Pacing, excessive grooming, tummy troubles — the symptoms of canine anxiety can help you understand that your poor pooch is on edge.
Not only is anxiety emotionally bothersome for your dog, but it can have physical side effects, too, making management a must.
We’ve fetched the facts about calming supplements to give you a clearer picture of what might work for you and your doggo.
Read on to learn more, or just check out our quick picks if you’re in a hurry!
Calming Chews for Anxious Dogs: Quick Picks
- #1 Gracie To The Rescue’s Calming Treats [Most Socially Responsible Calming Treats — ALSO Best Organic Option] These chews feature organic ingredients like hemp seed oil and chamomile while also donating supplements to local animal shelters for every chew container sold.
- #2 Finn Calming Chews [Best Soft Calming Treats] — These beef liver-flavored calming treats contain several different organic ingredients designed to soothe your canine’s frazzled nerves, from hemp and l-tryptophan to chamomile and melatonin.
- #3 VetriScience Composure Chews [Best Calming Treats for Picky Pooches] — Calming treats can’t work if your dog won’t eat them. Still, these supplements come in four flavors (including a flavorless liquid) to tempt your pup’s picky palate.
How Do Calming Supplements Work?
Calming supplements contain ingredients that promote relaxation, which may reduce mild to moderate cases of canine anxiety.
The efficacy of these supplements varies. Some studies link the active ingredients to an improvement in overall anxiety, while others dismiss their claims entirely.
This makes talking to your vet a must before trying any canine calming supplement to ensure the right fit.
Ingredients vary by supplement, but the most common are:
- Valerian root: Often used by people as a sedative, valerian root is a natural ingredient that may help calm anxious dogs. Dogs who were allowed to smell valerian root extracts exhibited decreased vocalizations and activity in a kennel environment. Valerian root isn’t for all dogs, however, and can have adverse effects on some, especially those on medication.
- L-theanine: The amino acid L-theanine increases dopamine in the brain, easing anxiousness. A study published in a 2015 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that L-theanine reduced symptoms in dogs prone to storm-associated anxiety. Perhaps most encouraging, owner satisfaction with the treatment in the study was 94%.
- L-tryptophan: Believed to increase serotonin levels in the brain, L-tryptophan may help your dog regulate his anxiety. It is used for aggression and hyperactivity, typical side effects of anxiety.
The Second Batch
Chamomile: Found to have a mild sedative effect, chamomile may also have anti-anxiety properties.
CBD: CBD or cannabidiol is a plant extract often used to treat anxiety in humans. While there are only a handful of dog studies to date, and more research is necessary, there are some encouraging data available. One 2018 study concluded that CBD is typically well-tolerated by dogs, and a 2019 survey of veterinarians found that many reported it to be effective at treating anxiety (as well as pain and seizures). CBD typically appears as CBD oil or hemp in dog supplements.
Melatonin: A hormone that promotes relaxation and sleep, melatonin is often included in calming treats to help anxious dogs suffering from hyperactivity. There are no clear-cut scientific studies surrounding dogs and melatonin, though some vets find it effective in alleviating the stress caused by separation anxiety, fireworks, and storms.
A few ingredients that are used less often and are less studied include:
- Passionflower: The passion flower is a plant believed to have calming or sedative effects on dogs in homeopathic medicine. There are no definitive scientific studies to back up this claim nor verify its safety for dogs.
- Ginger: We can’t find any studies specifically investigating the safety or efficacy of ginger in dogs, but it is well-known for its calming properties on the human stomach. Nevertheless, one 2017 study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research has also linked it to reducing overall anxiety in lab mice.
- Thiamine: Also known as Vitamin B1, thiamine reduces anxiety in humans. However, no study thus far has examined its use, efficacy, or safety in canines.
- Helianthemum nummularium: Results are mixed on the effectiveness of this plant. The study’s authors say that “it is likely that the placebo effect operates to a significant extent in both approaches.”
The Second Batch
- Clematis vitalba: Commonly known as the older man’s beard. This flower is to treat anxiety in homeopathic circles.
- Impatiens glandulifera: Also referred to as Himalayan balsam. This plant has long been used in folk medicine to treat ailments, including anxiety. In limited studies, the extract hasn’t shown a change in lab mice behavior. And there have been no controlled studies on dogs.
- Prunus cerasifera: Also called cherry plum are popular among some owners. But, they have not been shown to have a significant impact on human anxiety.
- Ornithogalum umbellatum: Known by its common name Star of Bethlehem, this supplement demonstrates that caution is essential when using natural supplements, and many are not safe. This additive is potentially dangerous and may cause irreversible blindness when administered to dogs, according to one study.
- Colostrum calming complex is made using cow’s milk obtained within 12 hours of the birth of a calf. The company states that the nutrient-dense complex contains amino acids, including decapeptides that boost the effect of gamma-Aminobutyric acid. This neurotransmitter can make the brain less reactive to stressful stimuli. Amino-rich formulas derived from colostrum have shown promise in a 2005 study of human Alzheimer patients published in Regulatory Peptides.
- Zylkene: Zylkene (beef-hydrolyzed milk protein, aka alpha-S1 tryptic casein/alpha-capsazepine) is similar to the colostrum calming complex and works in essentially the same way.
TALK TO YOUR VET
Always check with your vet before giving your dog a calming supplement.
Some dogs may be more sensitive to specific ingredients than others, and medications can affect the way some supplements affect your pet’s health.
Your pupper may also be experiencing anxiety due to a medical condition, so it’s essential to rule any out before treatment.
The Best Calming Supplements for Dogs: Over-the-Counter Options for Dogs with Anxiety
As we mentioned above, the market is full of calming supplements for dogs that contain a host of ingredients, both natural and artificial. Below, we’ve sorted out the best calming supplements and calming chews to help your pooch chill out and live his best doggone life.
1. Gracie To The Rescue Calming Treats
About: Gracie To The Rescue’s Calming Treats are from organic ingredients. These include hemp seed oil and chamomile powder. The formula is for pups 12 weeks and above.
- Each container contains 120 treats
- Have calming properties without causing drowsiness, per the manufacturer
- The company has a “Paw It Forward” campaign.
- Made in the USA
I had the chance to try Grace to the Rescue Calming Treats with my pooch Remy. By and large, they seemed to work quite well.
While I can see where some users found these chews to be on the crumbly side, I didn’t find this an issue. They held up just fine and were easy to dispense to Rem.
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Remy was happy to nom these chews right down. We also love that this organization gives back to local animal shelters. Plus, Gracie, the company mascot, is a decent Remy lookalike, which is a nice bonus.
Note: I’ve met the founder of Gracie to the Rescue in person while spending time in Austin, and while we haven’t let this fact affect our review, it’s something I want to disclose.
2. Finn Calming Chews
About: Finn’s Calming Chews are soft chews that calm your dog’s nerves. They do so with the use of organic hemp powder and other calming ingredients like chamomile, passion flower, and L-Tryptophan.
- Beef liver flavored soft chews that dogs enjoy, with 90 chews per tin
- Includes several calming ingredients, including organic hemp powder, passion flower, l-tryptophan, chamomile, and melatonin
- Made with no cellulose powder, silicon dioxide, maltodextrin, corn, soy, or wheat
- Each batch of dog calming chews is lab-tested and tracked through the supply chain from ingredient supplier, manufacturing, and processing to ensure safety
3. PremiumCare Calming Treats
About: PremiumCare Calming Treats are the perfect size for owners seeking on-the-go anxiety management. The 120-count jar makes ongoing or as-needed administration easy and is made with organic hemp-based ingredients.
- Duck-flavored soft, calming chews are tasty and easy to eat
- Made in the USA with no corn, soy, or dairy
- Suitable for all dog breeds and ages
- Work by calming your dog rather than sedating it, according to the manufacturer
4. PetHonesty Hemp Calming Treats
About: PetHonesty Hemp Calming Treats use natural ingredients to relax your dog, including organic hemp seed powder and oil, chamomile, and valerian root. Formed into soft, bite-sized calming chews, they’re easy for any breed to eat.
- Made without wheat or corn
- Veterinarian-reviewed formula
- Come in 90-count tubs
- Made in the USA at a GMP-certified facility
5. VetriScience Composure Chews
About: VetriScience Composure Chews are calming treats that can be given daily or on an as-needed basis for storms and other anxiety triggers. Made to calm rather than sedate, the manufacturer reports that these won’t leave your pup tired.
- Suitable for dogs of all sizes and ages
- Veterinarian-approved formula
- Made in the USA
- It starts working within 30 minutes
- Soft chew is ideal for most dogs and can be crumbled over food
6. NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid
About: The NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid is a soft chew suitable for dogs of all sizes. Combining calming chamomile with the sedative properties of melatonin may help your pup remain calm during those pesky fireworks and thunderstorms.
- Suitable for mild to moderate canine anxiety, according to the manufacturer
- Added ginger helps soothe sour tummies.
- Reportedly provides comfort and relief within 30 minutes
- Calming chews are safe for dogs over 12 weeks old
- Promote relaxation without drowsiness
- Peppermint flavor freshens breath
- Chew design keeps your anxious pooch busy and cleans his teeth
- Made in the USA using a grain-free formula
8. Rescue Remedy for Pets
About: Rescue Remedy Stress Relief Drops for Pets are plant-based and alcohol-free. Suitable for one-time or ongoing calming applications, the manufacturer reports that the formula can be used on dogs, cats, lizards, and more.
- Flavorless, making it easy to mix into food or water
- Made in England
- It doesn’t require refrigeration
- Usable for dogs of all ages and sizes
9. STRELLALAB Hemp Calming Treats
About: STRELLALAB’s Hemp Calming Treats use hemp and other organic ingredients to soothe dogs suffering from anxiety. These calming dog chews can be used daily or for occasional treatment for storms or fireworks.
- The soft chew form is teeth-friendly and crushes easily over food if needed.
- The 120-count container lasts 24-120 days, depending on your dog’s weight.
- Made in the USA with no corn, soy, or dairy
- Dosing starts for dogs over 25 pounds to those over 100 pounds
10. Ready Pet Go! Natural Calming Treats
About: Ready Pet Go!’s Calming Treats come in 90-count packages, offering up to a 3-month supply depending on your dog’s weight. Made with hemp powder, chamomile, and more, these dog calming treats seek to give your pup a touch of relaxation using natural ingredients.
- Come in a tasty bacon and cheese flavor
- Safe for daily use to help ease ongoing anxiety or on an as-needed basis for fireworks and storms
- Safe for puppies to adult dogs, according to the manufacturer
- Made in the USA at a GMP-certified, FDA-registered facility
11. Zesty Paws Calming Soft Chews
About: Zesty Paws Calming Soft Chews have a chicken-free formula containing several ingredients that promote relaxation, including organic hemp seed powder, organic chamomile, and more. Best of all, it’s earned the National Animal Supplement Council’s quality seal.
- Formed into easy-to-eat small calming chews
- Suitable for all breeds
- Packaged in 90-count containers
- Made in the USA with globally-sourced ingredients
Different Types of Calming Supplements: Chews, Tinctures, & Tablets to Help Your Dog Deal with Stress
As with all medications, calming supplements come in several forms for administering. Which state works best will vary by your dog’s preference and overall medication tolerance. The most common types are:
Typically flavored with peanut butter or protein as an incentive, chews are given to your dog like a treat.
What Kinds of Pets Can Benefit from a Calming Supplement for Dogs?
Like all treatments, calming supplements work better when dealing with some kinds of stressful situations than others. Dogs who typically benefit from calming supplements are:
- Dealing with separation anxiety: If your dog fears being alone, a calming supplement can give him the temporary relief he needs when you need to venture out without him.
- Fearful of loud noises: Storms and fireworks aren’t an everyday event, making the occasional calming supplement ideal for controlling your dog’s anxiety as needed.
- Suffering from generalized anxiety: Some pups are nervous Nellies by nature, and a calming supplement can provide everyday relief without a prescription.
- Recently adopted: Joining a new family and routine is stressful. Relaxing your new friend with a calming supplement can shorten the adjustment period.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs
Our dogs can’t tell us when they’re feeling anxious, but they can clue us in with their behavior. Not every dog will act the same when they’re eager, with some pups making their troubles known loudly and proudly while others mask them as much as possible.
That said, the most common signs your dog is anxious are:
- Improper elimination
- Excessive drooling
- Whining or barking
- Excessive grooming (particularly paws)
- Destructive chewing
If you suspect your dog is anxious, call your vet and schedule an exam to rule out other health conditions if the cause isn’t apparent, such as fearing storms or fireworks.
Additional Steps to Soothing Your Anxious Dog
While calming supplements can help your dog relax, the best approach to tackle anxiety is comprehensive.
Treating the source of your dog’s anxiety through counterconditioning and training, rather than only masking the stress symptoms, is always ideal.
Dogs with more severe anxiety may need the help of more high-dose dog anxiety medication that can be more powerful than the supplements covered here. Talking with your vet can narrow down the best treatment plan.
Other tools and techniques you can use include:
- Increasing exercise: Upping your dog’s activity levels can alleviate stress. This is particularly important in woofers exhibiting anxiety related to routine changes.
- Crate training: An anxiety-proof crate gives your pup a place to unwind, feel safe, and relax. Ideal for keeping dogs with separation anxiety safe and out of trouble, a box can also be used to isolate your storm-fearing dog with calming music during thunder.
- Thundershirt: Like swaddling a baby, a Thundershirt provides your dog security when he’s feeling anxious during an event, like a storm or fireworks. Snug but not restrictive, thunder shirts may be used alone or in combination with another anxiety-controlling method.
- Prescribed medication: For doggos with severe anxiety, medication like Xanax may be the best option. These specially formulated medications target chemicals in your pupper’s brain to help him relax.
- Desensitization/Counterconditioning: If specific things send your pup’s anxiety through the roof like other dogs, desensitization or counterconditioning training can tackle his fear. This gradual training exposes your puppy to his trigger over time, reducing and eliminating the phobia and subsequent anxiety.
- Providing a chew toy: Chewing and licking help release endorphins in your doggo’s brain, which will help calm him down. Plus, these types of anxiety dog toys and chews help keep his brain busy.
Have you tried any calming supplements above or other with your pooch? What works best for calming your doggo? Let us know in the comments.