remedies for dog anxiety

Dog anxiety is a real emotion experienced by dogs of all ages and breeds, some more than others.  Often, fear is misconstrued as anxiety and vice-versa.  There is a difference.  Basically anxiety is the anticipation of a future event whereas fear is an active response to a specific event or stimulus.  Dogs feel anxious in response to an upcoming potential scary scenario.  Separation Anxiety is a great example of this.  When the dog’s owner puts on their shoes and coat and picks up their keys, the pup starts getting anxious.

In contrast, fear really doesn’t happen till the stimulus occurs, or when the event takes place.  Examples of fearful circumstances are loud noises and being in the vicinity of an unfamiliar person or dog.  Dogs react in three different ways to fear.  They either freeze, terrified of the thing that is occurring, fight, or try to escape from the stimulus (flight).  Whatever the response, fear stimulates the basic survival instincts of the dog.

Some of the outgrowths of both anxiety and fear are excessive barking, growling or howling (hound), lip licking, pacing, shaking, yawning, panting, irregular urination or bowl movements, and destructive behavior, to name a few.  Often, exercise or behavior modification can work, but any trainer or dog behaviorist knows that sometimes it feels that a dog needs something else.

How do you address the above, whether it is fear or anxiety?  While there are many ways to address both, this blog is not intended to address the physical training and behavior modification that can be done.  I want to review some of the more common alternative remedies that are available, that being calming aids and anti-anxiety medication.  As a caveat, I am not recommending or prescribing one remedy over the other, but just presenting the more popular remedies available at the moment.  I highly recommend speaking with your veterinarian before trying any of the following.

There are many available calming aids these days.  There is the Anxiety Wrap (Thunder Shirt) which fits like a tight sweater around the pup, causing him to feel “hugged”.  There are pheromone collars such as Adaptil that create calming aromas.    Some guardians have even gone to CBD oil to treat the anxiety.  Regarding CBD oil, there is a lot of conflicting reviews on the internet.  Some dog owners swear by it but if you ask a Vet, you’ll get mixed reviews.  CBD, or cannabidiol, is found in marijuana and hemp.  There are no actual studies on its effectiveness, but touters of CBD claim that it can eliminate pain and bring a calm state to a dog’s mind.  I’ll leave it up to you to decide. 

Next on the list is something called Rescue Remedy.  It is an alleged calming agent that is sold pet stores, both brick and mortar and on the internet.  All the large online retailers also sell it.  Rescue Remedy is a drop administered orally, with the amount and frequency dependent on the size of the dog.  It is said to work very quickly.  It contains natural flower essences (some of the options are Cherry Plum, Clematis, Impatiens, Rock Rose and Star of Bethlehem) that impact the dog’s brain in different ways, one of which is for a “calmer, self-controlled pet”.  Again, many dog owners swear by it.

Last on the list are anti-anxiety medications only prescribed by a licensed veterinarian.  Some of the options here are, and again you must consult with a Vet, Benadryl, Prozac, Trazadone, Clomipramine  and Xanax.  Each affects the brain in different ways – while one may not work for you dog, another might. 

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