Nearly Free Anxiety Solutions For Your Dog

Sometimes your dog’s anxiety is serious and requires regular medication or professional training but if you’re just trying to get past a little pacing during specific events there are some cheap solutions you can try. Some of these could also supplement treatment for more serious anxiety. 

For things making your dog anxious at home you can make him a safe spot. It doesn’t have to be a crate if your dog doesn’t already use one. My dog Biscotti has safe spots in my bed and under the kitchen table to use during storms. He only has access to my bed when people are home, so giving him an alternative he could use by himself was important.  He gets treats and cuddles and chews and toys in those places so they’re full of good associations. The table has a dog bed and a fan underneath it so he’ll be comfortable, and the chairs are spaced so that he fits under there and the other dogs do not. Set it up according to what your dog prefers.  Biscotti prefers not to cuddle dogs when he’s scared, but that would be the opposite of what would help my other dogs. Initially I would have to bring him to those places when it was storming but he quickly figured out to go by himself. After working on his comfort in those areas and training him to be less afraid of thunder he’s fine during most storms just by taking himself to a safe space.

White noise can help, especially for noise phobias. Sometimes TV or radio is effective but there is music just for anxious dogs if that’s not quite doing it. Relax My Dog has a free YouTube channel of music for dogs to try, and while I find it slightly irritating my dogs seem to prefer their music to mine.

If you’d like to try a Thundershirt or other pressure wrap without spending a lot of money you can DIY one. If your dog needs to wear their shirt frequently it might make sense to invest in something that’s easy to get fitted onto and off of a dog, but for infrequent use or to see if it helps your dog, a homemade shirt is perfect. You really just want something stretchy but not confining to hug your dog’s chest and trunk. If you have a male dog, make sure he can urinate without making a mess all over it.

OTC Medications and supplements can be helpful and inexpensive, but you should discuss them with your vet to make sure there are no interactions with any medications your dog is currently on or possible repercussions due to other conditions your dog has.  Remember that something safe for occasional use isn’t always safe for regular use without blood work or an exam, and make sure that any human supplements you give your dog only contain the active ingredient you already know is safe for dogs. If you’re not sure, vets and pet pharmacies usually stock OTC drugs that are labeled for human use but safe for dogs and/or cats. Chlorpheniramine and Benadryl are both antihistamines that have mild sedative, anti nausea, and anti-anxiety effects. Chlorpheniramine tends to make dogs less drowsy than Benadryl, but either would be good for travel anxiety or the first few nights in a new house to help an anxious dog relax and sleep. Car anxiety may be caused by mild motion sickness even if your dog doesn’t actually vomit; meclizine, the same OTC drug used to treat humans, may help. If you suspect motion sickness has contributed to car anxiety, remember that it may take a few trips for your dog to realize that they’re not getting sick every time they go for a car ride anymore. Melatonin, vitamin B complex, or various individual B vitamins are the active ingredient in many popular calming treats for dogs and are available much more cheaply if you add the treat yourself. They can be given either regularly for mild generalized anxiety or as needed before a scary event.

Stronger prescription anti-anxiety medications are usually generic and actually very inexpensive, but often require an exam first. If you plan ahead and discuss it with your vet during your dog’s yearly exam, you should be able to get what your dog needs for less than the cost of his heartworm prescription. You may also be able to call in a prescription request and just pay for the medication if your dog is generally healthy and doesn’t need the medication too frequently.

It’s possible that some of these only help because routines and concrete actions help owners and dogs stay calm. That doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t dangerous for your dog. If it’s helping them and making you feel better,  it’s good. The placebo effect is still an effect, and having a way to calm your dog is good for everyone. If your dog needs stronger medication that’s okay too and cost shouldn’t be something you fear when making that decision.

By Laura-C

Hopes to someday train her dogs not to be douchebags.

2 replies on “Nearly Free Anxiety Solutions For Your Dog”

You’ve given me something to think about with the placebo effect. We decreased Daisy’s anxiety meds dramatically, and she did great, until we went to one pill a day. Then it was like, boom, crazy. She loves routine, so I wonder if not getting her spoonful of peanut butter morning AND night was part of that.

Biscotti is the same. He loves his little rituals to the point that he won’t eat his dinner if I don’t have him do the right tricks in the right order before we put it down. I can’t even let him just touch my hand with his paw instead of really shaking or he’ll just sit next to his plate and look sad.
On the one hand it means having a ritual makes it easier to calm him down but sometimes it’s self defeating. The bathroom is the best room in the house for the parts of storms he’s most afraid of (flashing light, noise, overheating due to needing to snuggle something) so we’ve tried to get him to hang out in there during storms but that’s not a room he chills in by himself and nothing will convince him it’s a good idea.

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