Reviewed for accuracy on August 8, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM
If your dog is suffering from mild to moderate anxiety, it may be worth discussing over-the-counter (OTC) options with your veterinarian.
Here’s a breakdown of OTC dog anxiety treatments you can discuss with your veterinarian.
Anxiety supplements for dogs are most likely to be successful in mild to moderate cases.
The following active ingredients are commonly used in dog calming supplements.
Supplements that contain L-theanine (like Virbac Anxitane tablets or VetriScience Composure chews) are thought to work by increasing serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the central nervous system.
SAMe for dogs (like Nutramax Denosyl tablets or Virbac Novifit supplements) works in the same way that it does for people. These supplements are thought to work by increasing serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain.
Scientific evidence is lacking to support the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments, but some owners do use them and report being satisfied with the results.
Homeopathy is based on the theory that “like treats like;” in other words, it works by stimulating the body’s natural ability to respond to stressors.
Homeopathy gets around the problem of potentially making matters worse by diluting the active ingredients to the point where the solution is only “remembering” their presence.
Rescue Remedy is a popular homeopathic treatment for anxiety in dogs. It’s made from an extremely diluted combination of five flower essences—star-of-Bethlehem, rock rose, cherry plum, impatiens and clematis.
HomeoPet’s Anxiety Relief is another popular option. The many active ingredients in this preparation include calcium phosphate, jimsonweed and valerian root.
Pheromone therapy can be a good option when dogs are only mildly anxious.
The dog-appeasing pheromone is a version of the hormone that canine mothers produce to calm their puppies while they are nursing. Products containing the dog-appeasing pheromone are available as diffusers, sprays and collars.
Calming aids like The Anxiety Wrap or the ThunderShirt provide consistent body pressure, which seems to help some dogs with anxiety.
These products are most useful when dogs become anxious only under particular conditions, like during a thunderstorm for a trip to the veterinarian.
A Holistic Approach to Treating Dog Anxiety
In all but the mildest forms of dog anxiety, combining one or more forms of treatment (prescription medications, nutritional supplements, pheromones, etc.) with a behavioral modification protocol offers the best chance of success.
Behavioral modification for anxiety typically involves teaching dogs to remain calm when they are exposed to mild versions of their triggers, rewarding them and gradually increasing the intensity of their exposure as long as they remain calm.
If you are unsure of why your dog is acting anxious, talk to your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. They can make a diagnosis and determine the best course of action, whether that includes OTC calming solutions, behavioral modification protocols and/or anti-anxiety medications.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Kerkez
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