Home Remedies For Dog Anxiety
Do you often come home to find your dog has chewed on the furniture and made a mess of things? Does your dog make howling noises and bark excessively the minute you step out of the house? You may be dealing with dog anxiety and you are not alone. In fact, dog anxiety is one of the most common problems dog owners face and a major reason why some choose to rehome their pets.
Dog anxiety is frustrating and causes a lot of stress for both you and your dog. You end up questioning your capability to keep and maintain a pet. If dog anxiety is not addressed, it can quickly escalate to a full-blown disorder, aggression, health problems and reduced life span.
The good news is that home remedies for dog anxiety has many treatment options and solutions. As dogs cannot communicate their pains and fears to us, your responsibility is to find out what might be causing it. To do this, you need to identify your dog’s signs and symptoms, determine the possible causes, get veterinary diagnosis and start laying down the solutions.
What is dog anxiety?
Dogs can experience stress and anxiety just as much as humans do. Anxiety can occur in any type of dog breed at any period of their life. Anxiety in dogs is when they are exhibiting restless behavior, repetitive acts, or aggression.
Dog behavior associated with anxiety is often mistaken as being defiant or aggressive. The important thing to consider is that there may be underlying causes to this kind of negative behaviour. Dogs always end up being rehomed or surrendered to shelters because people know very little about dog anxieties, and these issues are not addressed from the beginning.
Types of dog anxiety
There are different types of anxiety in dogs, but the ones to be discussed are the most common. According to an article in the American Kennel Club website, there are three main causes of dog anxiety – separation, fear and aging.
1. Separation anxiety
This is the most common form of anxiety in dogs. It is triggered when the dog is left alone in the house. It prompts a feeling of loss or abandonment causing the dog to panic. This may be because your dog has become dependent on you and associates everything they value (food, treats, walks) with your presence. They have not learned to cope with being alone. They did not develop enough confidence to thrive alone.
2. Fear of loud noises
This is a type of anxiety triggered when your dog hears something loud like fireworks or thunder. They are okay with low to mid-level noises but anything louder may cause them to hide, howl, shiver, run around or pee uncontrollably.
Related article: What can I give my dog for fireworks anxiety?
3. Trauma and phobia
This is not a very common form of anxiety, but some dogs experience it as a result of being forced into extreme frightening situations. Phobias and panic can be associated with experiences such as being locked in dark crates and unable to escape. If the dog has been involved in an accident and was severely wounded, this can also cause trauma and phobia.
4. Medical-related anxiety
This type of anxiety is associated with older dogs and is often a result of cognitive dysfunctions. It can be likened to Alzheimer’s disease in humans wherein there is a decline in memory, awareness, learning and perception. Clinical related anxieties can be identified by certain behaviors such as excessive licking, biting oneself, sudden diarrhea, tail-chasing and autonomic nervous system activity.
Causes of anxiety in dogs
There is a variety of things that can cause a dog’s anxiety. If your dog is exhibiting signs of anxiety, it is important to know about the history and background, especially if your pet was acquired through adoption or rehoming.
Here are some of the common causes of dog anxieties:
- Your dog is experiencing pain or has an underlying sickness
- Changes in the central nervous system due to disease or aging
- Hormonal or thyroid imbalances
- Trauma from negative past experiences such as vehicular accidents
- Lack of socialization during the first few months of life
- An effect of neglect, abandonment or having multiple owners
- Trauma from abuse, neglect and maltreatment
Signs and symptoms of dog anxiety
Spotting signs of anxiety in dogs can be a challenge, especially if the symptoms are mild. Keen observation and spending more time with your dog can help you differentiate which behavior is normal and which is not. The earlier you see the signs, the less chances of it escalating into a bigger problem. Here are some signs and symptoms you may need to look out for:
- Excessive energy
- Attempting to escape from cage or house
- Excessive barking or howling when left alone in the house
- Panting even if it is not hot
- Pacing in different directions
- Excessive licking
- Biting self
- Easily scared, jumpy or startled
- Excessive shaking when scared
- Hiding in corners of the house
- Always tucking tail between the legs
- Gnawing on furniture
- Refuses to eat
- Frequent urination
- Pooping in unusual areas even if the dog is housebroken
How to prevent dog anxiety
The most important factor to rid your dog of anxiety is your commitment. You need to give it extra time and effort because it’s going to need repetition to reinforce the right behavior. If you seem unsure about what to do, go to the vet or seek help from dog trainers. For extreme cases such as aggression, consider medication or enrolling your pet to a dog behavior school.
Here are some things you can apply:
1. Early socialization
If you are raising a puppy, it is very important to catch separation anxiety at its early stages, so prevention can be done before it becomes a problem. Socialization should be done ideally at three weeks of age, which is the time the puppy is already starting to take baby steps. At five weeks, the puppy has already learned to develop a sense of fear because their complete senses are now functioning.
They may start to fear new people, objects, and sounds. Socialization involves exposing your dog to other people, allowing play time with other dogs, and bringing the dog to different places to get familiar with different scents and various stimulants.
2. Practice separation
This is a behavioural exercise to train your dog to be okay with your absence. Start with leaving your dog for 5 minutes then gradually increasing the time that you are out. Give your dog something to do before leaving the house to keep him distracted and entertained. Food toy puzzles work for most dogs. Stay calm before leaving and when arriving.
Do not make leaving and arriving a big deal by saying goodbye or greeting at the door. Stay calm so that these will not be trigger points for your dog’s anxieties.
3. Tire your dog out with plenty of exercises
The most common mistake that people do is giving their dog a walk at the end of the day when the energy is already at its low point. The best time is in the morning at the start of the day when the dog’s energy is still full, so that there will be little left for restless behavior when left alone throughout the day.
4. Leave an audio playing while you’re gone
A study on the effects of auditory stimulation for dogs has shown that playing classical music can help reduce stress in dogs. You can leave audio playing in the background if you’re planning to leave the house for a few hours. You can also record your own voice and read something in a low toned voice to avoid stimulating your pet.
Leave it playing in the background so your pet will still feel that you’re just around the house.
5. Consider dog day care
If possible, you can start planning ahead and leave your dog under the care of a friend or family member when you leave the house. A dog day care is also a possible option if your budget permits. A full day can range from $10 to $40, depending on the package and facilities. This option allows your dog to have more exposure to other people and socialize with other dogs.
It can lessen your dog’s dependency on you and hopefully lessen the anxiety. This however should be a temporary set-up and the long-term goal is to be able to leave your dog alone in the house without triggering anxiety.
6. Give your pet a playmate
It seems like extreme advice to get another pet when you are currently still working on your current one. But if the separation anxiety was caused by a loss of a canine mate, getting another companion just might do the trick. Assess the situation if the anxiety seems to have started after a traumatic loss.
7. Anti-anxiety medications for dogs
Severe or extreme cases of dog anxiety may require medical intervention. When an animal’s anxiety levels are high, the learning and training part can be very difficult for your dog. In such cases, a combination of medication and behavior modification methods may be the best option.
Natural home remedies for dog anxiety
Before considering costly vet and trainers, you can consider natural home remedies for dogs with mild to moderate signs and symptoms of anxiety. Natural and holistic medicinal practices are becoming popular for humans to treat anxieties and stress. It’s no surprise that many dog owners also believe it can help with their pet’s overall health.
Here are some home remedies you can try to help your dog with anxiety.
1. Essential oils
Using aromatherapy for dogs is found to be an effective way to rid dogs of stress. Lavender oil is said to be the most effective for dogs, especially for those who have travel-induced excitement, according to a study at Queen’s University Belfast. But do not put the oil directly on your pet. Place a drop or two at the edge of the pet bed or place a diffuser at a nearby table.
2. Acupuncture and massage
Dogs have natural pressure points just like humans. Their feet, ears, neck area and top of the head are the best places to massage dogs to relieve their stress. A short 15-minute massage should be enough to calm them down. Veterinary acupuncture has been practiced since ancient times. It has been used to relieve animals of pain, joint issues, respiratory problems, and reproductive problems.
Only licensed veterinary acupuncturists can perform this procedure.
3. Balanced diet and supplements
If your dog’s anxieties are medical in nature, it may be a good idea to put your dog in a well-balanced diet to help balance his hormones and keep the organs functioning properly. Provide natural sources of food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. These are particularly essential for aging dogs.
Experts suggest giving dogs melatonin, L-tryptophan, L-theanine, and Zylkene to help with various types of anxieties. Recently, hemp oil has been getting good reviews from dog owners who have tried giving it to their pets. A study on hemp for dogs also revealed that it has helped relieve dogs of discomfort, nervousness and other issues.
Hemp for dog anxiety
There are many different ways to give hemp to your beloved pet if you find this a viable option. Tasty organic treats containing hemp oil is a handy option, especially for pets with travel anxieties. In fact giving dog treats with hemp oil will help you determine your dog’s reaction to hemp products. These treats contain a very low dose, and does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient that gets you “high”.
Hemp products like hemp oil extract contain compounds that can help regulate serotonin levels, improve sleep, and according to a study, have anti-anxiety effects. Ask your vet about the proper dosage when considering this option. The dosage will be different depending on the dog’s weight, size and the potency of the medication.