Last updated on July 3, 2019
If you landed on this blog post during thunderstorm or fireworks season, the tips and products to keep dogs calm will help you immensely. If you are landing on this article because you have a dog who is afraid of car travel, has separation anxiety, was abused and you rescued him or her, or has some sort of anxiety issue, you are in luck, as we have you covered.
One size does not fill at when it comes to products to keep a dog calm. Have you seen those commercials on tv for human antidepressants? There are hundreds of different pills for depression and anxiety, and this is because people react differently and have different needs. The same holds true for dogs. Never give your dog your own anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medications and always consult with your dog’s veterinarian before administering anything new to your dog.
In extreme cases, such as on the fourth of July, I will give my dog a prescribed dosage of alprazolam (Xanax) from his veterinarian. I do this because when it’s full-on doggy armageddon and there are sounds that liken those in a war zone, it isn’t fair to my dog to shake, tremble, and suffer. The Xanax takes an edge off without making him act dopey or sluggish. We stay indoors, watch television, put the air conditioning on, and pull the blinds in our living room. We close the doors to the rooms in the house and close the windows. You most certainly want to keep sound fearful dogs away from open doors or windows, as dogs in extreme fear will bolt: Out of glass, through screens, and more. I’ve seen and read it all over the years. Some dogs actually smash through closed glass windows and doors. If you have family or visitors who come and go during fearful times, keep the dog safely away from an open door or window.
This is not a list that runs the full gamut of calming agents for dogs. These are products we have used and with which we have had success. You do not want to use these together. Pick one, try it, see if it works and how your dog reacts. I never thought I’d say this, but I finally found an anti-anxiety wrap that works on my dog.
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Here are all the products mentioned in this post. If you want to learn more about any of them, keep scrolling.
1. Dr. Harvey’s Relax Supplement For Dogs: This one is very easy to administer because it is a powder that you simply add to food. A scoop is provided in the container, and you use it according to your dog’s weight. It does not need to build up in the body and works quickly, within an hour after being mixed in food. Dexter is semi-fussy and he never noticed a smell or taste difference in his food because he continued to eat his meals as he always does. What I like about it is its ease of use, the fact that its a powdered supplement that may be used as an all-natural aid to calm dogs, without harmful side effects. You can use it all the time if you have a super anxious dog just to take an edge off, or according to the Wendy Shankin-Cohen, President and CEO of Dr. Harvey’s, “This supplement can be used as needed. Some people give it on any day when they know there will be stress, i.e., a vet visit, groomer visit, car ride, separation, bad weather or fireworks. Other people use it daily for very anxious dogs who need it daily. It is safe to use daily or intermittently as needed.”
2. Comfort Zone Calming Vest for Dogs: I never thought I would be sharing a positive experience with a calming vest for dogs, but here I am and here it is. We were introduced to the Comfort Zone calming dog vest this year at a pet bloggers conference. I spent a solid hour talking to the folks there and discovered that the vest was worth trying on my dog, Dexter. You see, Dex had a very negative experience in his first few years of life. Sounds never bothered him…then on July 4th at night, I took him for a regular curbside pee break. Kids came by on bikes and tossed firecrackers at him. I was livid, but the kids were fast and on bikes. My dog was forever changed in that moment. We have tried SO many things including de-conditioning. The Comfort Zone shirt was worth a shot, and that shot prevailed.
The big mistake I see dog parents make with anti-anxiety shirts is this: They order one, put it on the dog during a storm or fireworks, and they expect all to be cured. That is not the case. You need to order the shirt, have your dog wear it during calm times – once a day for an hour when there is no noise. You don’t want your dog to associate the shirt with noise is coming. It may take several times before you see a difference. You must absolutely get the right size. I learned that my stocky male Cocker Spaniel needs a size small for the Comfort Zone calming vest. Size matters and you don’t want to cut off your dog’s circulation, but you do want it to be a good snug hug fit. The swaddling-like pressure is what the dog feels, much like a big ole hug in all the right parts. I use this with other supplements/meds and sometimes for a light storm, we use this alone. It doesn’t take all his fear away, but it cuts it by at least 50 percent during mild storms. Here’s Dex wearing it proudly with a great fit. You can read more and order a Comfort Zone calming vest here.
3. Melatonin: This is an age-old supplement that people take to get a better night’s sleep. It can also help dogs with anxiety. Dexter first started receiving melatonin when he was diagnosed with an immune system disease, IMT, in the fall of 2017. The Internal Medicine vet who treated Dex and oversaw his case used melatonin as part of the medical regimen. We were told it helps the platelet production and build a healthy immune system in dogs.
Always consult your vet before giving your dogs any supplements or medication. The usual dosage of melatonin for dogs depends on size of the dog and why it is being administered. Over at petMD, Dr. Marie Haynes, a veterinarian in Ottawa, Canada, says she’s also seen melatonin help dogs who have thunderstorm anxieties. Dex takes 3 mg every night before bed and we don’t notice any sedating effects. We plan to bump his dosage during fireworks or extreme thunderstorms. This is a basic chart with general dosages, but again, check with your dog’s vet to be certain there are no contraindications (a phone call works for us).
4. Only Natural Pet Just Relax Herbal Calming Soft Chews Dog Supplement: Dex loves these and they seem to take an edge off during thunderstorms. Our only issue is that Dex refuses all food and treats – including stuff like steak (gasp, I know) – during noisy times. That said, if you know a storm or fireworks are coming, these are super handy to have in your doggy household. I am super diligent about what I give my dog to eat, but this product gives me comfort and peace of mind because I trust the folks at Only Natural Pet. I know them, met them, visited their store in Colorado, and went to their headquarters. I use a ton of their products on Dex, including his flea and tick preventative. You get 60 chews and administer by dog’s weight. Dex gets one when a storm is coming and I know it is about to happen. It takes a definite edge off of him. I also put the Comfort Zone calming vest on him.
Here is the Only Natural Pet Just Relax Herbal Calming Soft Chews on Amazon. I am also posting photos of the front and back of the bag below so you can see the ingredients for yourself. The taste is bacon, so Dex digs that!
5. Thunder Essence Calming Spray: The folks at Thundershirt have been around a long time, and they do an amazing job marketing their products on television and online. That said, I am a fan of natural and safe things for dogs. We have a bottle of this and when Dex has his Comfort Zone calming vest on, I spritz it near the nape of the neck. You can also spritz this on their bed, blanket, and/or in the air. It comes in a spray or drops and contains calming elements like lavender, chamomile, and Egyptian geranium.
Snag your Thunder Essence Calming Spray on Amazon:
6. Bach Rescue Remedy for Pets: Now and again, I will use this for Dexter. I have received many good comments and positive feedback from our readers over the years. I always have this in my dog’s supply closet. I also use it for myself on rare occasion. You simply add a few droplets to water. When I administer to Dex, I mix it in a small Dixie cup with water and use a syringe to squirt it gently into his cheek. It is alcohol free and has been around for ages. You can check their reviews on Amazon. From fireworks and thunderstorms, to vet visits and road trips, this is something you can pack away for those “just in case moments.”
Pick up a bottle of Rescue Remedy for Pets on Amazon:
What About CBD Oil and Treats For Dogs?
Facts: I know people who swear by CBD oil and hemp calming treats for their dogs. If you have talked to your dog’s veterinarian and/or are dealing with a holistic vet, then by all means, go for it. So far, for me, I am sticking to what I know.
While there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence about the positive effects of CBD on cats and dogs, there is very little scientific research because CBD is classified in the U.S. as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal at the federal level in the United States. What bothers me is the lack of FDA approval or regulation, but then again, so many things that work are not FDA approved.
Before starting any sort of CBD product on their dog, dog parents should always consider where CBD brands source their oil from. It’s important to ensure the oil is sourced from reputable suppliers that conduct third party lab tests. Dogs digest differently than humans, and edible CBD treats will take a bit longer to show effect. Be sure to follow packaging guidelines. The delay in the CBD treats showing outward effects has caused some dog parents to give more CBD treats. NEVER DO THIS. YOU CAN OVERDOSE YOUR DOG.
FACT: The CBD you get online comes from industrial (or “agricultural”) hemp that might have originated in your home state, or it might have come from overseas or another processing facility where the CBD was extracted through less-than ideal processes.
According to Project CBD, ” Keep a journal of your dog before and for several days if you decide to use a CBD product. This will help you decide whether it’s having a positive effect. Better still, record video of your dog to document their progress, or lack thereof (this will help you overcome the flaws of human memory). Or ask your friends/family whether they’ve noticed any difference in your dog without telling them that you’ve been giving your dog CBD (the closest you’ll get to a blinded study).
A dog writer colleague of mine, Jen Reeder, authored a fabulous piece on cannabidiol in dogs for the Daily Beast, which I encourage you to check out here. Make the decision that is best for your dog and your needs.
I asked veterinarian friend, Dr. Laurie Coger, who practices holistic medicine and founded The Healthy Dog Workshop, for her best recommendation of a CBD treat for dogs, and she mentioned Hemp Chewy Calm Treats for Dogs from Upstate Elevator Company.
Keep Your Dog Calm During Anxious Times
Of course, there are common tips making their rounds concerning how to keep dogs calm. Here is a great shareable:
Is your dog fearful of loud sounds or have any anxiety issues? How are you keeping your dog calm? Bark at us below and have a safe summer, fourth of July, and beyond!
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