Last Updated on 2 weeks by Dr. Shannon Barrett
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.
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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.
- Effective and drug-free solution to may help reduce common signs of stress caused by visitors, staying home alone, and loud noises like thunder or fireworks
- This diffuser releases a constant stress releasing Pheromone that is only noticeable to your dog but helps them feel calm and comfortable by mimicking a mother dog’s natural nursing pheromones
- This heated diffuser covers up to 700 square feet
- Position the diffuser with the vents up and avoid plugging the diffuser in under shelves and behind doors, curtains, or furniture, for best results place the diffuser where your dog spends most of their time
- Starter kit includes 1 diffuser head and 1 vial; to maximize effectiveness, replace the vial once a month, and the diffuser every 6 months
· 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
- Collar infused with the same calming pheromones used in the famous adaptil diffuser and spray.
- Recommended by veterinarians to help dogs with anxiety
- Adaptil pheromones are helpful for destructive chewing, trembling, fear of loud noises, separation anxiety, and many other "not-so-fun" symptoms your dog may display
- Adaptil collar helps your dog feel calm and comfortable by mimicking a mother’s natural nursing pheromones, 100% safe and drug-free.
- EASY TO USE: Simply pop on you dog's Adaptil collar and go. Your dog's natural body heat will activate the calming pheromones, which will keep them calm all day long, both at home, and on the go!
- Each collar lasts up to 4 weeks.
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.
- The patented ThunderShirt design applies gentle, constant pressure, like a hug, that may calm anxiety, fear, and over excitement due to a variety of environmental triggers; ThunderShirt is also great for rescue dogs
- These shirts help reduce anxiety for our canine friends that are afraid of thunder, fireworks, separation anxiety, travel, general anxiety and vet visits*
- A great drug-free alternative to help ease anxiety
- Money Back Guarantee: We stand behind ThunderShirt. If you are not satisfied for any reason, simply return within the Amazon return window for a refund of your purchase price
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.
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.
Dr. Shannon Barrett brings an exceptional blend of academic excellence and professional expertise to the world of veterinary medicine. With a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Western University of Health Sciences, where she graduated with honors, and dual Bachelor degrees in Biological Sciences and Psychology, her depth of knowledge is extensive. A member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Barrett's insights and contributions to pet health have been featured in leading publications such as Rover, MarketWatch, and Newsweek.