If you have a furry four-legged friend who suffers from anxiety, then you might be wondering whether you can buy dog anxiety medication over the counter. Different medications may be more or less suitable for different dogs in different situations, so it is always worth talking to your veterinarian about the best option for your dog. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the more common ingredients in over-the-counter medications for anxiety and how they work.
Why Is My Dog Anxious?
Anxiety is often referred to as an increased level of stress in response to a given situation. Anxiety symptoms can be a normal response to a perceived threat, evolved through survival instinct. However, for some dogs, their anxiety can spiral out of control and affect their (and your!) quality of life.
There are many different types of anxiety that dogs can experience, and their symptoms may range from mild to severe. Some of the more common examples include fear anxiety, separation anxiety, social anxiety from meeting new people or dogs, and aging anxiety often due to a deterioration of senses such as sight and sound.
What Are the Signs of Anxiety in Dogs?
Different dogs will demonstrate different signs of anxiety, particularly in different situations. The following list is by no means exhaustive but more common signs might include trembling, hiding, barking or whining, tail tucked under the body, yawning, inappropriate toileting, and destructive or aggressive behavior.
What Over-The-Counter Medication Can I Give to Help My Dog’s Anxiety?
There are several different types of over-the-counter medication for dog anxiety and different dogs are often better suited to different types. It is best to discuss the various options with your veterinarian to determine the best type for your dog. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more common ingredients in over-the-counter dog anxiety medication.
This is one of the most common ingredients found in dog calming supplements. It is an extract found primarily in tea. In people, L-theanine has been shown to decrease the levels of brain chemicals that contribute to stress and anxiety. It also can help to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, both of which can lower stress levels and promote a calming effect. It can be given for a variety of different anxiety-inducing situations and works best if given around one hour before the event. It can also be given long-term for cases of chronic anxiety.
Anxiety is often associated with low levels of L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan increases the levels of serotonin (“the happy hormone”) in the brain, thus reducing levels of anxiety. L-tryptophan can also be converted to melatonin, which can lessen the feelings associated with fear. It is also thought to be fast-acting, so can be a good option for dogs with a fear of unpredictable events like fireworks or thunderstorms.
Casein is a milk protein that is clinically proven to have a calming effect on the brain. It is derived from colostrum, the first milk that newborns drink after birth, which helps to promote relaxation. It can either be given short-term for a few days before a stressful event, or long-term to help manage chronic anxiety.
As already mentioned, melatonin can help reduce the feelings associated with fear. It helps promote the functioning of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is another chemical in the brain that induces a calming effect. Melatonin can also sometimes act as a mild sedative, so for these reasons is most suited to dogs with fear-related anxieties such as fireworks, thunderstorms, or trips to the vet.
Dog Appeasing Pheromones
These are chemicals that dogs release when they are happy and relaxed. A good example is when mother dogs release odorless pheromones from their mammary area to comfort their feeding puppies. Humans cannot detect these pheromones but they can be detected by dogs of all ages, not just puppies. There are products available that contain artificial versions of these pheromones, which can help induce this same feeling of security and calm in your dog. They are available as either plug-in diffusers, sprays, capsules given in food, or impregnated collars.
How to Use Over-The-Counter Dog Anxiety Medications
- Always consult your veterinarian before introducing anything new to your dog’s diet, just in case it could interfere with any existing conditions.
- Although unlikely, some dogs could be allergic to certain ingredients in supplements. Monitor your dog carefully for any unwanted symptoms.
- Always use over-the-counter medications from a trusted source.
- The majority of over-the-counter medications will be most effective if started before the stressful event. It is much more difficult to calm down an already anxious dog than it is to prevent such anxiety from occurring in the first place.
- Never use over-the-counter medications in the place of a veterinary-prescribed medication as this could be dangerous for your dog.
- Remember, there are no “quick fixes” and all supplements will work best alongside a positive training plan. Your veterinarian will be able to refer you to a qualified behaviorist for more detailed help and advice.
What Else Can I Do to Help My Dog’s Anxiety?
Ensure your dog has a space where he can go to feel safe and not be disturbed. The Original Calming Bed is specially designed to help soothe your dog’s anxiety, but ensure that it is placed somewhere quiet, ideally in a covered “den.”
You could also try an anxiety vest such as the ThunderShirt. This fits snuggly around your dog’s body and can help to decrease anxiety and promote feelings of calm, in much the same way that swaddling a baby does.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you give a dog Benadryl for anxiety?
Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) is an over-the-counter human allergy medication that also is a mild anxiolytic in dogs. Only ever give your dog medication under the instruction of a veterinarian as it might not be suitable, and could even be dangerous for your dog.
What are the best calming tablets for dogs?
There are many different calming tablets available and different supplements will work differently in different dogs and in different situations. Talk to your veterinarian about the best option for your dog.
What medication can I give my dog for anxiety?
There are several different over-the-counter medications available for anxiety in dogs. These come in varying formulations, from tablets or liquids that are given with food, to sprays and plug-in diffusers. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you about the best type for your dog.
Several anti-anxiety medications are available over the counter for dogs. These can ‘take the edge off’ mildly stressful encounters, or be used alongside prescription medications for severe fear. However, it’s important to remember there are no ‘quick fixes’ – if your dog is showing signs of anxiety, it’s best to talk to a veterinary behaviorist for a behavior modification plan.