From loud noises to trips to the vet, a variety of situations can cause stress in dogs. Fortunately, there are lots of safe and effective ways to help anxious pooches feel calmer.
Dogs get stressed just like we do, though usually for different reasons. While work pressures, finances, family upsets and health problems are among our top stressors, canine stress often arises from changes in routine, household upheaval, loud noises, insufficient exercise, separation anxiety, and of course, visits to the vet! While many of these situations may be unavoidable, the good news is that there are lots of natural and effective ways to ease your dog’s stress and help him feel better.
Safe and easy to administer, flower essences can be very helpful for calming a stressed dog. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is a go-to formula for any stressful situation. Just rub a few drops into the dog’s ears or paw pads, or add a bit to his drinking water. Individual essences such as Aspen, Mimulus, Rock Rose and Star of Bethlehem can also help with anxiety and stress.
Where do I find them? Although Bach is probably the best known flower essence brand, there are other companies to choose from as well. Look for products that are formulated for animals.
High quality essential oils are another effective way to calm stress in dogs. Lavender is especially effective, while Chamomile, Rose and Ylang Ylang are also helpful. Dilute just a few drops in a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil, rub some of the mixture between your palms, and massage it on your dog’s coat. Good quality essential oils can also be diffused into the air for a calming effect.
Where do I find them? It’s vitally important to use pure therapeutic-grade essential oils, not cheap, adulterated and potentially toxic products from department or dollar stores. Companies such as animalEO and Young Living make high quality essential oils as does Essential Herban Pet Life, whose Dog Anxiety blend comes in spray, topical or diffuser forms.
Chews and supplements
A variety of natural supplements and even treats are formulated to help ease canine stress. They may contain ingredients such as L-tryptohphan (an amino acid that the body converts into serotonin) and chamomile (an herb known for its ability to reduce anxiety and stress), along with other relaxing herbs such as valerian and passionflower. Incorporated into a palatable treat or chewable supplement, they can help calm stressed canines.
In recent years, CBD has exploded onto the market with all kinds of products for animals – from oils and tinctures to treats and supplements. Among many other things, CBD is effective for relieving stress and anxiety. The catch is that there are a lot of companies popping up that are taking advantage of the CBD “craze”, so it’s important to ensure that any CBD you buy for your dog comes from a reputable source whose products are backed up by solid science and research. Also be sure to carefully follow dosage directions when giving a CBD product to your dog.
Where do I find them? Here is a list of companies that sell quality CBD products for animals:
Animal Nutritional Products, anpvet.com
Grizzly Pet Products, grizzlypetproducts.com
Iceland Pure, icelandpure.com
Rovers Pet Products, roverspet.com
Smart Hemp CBD, mysmarthempcbd.com
Being swaddled is comforting to babies, so why not for dogs too? Therapeutic body wraps can be effective for calming canine anxiety and stress in the event of loud noises or other stressful situations. These garments create a gentle but constant pressure over the dog’s body that eases anxiety and helps him feel more secure.
Minimizing or reducing stressors
Keep in mind that it’s also important to understand why your dog is stressed to begin with, and to take steps to identify and reduce the stressors in his life. If his stress is associated with separation anxiety, you might need the help of a trainer or animal behaviorist to solve the problem. If your dog gets particularly stressed by loud noises, keep him indoors when it’s thundering, or if someone is setting off fireworks. Make sure he’s getting enough exercise, companionship and mental stimulation so he doesn’t get bored or lonely. If you’re moving house, or having renovations done, try to keep his routine as normal as possible. The same applies if there’s a change in the household – e.g. a child leaving home, a companion animal (or person) dying, or someone new (human or animal!) moving in. And remember to keep your own stress levels under control – if you’re stressed, he’ll feel it too.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to help ease your dog’s stress without resorting to conventional medications!
Ann Brightman is Managing Editor for Animal Wellness Magazine and Integrative Veterinary Care Journal. A lifelong animal lover, she has also been a writer and editor for over 25 years. Ann is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and is also a Tai Chi instructor.