Anxiety…. it creeps up on you, doesn’t it? Recently, I experienced an anxiety ridden moment. Something thought conquered can rear it’s head and, wham! So like any highly functioning adult, I went to happy hour and wine’d about it. But is that truly what I should have done? Maybe some yoga, meditation, or hypnotherapy would have been a wiser choice. Unlike us humans, dogs are not in control of some of their choices – so when our dogs suffer from anxiety, we are their stewards for a healthier life. Wine won’t cut it for dogs. Here are some tips to help soothe your dog’s anxiety.
Signs Your Dog Has Anxiety
How much a dog was socialized as a puppy has a lot to do with who he is today. Just like kids. If a child isn’t exposed to different types of healthy stimulation and challenges, then facing them as a young adult can create stress…both good and bad stress. The prime time for anxiety management in dogs on average starts at six months and a goes until about a year and a half old. Even older dogs who experience a trauma are prone to developing anxiety.
Howling, pacing and panting are often associated with anxiety in a dog. Growling can also be a sign your dog is anxious, and even yawning when your dog is not tired can be an indicator. My personal favorite is barking and then retreating. Mookie, our male Shih Tzu, likes that one…he has a particular affinity for it when bicyclist are pedaling by during our mid-day walk. For some odd reason he is stressed out by their fast wheels – triggering a more visceral fight or flight action in him. One, more than likely, truism about dogs and anxiety: veterinary visits. Don’t worry, we’ve got a few tips for quick and easy anxiety ‘be-goners’ when you need something that works fast.
Tips To Soothe Your Dog’s Anxiety
If your dog suffers from life altering anxiety (frequent and uncontrollable shaking and shivering, completely shutting down, or non-stop lunging interlaced with barking and nipping), then a long-term approach is needed and should include behavior modification for you and your pooch. Sometimes a dog gets anxious because we’re anxious – dog’s dig it when we are confident and assured. But, for those normal, daily anxiety moments (like vet visits) rest assured there are some easy things you can do right now to help your stressed out pup.
Protein: You’ll want to make sure that your dog is getting high quality protein. The type of protein your dog consumes does make a difference. The less energy food takes to break down and convert to fuel, the easier on the body (e.g. minimizes the metabolic stress on your dog’s body). Protein as close to its’ whole state the better: your dog requires 22 different amino acids, and only makes 11 of them, thus nutrition plays a key role in building/creating the other 11 ‘essential’ amino acids. The more processed a dog’s food is, the less nutritional value and the harder his body has to work in less than ideal conditions. Same is true for humans.
Serotonin: Do you know why when you eat turkey you get a bit relaxed? Tryptophan! It’s a serotonin pre-curser, and tryptophan does the same thing for dogs…helps make them all chill. When your dog consumes tryptophan, his little body converts it to serotonin (a neurotransmitter) and it provides an anti-anxiety and calming effects. There are a number of ways to add tryptophan to your pup’s diet including chewable tablets, however we’ve found it in kefir which also provides our dogs with pre and probiotics, powerhouses of gut health! Store bought kefir tends to have sugar, so we make our own (feel free to use our Amazon affiliate link to purchase a kefir making kit).
Chamomile Tea: Tea? Yup, you bet – most dogs can drink cooled chamomile tea, and to make things easy we simply pour it into our pup’s water bowl. Chamomile is great when your pup needs a little help due to known anxiety triggers like travel, groomers or vet visits, nail trims and the like. Chamomile has been safely used for centuries to help relax muscles and treat anxiety, and can be your dog’s go-to item during stressful times. You’ll want to get organic, fertilizer and herbicide-free tea leaves for your dog (here’s the chamomile tea we use, again from our Amazon store)
Homeopathic: Our dogs have incredible, and measurable, outcomes with homeopathic treatments – particularly when we’re seeking anxiety relief. Known as nanopharmacology, homeopathic remedies use extremely small (nano) doses of active ingredients to provide powerful and beneficial therapeutic outcomes. Bach Rescue Remedy, around for nearly 100 years, has used very specific native plant flowers to help return health where it is needed – and the pet formula is made specifically to address your companion animal’s stress. We use Bach Rescue Remedy Pet for vets visits, and recently we used it when we had ‘strangers’ at our house doing renovation work – our pups remained calm and were easy to handle. Just 2 – 4 drops in your pup’s water bowl and you’ll see a noticeable difference. Ingredients:
- Star of Bethlehem (orithogalum umbellatum): Helps animals that have experienced abuse, trauma and shock, whether experienced recently or in the past. Helps the animal let go of the trauma and enjoy life.
- Rock Rose (helianthemum): For situations in which the animal experiences panic or terror such as an accident, going to the vet, thunderstorm or fireworks.
- Cherry Plum (prunus cerasifera): Helps animals who seem to have lost control of their actions such as constant barking, scratching or licking.
- Impatiens (Impatiens gladulifera): Helps those animals who are impatient and can’t wait for for their meal or going for a walk.
- Clematis (Clematis vitalba): For animals who seems to be sleeping too much and not really paying attention to what’s going on around them.
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Not all dogs have the same stress or anxiety triggers, and honestly some dogs just run a bit more anxious than others (and some dogs get depressed). We’ve adopted 8 dogs so far and each one is unique – that’s why we’ve discovered a few different things that can help our pup’s stress. As humans we learn techniques to help us cope with anxiety – you can do this with your pup as well, but first the goal is to decrease the amount of adrenaline zooming around in your dog’s body. Once the fight or flight triggers are better managed then you and your dog can explore a variety of different training, including behavior modification if needed. This summer we’re starting this type of training with Mookie – we’re looking forward to getting him more comfortable with all of the fun and exciting things the world can spring upon us.
I hope you are able to use these tips – they have helped us with our anxious pooch!