A lot of pets struggle from anxiety, and, just like us, the reasons vary; anxiety and nervousness is a coping response. When deciding the best course of action for your dog’s anxiety and nervousness, you’ll have the best results if you first identify the source of anxiety and then select the appropriate matching intervention.
Type of Anxiety and Triggers
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to anxiety than others. The following frequently appear on various lists of nervous pets: German Shepherds, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Jack Russel Terriers, Australian Shepherds and Chihuahuas, to name a few. The question, though, is are the animals just born “anxious” or are there environmental influences and situations that are likely to create anxiety? Every breed is different, and all are bred for specific purposes. So, for example, a working dog, like an Australian Shepherd or German Shepherd, is likely to exhibit more anxious behaviors if it doesn’t have a “job”.
Anxiety can be situational or chronic. Situational anxiety happens when a dog is faced with a scary or unknown situation, like going to the vet or the groomers, or being left outside of a strange store while the owner goes inside. Some dogs also have a fear of strangers. Chronic anxiety are nervous behaviors that don’t necessarily go away if the trigger is removed.
Some dogs are likely to become anxious when exposed to loud noises. This includes things like fireworks and gunshots. Noise Sensitivity is sometimes situational and can be planned for.
Separation anxiety happens when a dog is away from its owner. This often results in behaviors like incessant barking or the destruction of items (both in the house and the car).
And, of course, there are those dogs that have a high need for exercise and when lacking those much needed walks, may appear anxious or nervous.
Age and illness related anxiety happens as dogs become elderly or they don’t feel well.
Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
According the AKC there are several telltale signs that your dog has issues with anxiety. These may span across several of the types of anxiety and include:
- Excessive barking
- Excessing Whining
- Urinating or defecating in the house
There are three basic ways to deal with anxiety. Often pairing a behavioral intervention with additional support provides the best outcome.
Behavioral interventions include (a) Desensitizing or (b) Counter Conditioning. Desensitizing is the gradual exposure to a situation that creates anxiety whereas counter conditioning is pairing a stressful situation with high value treats. I am thinking about the Amazon driver that began giving my dog treats upon arrival. Now, instead of barking at the delivery van, my pup excitedly wags her tail whenever a man carrying a package appears in the driveway. You can learn more about these techniques and others from such sites as Companion Animal Psychology (see the references below).
Medical Treatments include a range from sedatives to anti-depressant medications. A veterinarian can prescribe these for a variety of situations and will match the source of anxiety with a drug. For example, they may prescribe a sedative on the 4th of July, or, in the event of a depressed dog, an actual anti-depressant, similar to what a human might take. (Yes! Dogs, too, are prescribed Prozac.
Many people, however, turn to Natural and Herbal Treatments for anxiety and nervousness which include a variety of modalities including: acupuncture, massage and herbal remedies. Like humans, different herbal remedies for anxiety need to be matched to the individual and the actual source of the anxiety. Not all anxiety can be treated with the same thing. For example, a popular anti-anxiety on the market is CBD. Interestingly, CBD does not directly treat anxiety. It can assist with pain and inflammation which *may* be a source of anxiety, but it will have little impact if your dog is experiencing anxiety due to travel or loud noises, for example. There are cases where you may want an herb that acts more as a general sedative or, like many of us humans, you may want to provide your pet with a remedy that balances their emotions or harmonizes the nervous system.
At the end of the day, you are the one most closely connected with your dog, and he or she depends on you for the support that they need in order to thrive. Selecting the support with your dog’s best health, both physical and emotional, in mind will certainly pay off.
Arogya Paws has created Relax Plus to balance and harmonize emotions. It can be used with situational anxiety and is helpful for chronic anxiety. The herbal blend avoids a “drugged” response to anxiety and instead uses herbs that balance or targets an overactive nervous system.
Herbs in Arogya Paws Relax +:
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata): Passionflower has been cultivated for thousands of years in North America. This multifaceted herb supports the central nervous system (considered to have an anxiolytic effect) and studies have found a sedative effect in animals. Studies have also shown that it is effective for generalized anxiety disorder. It has been found to support older animals who are experiencing evening agitation (sundownder syndrome). Interestingly, it has a calming effect as opposed to creating a “sleeping” effect. It is also said to decrease stress related to travel.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): Studies show that lemon balm has a sedative effect and is said to increase calmness. It is known to mitigate agitation and is an antidepressive.
Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis): This fascinating herb has a long history as a panacea for healing and holding mystical properties. It has not been used in western herbalism, but was known though out Europe for a wide variety of ailments. It is said to have a calming effect and nervine properties and assists with sleep disorders that stem from an overactive mind.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa): Considered a nervous system tonic, oatstraw is said to improve and regulate nerve transmission.
Skullcap Herb (Scutellaria lateriflora): Herbalists have long used Skullcap for nervous tension and anxiety and say it has ‘anxiloytic’ effects. It said to be particularly supportive of calming nervousness that is related/caused by being oversensitive to noise as well as nervousness that can come from mental and physical exhaustion. It is further noted in the veterinarian herbal literature that it decreases nervousness, especially following acute or chronic disease (pain or trauma). Interestingly, it is also identified as a moderator for epilepsy and has muscle relaxant properties.