other words, your dog suddenly has very poor circulation.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Bloat?

A dog with bloat (specifically with twisted stomach) will not likely make it through the night without medical attention.  The symptoms of bloat in dogs noted above are divided into three phases, but each phase develops quickly.

It’s important to mention that not all dogs end up with Gastric Dilation Volvulus in which the stomach becomes twisted.  A simple case of tummy upset with flatulence is not a medical emergency.

What Breeds Are Prone to Symptoms of Bloat?

Great Danes


Doberman Pinschers

German Shepherds


Irish Setter

Basset Hounds


Standard Poodles

St. Bernard

Newfoundland Dogs

According to the American Kennel Club,” Dogs fed one meal a day are twice as likely to bloat as those fed two meals a day. Fast eaters have five times the risk than dogs that are slow eaters.”

Other Things You Can Do To Help Prevent Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs

The steps required to reduce symptoms of bloat in dogs will be different for everybody.  You should consider how many animals you have in the house, where they eat, how often they eat, and whether they all eat together.

Avoid Anxiety Eating

My dog (a Lab) runs to the food bowl whenever she gets excited or nervous. Once I realized that was happening, I made sure to only put a little food at mealtimes and/or to remove the bowl entirely when she wasn’t feeding.

The idea is to get your dog to slow down while eating, and to eat in a calm environment. 

Small Amounts with Breaks in Between

If your dog power eats no matter what, try feeding very small amounts spread out over an hour.

You can do this with dry or wet food.  Allow the dog to eat a small amount, then relax the dog with some grooming or patting for five minutes. Alternate feeding and resting until the meal has been eaten.

My dog loves to be brushed; therefore, I would take a few minutes to do that between servings.

How Can a Veterinarian Reverse Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs?

 The danger of bloat is the twisted stomach. Immediate surgery is the only chance the dog has of survival. During surgery, the doctor returns the stomach to its rightful position, allowing gases to escape. In order to prevent bloat from recurring in your dog, the surgeon will perform a gastropexy.

Gastropexy involves stapling the dog’s stomach to the inside lining.  This ensures it will not happen again.

Preventative surgery is sometimes performed at the time the dog is being sterilized. Surgeons are able to perform a laparascopy.  A small incision is made and the stomach is stapled using tools that do not require invasive surgery.

Note: This is an expensive procedure to do when you cannot be sure that your dog is at risk.  Some people, however, prefer the peace of mind.

The Cost of Gastropexy

Symptoms of bloat in dogs indicate a serious and life-threatening condition.  Dog owners don’t usually stop to ask for the cost at this stressful time.

Generally speaking, you could pay anywhere from $400 to thousands of dollars.  Costs will vary depending on a variety of factors.  Individual clinics offer different services.  

The only way to offset these costs is to make sure to purchase pet insurance while the dog is still young and symptom-free.  You will get the best quote on pet insurance before your dog is diagnosed with chronic or critical illness.

Summing it UP

Now that you know which breeds are more susceptible to bloat, you can take steps to prevent it from happening at all.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post.  Please feel free to send me a comment (form below) or email me directly at latheriault@hugspetproducts.com. 

5 symptoms of bloat in dogs
Have a look at these serious symptoms of bloat in dogs.