The world can be a scary place for some dogs, particularly when isolation, fireworks, or strangely shaped/colored objects enter the environment.
Dogs demonstrate that they feel anxious with challenging behaviors like hiding, excessive barking, panting, drooling, exhibiting restlessness, and urinating or defecating in the house. The worst behavior anxiety brings on is aggression. Dog bites can get owners embroiled in lawsuits that may even lead to the dog’s removal from the home.
Dog owners with anxious dogs should get to know all of the tools at their disposal. These top treatments for dog anxiety should get you thinking about your options.
Dog Anxiety Medications
Until only recently the first stop for the anxious dog was the veterinarian. Mood medications for people, called psychotropic drugs, became widespread in the 1980s. It wasn’t long before veterinary science co-opted them for pets. After all, it was at this time that pets’ status began to rise to family member level.
After listening to a dog owner’s account of anxious behaviors, veterinarians often prescribe one of these medications:
Fluoxetine (Reconcile or Prozac)
Owner and veterinarian most often gauge medication effectiveness by monitoring the dog’s behavior and health once the medication reaches its full effect. Many dog owners have had great results using just low levels of the medications mentioned above.
Behaviorists Weigh In: The Training Approach to Easing Dog Anxiety
One concern with treating anxiety with medication is that the anxiety could stem from owner behavior and the owner-dog dynamic rather than any chemical imbalance that needs to be rectified.
Even with the prescribed medication, if the ineffective behaviors continue, the anxiety will likely persist. Those who hesitate to go right to a strong medication may want to consider training with a positive response trainer first.
Renowned behavioralist Ceasar Milan explains that, while many dogs do feel intense anxiety, others have learned some behaviors which he calls “simulated separation anxiety.” This simulated anxiety elicits responses from the owner which reward the dog. Even negative rewards like scolding still count as attention, after all. Milan then recommends that owners work on their own behavior so that they convey a leadership the dog can feel confident in. Also, owners working with a trainer must help the dog develop better self-control.
Milan recommends owners consider using a crate to separate the dog from the owner. Increasing time apart slowly helps the dog grow accustomed to feeling safe while alone. Finally, this specific exercise should be backed up with regular obedience training, consistent discipline, and robust exercise.
Beyond Medication and Training: Dog Calming Products
The American Kennel Club (AKC) tells us that approximately 16 percent of dogs nationwide suffer from separation anxiety. With the damage wrought by their chewing, urinating and more, it’s no wonder owners try lots of alternatives to bring their dogs—and themselves—some peace. The products have emerged in recent years as alternatives to medications.
Dog wraps: several manufacturers create a tightly-fitting canine jacket meant to hit pressure points which in turn help the dog feel secure and comforted. This product works best in short doses, typically for the duration of a thunderstorm or fireworks display. Owners should be on hand to remove the wrap once the loud noises have subsided.
Calming Sprays: These products claim to contain substances that mimic the pheromone mother dogs produce when calming their pups. These often add fragrances as well, most likely to provide a good scent for owners. Both diffusers and spray bottle forms exist.
Calming Herbal Treats: manufacturers have added naturally sedative herbs like valerian root and chamomile to their treats. Others come with amino acids L-theanine and L-tryptophan which some studies have shown to lower the stress response and promote relaxation.
Treat like Frenchie Fries CBD Oil and Calming Chews: these delicious treats contain cannabidiol, one type of cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are fatty compounds found in hemp and the human body that are central to the nervous system functioning. Of the 80 cannabinoid varieties, only tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) causes the mind-altering effects we associate with a “high.” Cannabidiol, on the other hand, is a cousin of THC but free of any psychoactive substances.
In a recent interview, Oakland California holistic veterinarian and author Dr. Gary Richter explains that “CBD affects the endocannabinoid system, which is a system of neurotransmitters in the body that helps balance and maintain normal body function.” It turns out that all mammals have an endocannabinoid system which keeps mood, pain, and appetite regulated. The theory is that adequate cannabidiol can help put the brakes on an anxiety spike.
Brandon Nolte, author of “The Ultimate Guide to CBD Health Oil” echoes Dr. Richter’s sentiments. He explains, “CBD binds to your dog’s CBD receptors and creates a sense of calm and security.”
Funded studies are underway to explore the assertions about cannabidiol’s power coming from veterinarians, medical researchers, and pet owners. Already, one Cornell University study has proven that cannabidiol reduces swelling and improves joint pain in dogs with osteoarthritis. Another study from Colorado State studied the effects of CBD on dogs with seizure disorders. 89% of the dogs receiving the CBD experienced a reduction in seizure frequency. Frenchie Fries will always keep you apprised of all research exploring the effects of cannabidiol on dog anxiety.
Treating Dog Anxiety in 2020: Much More than Meds
Where once medications seemed to be miracle drugs, today’s consumer is slower to go for pills that have side effects and don’t always treat the root causes of behavioral issues. Starting with training and products like CBD oils and treats provide a gentler way to begin addressing your dog’s anxiety.