Updated: May 14
We have lots of patients with anxiety. This can range from shaking when they hear a loud noise to barking as soon as you leave the house. It's upsetting for everyone (us as veterinarians and you as owners). Unfortunately, we don't have anything that will "definitely" work for every dog. We do know that usually medications alone are not enough, we also have to employee other soothing techniques such as pheromone collars/diffusers (adaptil), thundershirts which help them feel secure and soothing music which distracts them.
The issue is psychological, not physical; making it more complicated to treat. When humans have a severe phobia, they go to a therapist and learn soothing/calming techniques to make the phobia more manageable. With dogs, we cannot teach them deep breathing exercises or talk them through stressors such as thunderstorms, fireworks or being home alone. Instead, we have to try to make them feel secure during these events and most sedatives are not enough. Sedatives can also cause them to feel tired but still anxious. Also, sedatives will start to become less effective over time. We have lots of patients with thunderstorm and firework anxiety and there is not one cocktail that works every time. Unfortunately, it’s trial and error for each dog. We DO know that using different types of soothing/calming techniques gives us the best success rate. Also, we do not look to cure the anxiety but to improve it. Here are some products that have helped patients in the past.
Adaptil is a pheromone that only dogs can smell which mimics their mother’s scent when they were nursing. It can provide a strong signal of security and comfort to your canine friend. It comes in both diffusers and collars. I recommend using both the diffusers and collars. They last for 30 days but then need to be changed. Place the diffusers in areas where your dog spends most of their time.
· Just plug and play: screw the vial onto the diffuser unit and plug it into an outlet
· Leave the diffuser plugged in continuously
· Ensure to change every 30 days
· Fit the collar snuggly to your dog’s neck. Ensure you can fit 2 fingers between the
collar & your dogs' neck
· Leave the collar on your dog continuously (except when bathing or grooming)
· Ensure to change every 30 days
This is a tightly fitting vest that makes dogs feel swaddled and therefore more secure. The same concept is used for children with autism to help them feel safe. Measure your dog to make sure you purchase the correct size. Measurements and different sizes are below:
Many owners leave the TV on for their dogs while they are away. YouTube has a thunderstorm music channel that is specific for dogs. It has worked for some of my clients. It does have an odd high-pitched tone in the beginning that is supposed to get your dog’s attention. I tend to tell owners to fast forward through this sound. It happens around second 00:17 so fast forward about 5 seconds as it can be bracing for some dogs.
Read the comments-this music can be helpful.
Also, consider using toys by West Paw. They make several toys that have holes in them which allow you to fill them with low-fat peanut butter or a smashed banana. Once filled, you put these toys in the freezer. They freeze in a few hours and then your dog licks the holes in the toy to reach the banana or peanut butter. Only bring these out when your pet tends to be anxious. This way, you reserve them as a "special treat". For dogs with storm or firework anxiety, give them during the thunderstorm to distract them. For dogs with separation anxiety, give these just before you leave so they can concentrate on them while you are gone. The goal is to turn a negative (thunderstorm) into a positive (yummy treat). Here are a few of my favorite West Paw Treats. We carry them on our online store, Downward Paws.
For dogs with storm anxiety, it is also important to intervene BEFORE the storm comes. Dogs know about 1 hour before a storm is coming and their anxiety starts then. The more anxious they become, the harder it is to calm them down.
We highly recommend using all of the above together for maximum benefit. For instance, if you were worried about getting a sunburn on a particularly sunny day, you would wear sunblock and sit under an umbrella and likely wear a hat. These all work best when used together! It’s the same concept when trying to help your dog with anxiety.
Disclosure: there are some affiliate links above and I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However these are all products I personally recommend. I will not put anything on this site that I haven't verified, researched and/or personally used.