Dog anxiety is surprisingly common. Whether it is fireworks, a trip to the vet, or being left alone, plenty of everyday stressors can throw our canines for a loop.
Does your dog mimic Cujo at the mere sight of the nail clippers? Or perhaps your dog hides every time a loud truck goes by? Anxiety in dogs is not only troublesome, but it can even negatively affect our pet’s lifespan and health.
No matter the cause of your pet’s anxiety, utilizing a natural sedative is an effective way to keep your dog calm. A calm, relaxed dog is a happy dog. (And an owner with a calm, relaxed dog is a happy owner.)
Of course, not all natural sedatives are equal, and not all of them are suitable for every situation. There are many causes and types of anxiety in dogs. Why your dog is anxious has a significant impact on what natural remedies might work.
In this article, we’ll outline five of the most common, effective natural sedatives that can help your hyperactive, anxious pooch calm down.
But, before we get to that, let’s take a look at the causes and symptoms of dog anxiety so that you can choose the best remedy for your dog.
Common Causes of Anxiety in Dogs
Before considering what natural remedies you should use for your dog, it is vital to determine why your dog is anxious in the first place.
There are many different reasons a dog might become anxious. Most anxious dogs have event-based anxiety. This anxiety is caused by a specific trigger that a dog perceives as fearful.
Common anxiety triggers include things like car rides, separation, and loud noises. Many of these things can be predicted ahead of time, which expands the list of natural sedatives that you can use. When you know an anxiety-inducing event is going to happen, you can give your dog a one-time oral sedative.
However, some triggers cannot be predicted. You never know when someone is going to ring the doorbell, for example. These causes require a more generalized approach since you never know when your dog might become anxious.
Some dogs can become anxious when confined. This is often called confinement anxiety or crate aggression. While this usually occurs when a dog is limited to a crate, it can also happen when they’re in a bigger area, like a fenced-in yard.
While anxiety in dogs is usually triggered by specific events, some medical conditions can leave a dog prone to general anxiety. This type of anxiety is often called age-related anxiety because it is often caused by conditions that only affect older pets.
Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is an excellent example of this. This disorder can cause a dog’s memory, perception, and awareness to falter, much like Alzheimer’s disease in humans. As you might expect, these symptoms can cause a dog to become anxious for no apparent reason.
Luckily, when the underlying illness is treated, the anxiety often goes away on its own. But this is not always the case. Some dogs might benefit from a natural sedative even when their underlying condition is brought under control.
Figuring out what is causing your pet to become anxious can help you choose the correct natural sedative. But how do you know when your pet is anxious and not suffering from something else?
Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs
Luckily, most signs of dog anxiety are pretty straightforward. The most prevalent and visible symptoms include:
- Excessive Barking
However, other symptoms can be very telling but are not as obviously caused by anxiety, such as:
- Urinating or defecating inappropriately (such as in the house or car)
- Destructive behavior
- Compulsive behaviors
While one dog might pace and bark when anxious, another might tear up the furniture and mark on the walls.
It is essential to correctly identify a dog’s anxiety so that it can be treated appropriately. Just because a dog has accidents inside the house does not mean they are not housetrained. Instead, they might be anxious.
Of course, it is essential to rule out other diseases and disorders before settling on an anxiety diagnosis. Many of these symptoms can be caused by other disorders. Plus, anxiety itself can also be caused by an underlying condition, as we previously discussed.
Taking your pet to the vet to rule out an underlying problem is a vital part of treating your pet’s anxiety. Once you determine that your pet is experiencing anxiety, there are five natural sedatives that you can try.
CBD Oil for Anxiety in Dogs
CBD oil is a natural compound found in cannabis and hemp. CBD does not contain THC, which is what gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. In most cases, CBD oil is derived from hemp.
CBD works by affecting the endocannabinoid receptors located in a dog’s nervous system. The endocannabinoid receptors help keep the body in a balanced state. These receptors affect things like pain, sleep, mood, and inflammation.
When a dog takes CBD, it reacts with these receptors and can cause the canine to feel more relaxed. Their “flight-or-fight” response is dulled, which can lessen their anxiety.
The exact effect of CBD can vary from dog to dog. Some dogs react very positively to CBD, while others are not affected at all. The factors that affect a dog’s reaction are not yet fully known.
There are some adverse side effectsof CBD oil in large doses, but they are rare and often minor.
Like with all treatments, CBD oil can cause some side effects. It can decrease the production of saliva, which can cause thirst and can make some dogs drowsy when used in high-doses.
Natural Supplements for Anxiety in Dogs
Some supplements can affect a dog’s anxiety levels. These supplements aim to increase a specific chemical that is naturally present in a dog’s body in an attempt to calm them down.
A typical natural supplement used to treat anxiety is Melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that makes a dog feel sleepy. When nighttime begins to fall, a dog’s body starts producing melatonin to get them ready for bed.
When given as a supplement, Melatonin can be used as a natural sedative to treat anxiety and stress. Melatonin makes a dog feel calm and laidback, much like humans do before we go to sleep.
However, because this supplement only works for a relatively short time, it is best used for predictable, event-based anxiety. It is easy to give your dog melatonin before fireworks or a trip to the vet, for example. But it is much harder to give your dog melatonin in time if unpredictable events make them anxious, like loud trucks rolling by or someone ringing the doorbell.
Other natural supplements include things like L-theanine. L-theanine produces alpha brain waves. These brain waves are indicative of a relaxed, yet alert state. This supplement is an excellent option for pets who tend to react to other supplements with drowsiness.
Pheromones are chemicals produced by an animal that gives off a scent. Often, this scent is meant to be picked up by a different animal. It is a way for animals to “talk” back and forth.
As you likely know, dogs have a much more sensitive sense of smell than humans. Because of this, they can detect pheromones much easier than humans. They also have receptors in that back of their nose and mouth that help them recognize specific pheromones that humans cannot detect.
There are many different types of pheromones, but the one we care about from treating anxiety in dogs is called D.A.P. This particular pheromone mimics the pheromone produced by nursing mothers to keep their puppies calm and comforted.
Studies have shown that this hormone lessens general anxiety and event-based anxiety. It has also been shown to be useful during socialization and training classes.
You can buy this pheromone in many different forms. It comes in sprays, air diffusers, and even collars. Because the pheromone sticks around for a while, this natural calming agent for dogs is great for canines with age-related anxiety or unpredictable anxiety triggers.
You just have to put the collar on your dog or plug in the air diffuser, and the pheromone will consistently work – day and night. You do not have to worry about giving your dog a pill every time you need to leave the house or in preparation for every thunderstorm.
Herbal Sedatives for Dogs
Many different herbal remedies are used to treat stress in dogs. Many of these can be purchased commercially in ready-to-use forms, though some dog owners do opt to make their own from scratch.
One of the most common herbs used to treat anxiety in dogs is valerian. This herb is safe, gentle, and widely used. It is particularly useful for dogs who have anxiety because of pain-related problems. It can also alleviate stomach upset, making it an excellent choice for dogs who tend to get sick when they are anxious.
Lavender is also common. Just like in humans, this herb produces a relaxing effect. It also is good for nervous stomachs.
St. John’s Wort is an herb that can relieve anxiety without causing drowsiness. If your dog tends to fall asleep when you try other natural sedatives, this herb might be a good option.
Skullcap is an herb in the mint family. While not directly used to treat anxiety, this herb can reduce the jitters and excitability some dogs feel when they become anxious. This herb is best for dogs who tend to pace or bark when anxiety strikes.
Many pet owners will use more than one of these herbs at a time to treat their canine. These herbs can also be paired with other treatments, such as pheromones, to produce an even stronger effect.
Your dog’s diet can play a role in their anxiety levels.
There are prescription diets available for dogs that have been proven in studies to reduce anxious behaviors. Many of these diets are supplemented with alpha-capsazepine and L-tryptophan, which are both known to produce a calming effect.
L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is responsible for the sleepiness many of us feel after eating Thanksgiving turkey. Alpha-capsazepine is a component of milk that is partially responsible for a newborn’s constant tiredness.
Switching your dog to a calming diet is an easy way to lower their anxiety. After all, you’re going to feed your dog anyway, so why not feed them something that can help them cope with everyday stressors?
What Can I Give My Dog for Anxiety?
We have discussed five of the most effective, natural calming remedies for dogs. The correct solution for your dog will depend on the exact type of anxiety they have.
CBD oil, herbs, and natural supplements are best for dogs with specific, predictable anxiety triggers. If your dog has separation anxiety, giving them a dose of CBD oil or herbal supplement might be just what they need.
However, because these natural sedatives wear off in a short period, they are not suitable for unpredictable anxiety.
In these cases, synthetic pheromones, a special diet, and increased exercise are often more suitable. These natural remedies for anxiety work longer than oral supplements. A special diet is going to help keep your dog calm all the time, unlike herbs that are only going to work for an hour or two.
Luckily, you do not have to pick only one of these remedies. Many dogs will benefit from a combined approach. You might install a synthetic pheromone air diffuser, start your dog on a CBD oil supplement, and increase the amount of exercise they get.
Feel free to experiment on what works best for your dog.
Dreschel, Nancy. “The effects of fear and anxiety on health and lifespan in pet dogs.”Applied Animal Behavior Science. July 2010.
McGarth, Stephanie. “Report of Adverse Effects Associated with the Administration of Cannabidiol in Health Dogs.” JAHVMA. 2018.
Araujo, Joseph. “ANXITANE® tablets reduce fear of human beings in a laboratory model of anxiety-related behavior.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior. September 2010.
Mills, Daniel. “A triple blind placebo-controlled investigation into the assessment of the effect of Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) on anxiety related behaviour of problem dogs in the veterinary clinic.”Applied Animal Behavior Science. June 2006.
Denenberg, Sagi. “Effects of dog-appeasing pheromones on anxiety and fear in puppies during training and on long-term socialization.” Journal of the American Venterinary Medical Association. 15 December 2008.
Shahinfar, Javad. “Comparison of valerian extract and diazepam on anxiety before orthopedic surgery.” Journal of Patient Safety & Quality Improvement. 2016.
Wells, Deborah. “Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 15 September 2006.
Kato, Maki. “Effects of prescription diet on dealing with stressful situations and performance of anxiety-related behaviors in privately owned anxious dogs.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior. January 2012.
Kristin Hitchcock was born and raised in Tennessee and currently lives there with her husband and daughter. She is passionate about helping pet parents create an enriching and fulfilling life for their canines by providing up to date, actionable insights. She currently owns two dogs, three cats, two lizards, and a bird.