Fact checked by Dr. Antoinette Martin, DVM
Just like humans, dogs can experience varying degrees of anxiety. The amount of anxiety they experience and the way they react to it will differ from one dog to the next.
Severe forms of anxiety that are left untreated and unaddressed can often lead to a variety of unhealthy and destructive behaviors, such as excessive barking, chewing furniture, and even biting themselves and others.
While there are many different ways you can treat anxiety in your dog, one of the easiest ways to help your dog navigate stressful situations is to use calming treats. These seemingly normal dog treats actually contain active ingredients that were specifically chosen because they can help reduce the severity of canine anxiety.
To help you choose the right products for your dog, we are going to go over dog anxiety in general and then explain how calming treats actually work. We will look at the active ingredients within these treats and explain what they do. From there, we will even recommend a few reputable brands that offer calming treats you can trust.
What is Dog Anxiety?
For dogs, much of the anxiety they experience is rooted in instinct. They exhibit signs of anxiety as a natural reaction to stressful situations. Common causes of anxiety can include fear, loneliness and separation, pain, and even aging.
Fear-related anxiety can be triggered by anything from loud and unexpected noises, like thunder, to unfamiliar visual stimuli, like a particular object or unfamiliar environment. Separation anxiety is also common, and, in most cases, it occurs when the dogs are left alone for extended periods. Finally, age-related anxiety often occurs when dogs move into their senior years and begin to decline in terms of cognitive function. These older dogs can become confused and anxious much easier than they would during their younger years.
Symptoms of Dog Anxiety
While all dogs will present signs of anxiety in their own way, the common symptoms are:
- Uncharacteristic aggression
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Excessive panting and pacing
- General destructive behavior, such as chewing furniture and baseboards
- Constant barking and whining
- Restlessness and repetitive behavior
As you can see, anxiety symptoms can become extremely troublesome for the dog and its owners, especially when the anxiety becomes chronic and grows in severity.
One of the best things you can do if you suspect your dog is suffering from anxiety is to speak with a vet. Booking an online vet appointment with Hello Ralphie is one of the easiest ways to identify your dog’s anxiety and come up with a treatment strategy. Another great place to start is reading through our Understanding Dog Anxiety Guide, which contains a quiz that will help you determine if your dog is suffering from anxiety issues.
Treatments for Dog Anxiety
Again, just like in humans, anxiety in dogs can be treated in a variety of ways. While it could be solved as easily as making sure your dog gets more exercise and visual stimulation by increasing walks, it could require behavioral training and counterconditioning to anxiety triggers. For the most severe cases, a veterinarian could even prescribe anti-anxiety medications.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from a severe case of anxiety, speaking with a virtual vet is one of the easiest ways to know for sure.
Calming Treats for Anxious Dogs
For mild cases of everyday anxiety and stress, calming dog treats can be an effective way to help your dog feel better. A dog calming treat can be used pre-emptively to prepare your dog for stressful situations, such as a trip to the groomer, or as a way to help calm down a dog that is already stressed.
How Do They Work?
Essentially, calming treats for dogs contain non-prescriptive ingredients that are known to help canines relax. In most cases, they use natural ingredients, like herbs and plant extracts, that have calming effects. You will probably recognize many of the ingredients, including natural supplements and herbal teas, that are used by humans who are in need of help treating their own restlessness and stress.
Some of the most common active ingredients you will find in calming dog treats include:
- Melatonin – a hormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland. It plays a natural role in maintaining circadian rhythms and helping mammals feel calm and sleepy.
- Chamomile – a herb derived from a daisy-like flower that has been used for centuries as a natural calming aid.
- L-tryptophan – an essential amino acid that helps produce the sensation of sleepiness.
- L-theanine – an amino acid that helps promote a state of relaxation.
- Valerian Root – a natural herbal supplement used to reduce insomnia and physical tension.
- Passion Flower – a natural plant extract that is used to treat anxiety and sleep-related issues.
- Hemp Oil and CBD Extracts – Non-psychoactive compounds extracted from hemp plants that help with anxiety and depression.
While some calming treats overpromise and exaggerate what they can do for your dog, products that contain the aforementioned ingredients have been shown to actually work.
When shopping for calming dog treats, check the ingredient list for natural ingredients and avoid products that are filled with sugars, preservatives, and other unhealthy additives.
While new brands and products are always emerging, most veterinarians agree that the following calming treats for dogs are a good place to start:
- NaturVet’s Quiet Moments Calming Dog Supplement
- Zesty Paws Calming Bites
- PetHonesty’s Calming Hemp Chews
- MaxxiCalm’s Natural Calming Treat for Dogs
- Purina Pro Plan Calming Care Probiotic
- VetriScience Composure Chews
If you find a calming treat brand that you are unsure about, you can always ask for advice from one of our Hello Ralphie virtual vets. We would be happy to go over the ingredient list with you, as well as recommend other calming treats that can help with your dog’s specific form of anxiety.
For more information about calming treats, as well as dog-specific anxiety supplements, read our complete guide on CBD Oil for Pets. We also recommend reading our guide for Preventing Dog Separation Anxiety During COVID, which is particularly helpful if the pandemic has altered your work schedule.
As always, you can book an online vet appointment through Hello Ralphie if you ever have any questions about dog anxiety, calming treats, or any other questions related to caring for your furry friend!