Congratulations, you survived 4th of July! Hopefully your pet is safe and sound and got through the holiday without any alarming incidents. But what about all the fireworks the average fun loving pyromaniac has left? Since summer isn’t over, I think it’s safe to say there will be many more opportunities for those bad boys to get lighted. The same goes for other events – the chances of thunderstorms and severe weather will most likely continue this summer (not surprising considering the crazy weather we’ve had thus far).
Bottom line: if your dog experiences anxiety in certain situations, then you’re not alone. I would estimate at least 50% of dog owners would report their dogs displaying symptoms of heightened anxiety or high stress levels in response to particular situations. It could be loud noises (thunder, fireworks, etc.), traveling, or a trip to the vet’s office.
While the most effective way to break these habits are through rehabilitation, training, and behavior modification – this takes time. There may be situations where your dog has not yet mastered these concepts and improvement seems far from your grasp. This may lead you to toy with the idea of visiting your local vet for some sedatives or other anti anxiety medications.
Why I Don’t Recommend Sedatives & Anti Anxiety Meds
Medication is just a Band-Aid. It will mask the problem, but won’t get to the root and solve it. While doping up your pet is obviously the easier solution, please think twice. Drugging our dog won’t help them to become functioning members in our modern world. And it certainly won’t help them become balanced animals. Dogs need the right training and leadership to overcome fears and anxieties.
Plus, overuse of these powerful antibiotics and drugs can lead to liver disease over time. If you reach for these drugs every time your dog is afraid, or every time it thunders, then you’re using these drugs too often. Some main functions of the liver include removing harmful compounds from the bloodstream, detoxifying waste and poisons, and breaking down medicines administered to your dog. This can include steroids, sedatives, anesthesia, and antibiotics. Similar to humans, heavy antibiotic or drug use can wear down the liver over time and lead to dysfunction and eventually disease.
Anti Anxiety Alternatives
There are a variety of anti anxiety alternatives that can be used in the interim. Some people have success with compression wraps such as the Thundershirt, Anxiety Wrap, Storm Defender, Zen Dog, and Happy Hoodie.
Others turn to anti anxiety products from their local pet store or online marketplace. While all natural, anti anxiety products are preferred over antibiotics and sedatives, oftentimes, you don’t know what ingredients were used and in what amounts. You don’t always know what you’re getting with these products. It can also be confusing as there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of anti anxiety products all claiming to do the same thing on the market today.
If you find yourself needing some additional help I recommend taking a trip to your local health food store to purchase some herbs or supplements that can aid in reducing stress and anxiety.
Herbal remedies are relatively safe and use the healing power found in nature to treat common conditions and ailments. The reason herbs are much safer is because they’re non-addictive, mild, and often do not cause drowsiness or a range of other discouraging side effects.
Always do your own research and when possible consult a holistic veterinarian or other professional for dosage information. Take care NOT to combine any herbs with prescription medications and avoid continuous extended use. While herbs are much safer than drugs or antibiotics, neither should be used continuously. Seek a professional trainer to work on your dog’s fears and anxieties and use the following herbs only when necessary. It’s also worth noting that finding natural remedies usually consist of some trial and error. While one herb may work great for one dog, it might not be the best choice for another.
Many of the following herbs come in a variety of forms (capsules, powders, liquids). The best way to administer these herbs to your dog is to serve with food (unless stated otherwise) or to mix with water into a tea and serve cooled for pets to drink.
Here are some herbs that produce a calming effect for nervous, anxious, or overly excitable dogs:
St John’s Wort
This herb is quite popular and well known for treating anxiety disorders and depression in humans. In addition, it’s proven effective in treating depression, stress, and anxiety in laboratory animals and is commonly used in cats and dogs. Because of it’s relaxing effects it’s often used on dogs with mild anxiety, fears and phobias, dogs suffering from separation anxiety, and dogs with obsessive-compulsive behavior.
The root of this plant has been proven to increase a chemical found in the brain (gamma aminobutyric acid) to regulate nerve cells. It results in a calming effect thus reducing anxiety. It generally treats a wide range of stress and anxiety issues in dogs ranging from hyperactivity, tension, restlessness, insomnia, and other related issues. Some people report Valerian root to be successful in reducing the seizures in epileptic dogs. However, I wouldn’t recommend using this herb in conjunction with other seizure medication before consulting with a veterinarian or other qualified health professional.
This plant helps to treat nervous, anxious pets and also can be used as a mild to moderate pain reliever. This plant contains specific compounds (beta-carboline harmala alkaloids) that act as monoamine oxidase inhibitors. What does this mean? The plant aids in feel good neurotransmitters. Basically, not only does this plant produce calming effects, but it also produces a sense of well being reducing stress and anxiety and promoting chemicals responsible for happiness.
This herb is used to treat nervousness, tension, anxiety, phobias, excitability, travel sickness and epilepsy in dogs and cats. It won’t cause drowsiness, impair normal behavior or performance making it the herb of choice for use when traveling, training, and participating in obedience or showing. Some people claim this herb is better suited for nervousness, jitters, muscle twitches, or hypersensitivity.
This herb has a wide range of positive benefits associated with it. Relating to anxiety, chamomile has been known for it’s calming effect and is found in most anti anxiety pet products. It reduces anxiety, calms nerves and induces sleep. More specifically, chamomile is known for calming nerves and the stomach with its antispasmodic and mild sedative effects for the digestive system. It’s useful for dogs that experience stress induced digestive troubles or nervous stomachs (diarrhea, gas, vomiting, etc.).
This is another herb with a wide range of medicinal uses. It comes from the mint family and emits a lemon-mint fragrance. Specifically related to anxiety, this herb calms nerves, soothes, and relaxes. Similar to chamomile, it’s a digestive aid and can help to reduce common digestive issues due to stress and neutralize gas. In addition it has muscle-relaxing benefits and can also deodorize and repel insects.