There are many reasons why our pets get stressed, such as separation anxiety, illness, trips to the vet, thunderstorms, moving to a new residence, etc … the list can get really long and many of them are simply beyond our control, so read on as this post shows you some natural calming remedies for dogs.
In many ways, our pets are just like us. They can be calmed using natural methods and natural products and we want them to be as harmless as possible. Nature has provided many calming remedies! For those who want to take the natural route, here are several ways to start
To have a calm dog, we must begin with their immediate environment. There are a few things we can do to help your pet feel safe and secure in their surroundings.
- Get a crate. A crate provides a place of safety whenever your pet feels a need to retreat.
- Try to avoid excessive noises at home. Keep the volume on the TV down as much as you can. Remember that your pet has a very keen sense of hearing. Try to keep a calm home environment.
- Be calm when you’re around your dog. Speak softly, do not yell. Dogs can pick up on their owner’s emotions and some dogs can get literally sick in a chaotic environment.
Among the many benefits of giving your pet a massage are:
- Relieves stress, anxiety
- Increased circulation
- Decrease blood pressure
- Improves immune system
Best of all, it strengthens the bond between pet and owner. Gently massage the limbs, belly, chest, throat, and head. Gently massaging your pet also improves the owner’s mood. Note that there are instances when giving a massage is not recommended in cases such as recent surgery, fractured bones, or infectious diseases. If in doubt, please speak to your vet.
The effect of music on humans and dogs are similar. Its been proven that music reduces anxiety, lowers heart rate, and alleviates chronic pain. Soothing music allows our pets to sleep more comfortably and deeply. Dogs have sensitive hearing so make sure it has a calm, pleasant feel to it and don’t play it too loud. You can find free dog music apps here. Also available on Spotify.
My personal favorite is a wireless speaker that plays psychoacoustic music designed for dogs and cats that you can get from iCalmpet.com. They produce different types of music for different situations such as anxiety and phobias. You can listen here for samples.
Chamomile is truly versatile and can benefit your pet in many ways such as:
- Relieves anxiety
- Carminative (relieves flatulence), Antispasmodic (relieves muscle spasm), and Analgesic (relieves pain)
- Natural de-wormer
- Natural antiseptic. Can be used to clean your pet’s ears
- Can be used to soothe teething
- Relieve mild diarrhea
To calm your dog, boil water and pour over some chamomile flowers or tea bags for 5 minutes. Allow cooling then give your dog up to 2 tablespoons depending on your dog’s size. You can also put it directly into your dog’s water bowl.
Please consult your vet to determine if your dog is allergic to chamomile and to get a proper dose. Only give chamomile in tea form to pregnant dogs to prevent early contractions and should only be used sparingly.
Full Spectrum CBD Oil
All 113 Cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant work in unison to calm your dog naturally. Cannabis has been known to lower a dog’s anxiety by increasing serotonin levels.
Apart from being effective in naturally calming your dog, CBD comes with many other amazing health benefits:
- Kidney and Liver Diseases
- Separation Anxiety
- Infections (Bacterial/fungal)
- Disorder of the nervous system
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Inflammatory Disease
- Helps promote brain cells in the Hippocampus
- Generalized Pain
- Better sleep
Aromatherapy has been used for over 6,000 years since the time of the ancient Egyptians but it wasn’t till recent history that humans started using them on pets. Essential oils are used in both physical and emotional issues such as stress, anxiety(also separation anxiety), phobias, aggression, loneliness, fear, abandonment, inflammation, analgesic, colic, diarrhea, cancer. It also has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties and is known to improve the immune system. It also works on fleas and ticks.
To calm your dog, mix 1 drop of Lavender oil to 10 drops of carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut for big dogs. Dilute further to 1 drop Lavender oil to 25 drops of olive oil for smaller dogs. Gently rub in the ears, paws, along the spine. Always keep in mind to stay away from the eyes, nose, and mucous membranes including the rectum.
Dogs have a strong sense of smell, to say the least. Dilute essential oils even if you only want them to sniff. Important to note that there are certain essential oils that are toxic to dogs. Click here for more in-depth information
Always dilute essential oils. Never use full strength. Do not add essential oils to your pet’s food. Do not use under 10 weeks of age. Never apply to, or near the eyes, nose, or mucous membranes.
Physical touch has a calming effect on both humans and our pets. Much like when a mother gently holds and swaddles an infant or when a veterinarian applies pressure to cattle prior to administering vaccines. This is the principle behind thunder shirts.
Dogs do not have the ability to deduce their feelings. They do not understand why they feel anxious or depressed in certain situations, they just do. They have no clue what thunder or firecrackers are. All they know is the feeling they get. Thundershirts can give our pets a sense of security by applying constant, gentle pressure to a large part of their body. Like giving your pet a constant hug!
These are available in nylon, polyester, and cotton. Nylon is the most durable material in thunder shirts. Be sure to wear it on your pet correctly.
Only wear Thundershirts 1 hour at a time. Check for any abrasions or allergies.
Homeopathy is a pseudoscience that has been around since the early 1800s. HomeoAnimal has been used over the years to relieve anxiety in humans and pets.
Simply spray directly into your dog’s mouth or into his water bowl. Effective and inexpensive. There is a long list of other remedies for a host of other issues with your pet. These are safe and there are no known side-effects.
Click here to learn how homeopathy can help your dog with anxiety.
Passionflower is a perennial plant known for its fragrance and magnificent flowers. Its been known to have a calming effect. ¹It is used for high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, palpitations, and even epilepsy. This plant can soothe the mind and body in both humans and dogs if given in proper doses and in moderation. Can be used in dogs in cases of anxiety, fear of loud noises, It works by increasing GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain, decreasing anxiety levels. Similar to the effects of meditation. Passionflower prevents neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) from breaking down which results in improved mood and temperament.
²As a tincture:
1 to 10 lbs 1-3 drops
10-20 lbs 3-5 drops
20-50 lbs 5-10 drops
50-100 human dose
Give 2-3x a day. Start doses slowly.
As a tea, boil some water and make one for yourself and add some to your dog’s drinking water.
Passionflower is known to cause early contractions. Do not give to pregnant dogs. Please consult your vet.
Catnip is known to cause early contractions. Do not give to pregnant or lactating dogs. Please consult your vet
Dogs don’t experience the nirvana that cats experience with Catnip. Catnip is similar to Chamomile with a few extra benefits. Aside from its calming properties, it is also a mild sedative. It can be used in travel anxiety and motion sickness. It is also a natural antiseptic – can be used in minor scrapes and cuts. It can help with flatulence in a gassy dog. Best of all, it is non-toxic.
Catnip is a wonderful addition to the garden. The fragrant and colorful flowers attract butterflies, bees, and birds while repelling aphids, mosquitoes, and even termites.
³To calm your pet, simply add some fresh catnip to your dog’s drinking bowl. It takes about 30 minutes to take effect. Alternatively, you can sprinkle up to half a teaspoon per pound of food to your pet’s food bowl. Learn more benefits of certain herbs on dogs.
Melatonin is a hormone created by our pineal gland in the brain. This hormone regulates our sleep and internal body clock(a.k.a. circadian rhythm) and is known to be an anti-oxidant. Certain stimulants disrupt the production of this hormone like coffee, blue-light from electronic devices, too much physical activity close to bedtime and even excessive sugar intake at supper can cause insomnia in humans.
Apart from its ability to ease anxiety in canines(including separation anxiety) and help with sleep regulation, 4Melatonin can also be used to treat Cushing’s disease with symptoms such as obesity, hair loss loss of appetite, and insomnia. It can also help treat Alopecia, a hair loss condition in dogs. Please note that hair loss in dogs can also be caused by a thyroid condition, cushing’s disease and even a bacterial infection. Consult your vet to get a proper diagnosis.
Melatonin can be given in chewable tablets, pills drops, and even in injection form. The recommended dosage is as follows:
- 10 lbs 1mg
- 10-25 lbs 1.5 mg
- 26-100 3 mg
- over 100 lbs 3-6 mg
Before you proceed, please be sure your pet isn’t taking aspirin because it may lead to blood clotting issues. Examine the product to make sure it doesn’t contain Xylitol which is toxic to pets. Please keep this product away from your pooch’s reach. Overdosing can show symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and loss of coordination.
As with all supplements, it is better to start slow and build-up to the proper dosage. Watch for possible side effects such as:
- Digestive upset
- Increased heart rate
- Changes in behavior
- Insulin resistance
Do not give to puppies under 12 weeks old or pregnant
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in many proteins. It is an essential amino acid meaning our bodies do not produce it. It must come from our diet. Tryptophan produces Niacin, which is needed in creating Serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Low levels of serotonin has been linked to depression. Tryptophan can be found in red meat, cheese, milk, salmon, peanut butter, bananas, chicken, eggs.
5Studies show that dogs with low levels of tryptophan show moodiness, depression, and aggression.
6Serotonin, a precursor of tryptophan, creates a sense of calmness in both humans and canines. It also promotes better sleep and relieves anxiety. There are several tryptophan supplements for canines available online.
Caution: Any medication that increases serotonin levels should not be given to a dog that is already taking anti-depressant medication. Doing so might cause what’s called Serotonin Syndrome. Symptoms are: difficulty walking, trembling, seizures, confusion, depression, and even death.
Exercise is important to the physical and emotional health of your pet as well as their longevity. This allows them to burn off excess energy. Dogs are natural runners and some breeds are even natural swimmers. Regularly exercising your pooch can prevent many ailments such as obesity and many forms of anxiety. It can also help build stamina, flexibility, strengthen bones, promotes weight loss, lower blood pressure, and result in a better sense of well-being.
Running or jogging releases endorphins that flood the bloodstream with feel-good chemicals preventing depression and anxiety. Dogs and their owners both receive the benefits of regular exercise and also strengthens their bond. Older dogs must exercise especially those with arthritis but be gentle – they should not be forced to run if they don’t want to. Exercise isn’t limited to walking, running, or jogging. You can also try throwing frisbees, swimming, or even dancing with dogs!
Acupuncture has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Meridians (energy pathways) are stimulated using specialized needles.
There is a branch of TCM for animals called Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). This is slowly gaining recognition in western medicine but it has been used for thousands of years in China to treat horses, cattle, and even dogs.
There are 4 branches of TCVM:
- Acupuncture – Needles are inserted into very specific acupuncture points along with the body corresponding to different ailments including anxiety
- Herbal Medicine – Combinations of herbal formulas given in the form of tea, pill or capsule in dogs and cats
- TuiNa – A form of Chinese medical-massage. It works by massaging meridians along the body and stimulating acupuncture points to promote circulation and correct imbalances within the organ systems.
- Food Therapy – Uses properties of food to heal imbalances in the body
Doga – Yoga and Meditation
Doga – The concept of combining yoga and dogs was created by Suzi Teitelman, a Jacksonville yoga teacher back in 2001. This emerging trend is quickly gaining popularity by making yoga a fun experience for both the owner, the dog and the group participants. Yoga and meditation have many physical and mental benefits such as relief from stress, anxiety, pain, depression, addiction, improved heart health, increased strength, flexibility, improved sleep quality, and many more.
It focuses on breathing, mind calming and stretching exercises. It is the soothing energy and gentle massages that your dog enjoys and gives them mental soundness. Dogs are natural stretchers so these exercises appeal to them.
Additionally, Doga helps our pets by:
- Preventing ACL injuries
- Eases arthritis and hip displasia
- Anxiety relief
- Helps loud dogs to mellow down
One of the biggest benefits of Doga to our pets is the opportunity to socialize with a large number of dogs and get them used to crowds and improve their social skills.
Do not force your dog to any pose. If your dog won’t cooperate for what ever reason, leave it for another day.
Results are not immediately apparent. Give your dog one month to see changes. Consult your vet if Doga is right for your dog
Watch the world record of the largest Doga class set in Hong Kong.
Nutrition plays a big role in your dog’s anxiety levels, health, immune system, and overall personality. Foods have different properties. Some act as stimulants while some are calming. Here’s a list of foods that can help your pet relax:
- Oily fish like tuna, mackerel, sardines all contain omega 3’s. Salmon is even better because it contains L-tryptophan which promotes better sleep and relieves anxiety. Omega 3 slows the release of adrenaline during times of stress leading to a calmer dog. It also contains vitamin A and D as a bonus.
- Turkey also contains L-tryptophan which is required to produce serotonin which regulates social behavior, mood, appetite, sleep, memory, and many other important functions.
- Sweet potatoes contain complex carbohydrates that regulate blood sugar levels that benefit both man and dog. Apart from the many vitamins and minerals it contains, it is exceptionally rich in Beta carotene which is necessary for your pet’s vision, growth, and prevention of many diseases. Do not give too much at once. Start slow. 1 tablespoon a day to begin is enough. Too much fiber from sweet potatoes might cause digestive disturbance.
- Pumpkin seeds contain Selenium which has been linked to anxiety and depression. It also has a compound called Cucurbitacin which can kill parasites in the gut. Do not use if your dog has diabetes or kidney disease. Speak to your vet.
We hope this article was helpful to you., please check out these related articles on dog anxiety and how to manage and treat it.
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McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC 1997.
Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Hanley & Belfus, Inc; 2002;294-297.
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