Is Your Dog Anxious? The Best Ingredients to Help Calm Your Anxious Dog, Even During Thunderstorms & Car Rides

March 02, 2022 10 min read

Calm Your Anxious Dog

Many dog-owners know this situation too well: the tea kettle makes a high pitched noise or a firework goes off and suddenly your pup is cowering in the corner shaking! Many dogs experience bouts of anxiety, but don’t fret: there are several natural remedies for calming an anxious dog. If you have a dog with anxiety, chances are that you’re familiar with the immense struggle of trying to bring your dog comfort in the car, during thunderstorms, or when separation anxiety in your dog wreaks havoc on your heart. Fortunately, many cases ofanxiety in dogs can be helped through improved nutrition and diet. Making healthy food and exercise choices are always a great first line of defense!  

Nutrition is one of the key factors in helping to calm anxiety in dogs. By choosing the best ingredients and supplements, you can help your dog feel more relaxed and comfortable. In this blog post, we'll share some of the best calming ingredients for dogs with anxiety. 

Anxiety is a problem for many of our canine companions. Almost half of dogs suffer from anxiety, fear, and phobias. These include separation anxiety and noise phobias. Sometimes, anxiety and phobias can become so severe that dogs begin to bark and howl incessantly, urinate and defecate in the home, and/or harm themselves. But recent research on calming canine anxiety through nutrition is helping us understand how we can make life better — and less stressful — for anxious dogs (and their humans).

Signs of anxiety in dogs

Anxiety in dogs manifests itself in different forms of neurotic behaviors. Dogs with anxiety issues may be destructive, bark excessively, urinate or defecate indoors. Though many anxiety issues like separation anxiety are specific to certain situations, some dogs are so generally anxious that they tend to isolate themselves or get paranoid about anything that is not familiar to them. 

Anxiety may cause the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Panting 
  • Shaking
  • Drooling 
  • Pacing 
  • Licking themselves excessively 
  • Hiding under furniture or in closets
  • Staring out the window longer than usual
  • Whining a lot

How do you calm a dog through nutrition?

Treating anxiety in dogs with natural ingredients has long-term benefits to your dog. While over-the-counter or prescribed medication may work to help your dog at first, prolonged use of such drugs can trigger side effects that can accumulate and wear your dog down over time.

For example, research done on canine anxiety has discovered that prolonged use of antidepressant drugs in dogs can cause side effects. In a controlled test, dogs exhibiting separation anxiety were treated with fluoxetine and clomipramine to see how effective the drugs were. Although the dogs showed signs of improvement for a while, they also experienced side effects such as lethargy and loss of appetite from use of fluoxetine and vomiting from use of clomipramine. Prolonged use of clomipramine has been linked to canine pancreatitis while its administration reportedly did not completely eliminate signs of separation anxiety.

Though it might be tempting to get results right away, using anxiety medication is often a short-term treatment rather than a long-term solution to your pup’s anxiety. If you do need to use medication, always do so under a vet’s guidance, try giving medication in small amounts, and explore with your vet options to avoid keeping your dog on the medication for extended periods. Fortunately, there are natural ways to keep dogs calm long with longer-lasting results that may help you to avoid adverse side effects. Even when it comes to natural solutions, however, be sure to consult your vet first on the best course of action for your dog!

The best ingredients in calming chews and treats for dogs

Dogs can get anxious anywhere and anytime. Carrying a pack of medicine with you everywhere is not always possible and, as we discussed, many medications cause side effects. Calming chews and treats made with natural ingredients such as Puppington's Pup Snax™ Calming and Ultra Calming Chews are often a great option for helping to manage anxiety in dogs. Calming treats for dogs may be made with ingredients that work more subtly to stabilize the mood, reduce anxiety and promote calm. They can be conveniently packed and fed to your dog when an anxiety inducing situation presents itself. There are plenty of completely natural ingredients that are vet-approved as safe to use in calming chews for dogs. 

Popular natural ingredients used in calming treats and chews include:

Read on as we explain the helpful properties and uses of each of these natural ingredients when it comes to calming anxiety in dogs.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a pet-friendly herb that has been used in ayurvedic medicine for years to promote wellness and increase lifespan. This herb is part of a group of plants called adaptogens. Adaptogens are believed to help humans and pets find balance in their bodies. Ashwagandha can also help mitigate the effects of external stress. A clinical trial of ashwagandha on geriatric dogs with liver disease revealed that the herb does have therapeutic effects, and dogs treated with the herb showed improvements in their health. As an added bonus, Ashwagandha has medicinal properties that help support the endocrine system.

Amur cork bark

Amur cork bark is one of the oldest herbs used in Chinese medicine. Ancient Chinese used the herb as a balancing herb that helps reduce stress and burnout. Honokiol, the active ingredient in Amur cork bark, slows down the actions of neurotransmitters and enzymes in the brain (National Library of Medicine, 2007). Slowing down brain activity, in turn, provides relief from anxiety and stress in both humans and dogs. A study on the effects of amur cork bark in managing stress concluded that this bark extract is ideal for managing anxiety in mildly stressed individuals. Dogs with mild anxiety also benefit from these effects. Amur cork bark is sold commercially as Phellodendron-supplement and can be infused in doggy treats to calm an anxious dog.

Chamomile

When your pup is anxious, you might notice that they are extra tense or may even have shaking muscles. Chamomile helps relax the muscles and can even be used to treat insomnia. In dogs, chamomile acts as a mild sedative, muscle relaxant, and anti-inflammatory ingredient. Chamomile can be given orally as a tea, capsule supplement, or in a delicious treat. You can also soak dog treats in chamomile tea before feeding them to your dog. Some calming treats for dogs are made with chamomile already included.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural hormone that keeps the body calm and relaxed when we sleep. Dogs also produce melatonin during sleep, relaxing all body organs to preserve energy. A study focusing on dogs undergoing surgical procedures revealed that dogs dosed with melatonin appeared to be more relaxed before the surgery. Melatonin, sold over-the-counter as a supplement, can be mixed with dog food or used as an ingredient in dog treats to calm and promote healthy sleep.

Oat flour

Besides being a great natural source of fiber, oat flour is also an efficient food for managing anxiety in dogs. Oats are rich in magnesium, a mineral that plays a huge part in regulating body functions, including those that control your pup’s mood. A bowl of oatmeal porridge mixed with herbs like chamomile can relieve a dog suffering from separation anxiety or stress from big noises.

Passion Flower

Passion flower, also known as wild apricot, is an organic vine that has sedative properties. The active ingredients found in passion flower calm the brain and boost the release of a feel-good chemical in the brain called GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter inhibitor that reduces nerve cell activity in the brain, which leads to a relaxing and calming effect on the whole body(Accurateclinic, 2021).

Passion flower works just like benzodiazepines in calming highly anxious pets, but it’s a safe and natural alternative. According to the American Botanical Council, passion flower may also be used for the relief of occasional sleeplessness in humans. Passion flower is included in some calming dog treats and infused in some calming teas for dogs. 

Lemon balm 

Lemon balm is a safe herb that is great for calming anxiety and alleviating digestive problems in dogs. Lemon balm has been studied as an anxiety-reducer and mood booster. In dogs, lemon balm soothes the nerves, improves sleep, and relieves indigestion. This makes lemon balm an ideal additive for reducing anxiety and excitability in dogs. 

Valerian

Valerian root, like passion flower, triggers the production of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. This action slows down brain function and induces a relaxed feeling in both humans and dogs. Valerian root is often used to reduce anxiety in dogs that suffer from noise phobias such as thunder, gunshots, or fireworks. Valerian can be bought in its dried form or it can be found in supplementary soft chews. You can also use it as an ingredient in your pup's favorite homemade treat. 

Pup Tip:

Even though various research has found each of the above natural additives to be generally safe for dogs, it is always a good idea to consult your vet about suitability for your dog and the right dosage, as all dogs respond to supplements differently.

Best ingredients for calming tea for dogs

Calming tea for dogs can be an ideal solution if your pup is suffering from anxiety, nervousness, or stress. Not only can it help calm your dog’s anxiety about issues like noisy surroundings or being left home alone, but it can also help with the stress of everyday life. Calming tea for dogs made from natural herbs is a safe, non-drowsy solution to anxiety that is also safe for humans (so both you and your dog can benefit!) Always make sure that tea is caffeine-free.In large doses, caffeine can be harmful or even fatal to dogs.

The best ingredients to make calming tea for dogs include;

Chamomile tea

As mentioned before, chamomile tea has calming properties that can soothe an anxious, agitated, or fearful dog. This herb also works in reducing bad dog breath and in calming an upset stomach or indigestion. 

Purple coneflower tea

Purple coneflower, or echinacea, has antioxidants that can help boost a dog's immune system. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties to help your dog fight diseases that might be triggering anxiety or restlessness in your pup. In addition, purple coneflower tea enriches the lymphatic system and helps eliminate toxins from the body.

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is an herb rich in flavonoids that fights inflammation and supports vision health. Also, ginkgo biloba has cognitive boosting properties that help maintain optimal brain function, so it is sometimes administered to geriatric dogs for various conditions that present with age-related decline. Making ginkgo biloba-infused tea improves blood circulation and cardiac health, which in turn can help reduce canine anxiety.

Ginger tea

Ginger helps soothe the digestive system and reduces vomiting. The best way to prepare ginger tea for dogs is by mixing a small amount of ginger with another herb like chamomile or ginkgo biloba. Be careful to limit the dosage under your vet’s guidance, as high amounts of ginger in tea can irritate the digestive system further.

Licorice root tea 

As a leguminous root, licorice has anti-inflammatory properties that benefit both humans and dogs. Licorice tea helps calm anxious dogs or dogs who are experiencing pain due to injuries. It also clears a congested nose and can even provide relief from joint pain. 

WARNING: dogs with high blood pressure, heart conditions or kidney disorders should not drink this tea or consume licorice tea.

Cinnamon

You can mix cinnamon with other herbs to make a special calming tea for your dog. Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and can also be used to fight bad breath in dogs. Also, this spice is ideal for dogs suffering from diabetes. Tea is a great way to administer cinnamon to your dog because the powered form can cause respiratory issues.

Pup Tip:

Even though various research has found each of the above natural additives to be generally safe for dogs, it is always a good idea to consult your vet about suitability for your dog and the right dosage, as all dogs respond to supplements differently.

What about green tea?

Green tea has plenty of antioxidants and other health benefits. However, if serving green tea to dogs, it’s important to make sure that it is decaffeinated and administered after a meal. Since trace amounts of caffeine are present in some decaffeinated teas, we prefer to stick with the old adage better safe than sorry and stay away from green tea entirely when it comes to dogs.  

How to make calming tea for dogs

You can make calming tea for pets using a tea bag and warm water. You could also add the herbs to an infuser and immerse it in a cup of hot water. There is no harm in trying different herb combinations such as chamomile-ginger, and lemongrass, or licorice, and ginkgo biloba. 

However, first, consult with your vet before making a calming tea for your dog to confirm there are no contraindications and for guidance on the suitable amount for your pup’s well-being. Start with small amounts of tea to see how your dog responds. With time, you can gradually increase the amount up to the level indicated by your vet and experiment with other non-medicinal pup-friendly ingredients. 

Also, some ingredients are human-friendly but will cause health problems when used in calming tea for dogs. Top on the list of ingredients to avoid include;

  • Garlic - contains the compound organosulfur that destroys red blood cells in your dog. Using garlic in calming tea for dogs can cause vomiting and diarrhea, body weakness, abdominal pain, discolored urine, and pale gums. 
  • Nutmeg - contains the compound myricetin, which causes abdominal pain, drowsiness, or increased anxiety.
  • Mace- also in the family nutmeg, mace can negatively affect the nervous system, cause drowsiness, and trigger abdominal pain. 
  • Cocoa- contains theobromine which affects the heart and nervous system. Cocoa is dangerous for dogs and can cause tremors and seizures. 
  • Yucca- yucca can irritate your dog’s intestines and cause bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Conclusion

Dogs can get anxious from loud noises, separation anxiety, or an ailment. Fortunately, there are natural ways to calm anxious dogs without relying heavily on over-the-counter medication. Calming anxiety in dogs through nutritious options like treats and chews has long-term benefits with minimal side effects. Find out what ingredients are safe for your dog before using them in calming treats, chews, or tea.

 References

  1. (2021). Retrieved 6 October 2021, from http://accurateclinic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Passionflower-for-Dogs-as-a-Natural-and-Safe-Calming-Aid.pdf
  2. Engels, G., & Brinckmann, J. (n.d.). Passionflower Passiflora incarnata L. Family: Passifloraceae. Passionflower - American Botanical Council. Retrieved October 6, 2021, from herbalgram.org 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4245564/
  4. Ashwagandha and canine liver function
  5. https://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/valerian-root-dogs-does-it-work
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3750820/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31351807/

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