Mental health has taken center stage in recent years as we continue to understand more about stress and anxiety in human patients. And with that understanding has come a key insight into our canine companions’ health: Anxiety affects our dogs, too — sometimes severely.
There are a variety of stressful situations that can make our dogs feel anxious — from a stranger visiting the home to a loud boom outside. And there’s separation anxiety, which occurs when a dog is separated from their owner and starts to act out as a result.
It’s important that dog owners understand what anxiety is, what causes it, and how it might manifest in your pooch. That way, you can deal with the problem effectively.
One way to help your dog feel better is with calming treats. These are small dog treats — usually soft chews — that contain active ingredients made to help your dog feel less stressed.
Let’s take a closer look at canine anxiety in general and learn how calming treats for dogs may be able to help your pup feel more comfortable when anxiety sets in.
What Is Dog Anxiety?
For your dog, stress reactions are rooted in survival instincts, the same way they are for humans. Think of it this way: When you know you’re in a bad situation that could potentially cause you harm, you become stressed. It’s your body’s way of telling you to change the situation and get out of there.
The same thing happens to your dog. Sometimes, the threat is a real, potential danger, like an aggressive dog barking from behind the neighbor’s fence. Other times, the “threat” is more of a perceived problem, like the doorbell ringing, the loud booms of a thunderstorm, or simply a change in daily routine.
Some of the most common anxiety triggers in dogs include:
- Loud noises from thunderstorms, fireworks, car horns, etc.
- New environments that are unfamiliar to the dog, like a new home or the vet’s office
- Car rides
- New people or pets in the home
- New visual stimuli, like an owner wearing a hat or shaving his beard
Dogs can also experience age-related anxiety. You might notice your dog’s anxiety getting worse as they get older. Some experts liken it to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. As your dog’s perception and memory start to decline, their anxiety increases.
There is one other major type of anxiety in dogs that is quite common: Separation anxiety. Dogs with this kind of anxiety are overly dependent on their owners and become extremely distressed and anxious when they’re left alone.
Let’s take a look at some of the signs of dog anxiety, including separation anxiety, so that you know whether or not your pooch is experiencing a serious level of stress. From there, you can decide if you want to start using calming treats for dogs.
What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs?
One good thing about dog anxiety is that most of the time, you’ll be able to tell when your dog is experiencing it. That’s because dogs display a variety of outward signs when they’re feeling anxious.
Symptoms of anxiety in dogs include:
- Destructive behavior (chewing, digging, scratching, etc.)
- Excessive barking
- Urinating or defecating indoors or in the crate
If you crate your dog and they begin whining, barking, and pawing at their crate door as soon as you walk out of the room, you may be dealing with a case of separation anxiety.
In these cases, a variety of treatments might be needed. Veterinarians recommend that dogs receive regular exercise and stimulation in order to avoid anxiety as much as possible. Sometimes, the dog may need professional obedience or behavioral training. And in the most severe instances, a vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication.
But what about the more day-to-day cases of stress? What can you do when your pup is frightened because of a loud noise or because they know they’re going to the vet’s office?
Calming treats for dogs — sometimes called calming aids, calming chews, or calming bites — are an easy everyday solution that can help your dog feel a bit better. And they’re an easy tool to use preemptively. If you know that a storm is rolling in or that your pooch will be anxious when the mailman stops by, you can slip your dog a calming treat or two ahead of time.
How Do Calming Treats Work, and What Are Some Recommendations?
Calming treats are a non-medical way to help your dog feel less anxious before and during stressful situations. Rather than drugs, these treats use herbs and vitamins as the active ingredients, so you know you’re giving your dog something with all-natural ingredients that shouldn’t cause side effects.
Some of the most common ingredients found in calming treats for dogs include:
- Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone commonly used as a sleep aid.
- Chamomile, a flowering plant that has been used for centuries as a calming aid.
- L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid related to sleep.
- L-theanine (also called Suntheanine), an amino acid that promotes relaxation and improves sleep quality.
- Valerian root, a common ingredient in dietary supplements thought to improve relaxation.
- Passion flower, a type of plant that may lower brain activity, promoting relaxation.
- Hemp oil, an extract derived from the cannabis plant that may help with anxiety relief.
When you find a calming treat that uses these kinds of natural ingredients without a lot of additives, preservatives, or GMOs, you know you’ve found a winning choice.
Here are a few top choices for calming supplements that may help your dog feel less anxious:
PetHonesty Calming Hemp Chews
PetHonesty’s Calming Hemp Chews are made in the USA with high-quality, all-natural ingredients like organic chamomile, valerian root, passion flower, L-tryptophan, and hemp oil. These ingredients work together to help anxious dogs feel less stressed, and they can even help calm motion sickness when riding in a car.
NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid
These soft chews use melatonin, ginger, L-tryptophan, and thiamine to help dogs feel more comfortable. They’re a good choice if you want to try a non-hemp calming aid before exploring the hemp route.
Zesty Paws Calming Bites
Zesty Paws soft chews are some of the top-selling calming treats on Amazon.com. Active ingredients include organic hemp, chamomile, and L-theanine.They come in peanut butter flavor or turkey flavor, so most dogs happily gobble them up without a fuss.
Vetriscience Composure Calming Treats
These dog-calming treats come in a chicken flavor that most dogs love, and there’s a liquid version that can be added into dog food or even into Fido’s water dish. They’re made with L-theanine and thiamine to promote relaxation.
So, What Should I Look for When Choosing Calming Treats for Dogs?
Whether your dog is anxious because of July 4th fireworks, a routine change at home, or a serious case of separation anxiety, you’ll want to take steps to help your canine companion feel better.
For serious cases of anxiety, you may need to seek the help of a veterinarian. It’s possible that professional behavior modification or even anxiety medication might be needed.
For more everyday cases of anxiety and stress, calming chews are a great option. While there may not be one best calming treat for dogs, there are a few things to look for to ensure you’re giving your dog an effective option.
Seek out products with an ingredient list that includes natural substances like melatonin, hemp oil, passion flower, ginger root, valerian root, and L-tryptophan and L-theanine. Do your best to avoid treats that contain a lot of artificial preservatives, colors, or flavoring.
Once you’ve found the best dog calming aid for your pooch, try giving them a few chews before a stressful event occurs. You’ll be surprised at the calming effect it has on your pet.