How to support your dog with stress and anxiety
We are more aware than ever before about how our pets are feeling.
The last few years especially allowed us to get even closer to our furry family members and focus on their wellbeing.
We are concerned if they are happy, well adjusted, getting the best food and plenty of love. Mine still think they are starved of this one, of course!
But despite our best efforts, it's still possible that our puppers will struggle with some stress and anxiety from time to time. And often, just like with people, this can be through no fault of their own.
Stress can occur for a number of different reasons, and some dogs are more sensitive than others. My rescue dog Ivy is very highly strung and reactive (and yes, she occasionally drives me insane!).
But this life! It's unpredictable and learning to deal with what is thrown at you is all part of it!
Sometimes things change in our lives that can cause a big panic with dogs. Such as moving house, changes in family situations, building work being carried out or strangers in your home.
No matter how small of an event or slight a disruption, you name it, it can cause our canine companion's stress! Then there are the more common stress triggers that many pet parents must navigate - thunder, fireworks, separation anxiety.
Watching your pooch panic because of these factors can be disturbing to watch. As a pet owner you feel so helpless, and naturally you want to comfort and help your pet, but it can be hard to know how.
My rescue dog Dexter has been a quivering wreck many nights because of thunderstorms. Literally climbing on my head for the slightest bit of comfort and reassurance.
Often, there’s no overnight miracle cure. But with some guidance and a few changes, we can make gradual improvements to help our pets cope with certain situations in the future.
There are many ways and means to support your dog through these stressful situations and events. And luckily, you have a lead veterinary nurse (me!) to help you every step of the way!
Keep reading to see the signs, learn how to reduce stress and discover which supplements may best support your buddy!
Signs of stress and anxiety
There is no one sign. What may be one sign for your dog will be completely different another.
That’s why it’s important for the person who knows their dog best (you!) to identify what may be causing the stress.
Body language is the best indicator of how your doggo is feeling.
Watch out for:
- No eye contact - looking away and not making eye contact with you or others
- Wide eyes - those big wide-open eyes like a deer in headlights (aka whale eye)
- Scrunched brows - furrowing those furry brows
- Ears - alert and standing to attention, sideways or laid back flat
- Cheek puffing and teeth/jaw chattering
- Squinting, blinking or grinning
It’s also integral to recognise fear in our dogs body language.
These can range from subtle signs, to the more obvious:
Signs of fear in dogs::
- Slight or major cowering
- Licking lips (when no food nearby)
- Panting (when not hot, thirsty or exercising)
- Moving in slow motion
- Acting sleepy or yawning (when not tired)
- Hypervigilant - looking in many different directions, often with exaggerated movement
- Suddenly won’t eat or accept treats
- Moving away
7 tips to reduce anxiety
- Take them for a walk. Going for walks releases endorphins in humans and dogs. The metal stimulation can also calm an anxious dog.
- Physical touch. Simple stroking or leaning against you can reduce anxiety in people and pets. Other techniques, such as Tellington TTouch® Trainingcan help calm an anxious dog.
- Calming supplements. There are many supplements to help calm an anxious dog with different ingredients/ways in which they work. Speak to a Buddycare nurse for them to advise which is best for your pup and situation.
- Classical music can help to calm an anxious dog. The Company Of Animals has a great sounds CD to help with prevention and treatment of sound phobias in dogs. With four categories to choose from; bangs, transport, household appliances and people. Over 30 different sounds overall. Sounds CD - Company Of Animals UK
- Use enrichment toys and puzzles such as snuffle mats, puzzle toys and activity feeders. Original snufflemats by Ruffle Snuffle - machine washable (rufflesnufflemats.com).
- Thundershirts - Like swaddling an infant, the dog anxiety vest's design applies gentle, constant pressure to calm all types of anxiety, fear, and over-excitement issues in dogs.
- Remove them from the situation. If possible, simply guide them away from what is bothering them. Obviously you can only do this in certain situations. A stranger has appraoched who your dog is showing fear signs to.... or you can learn to recognise your dogs triggers and prepare for a situation you know your dog finds stressful.
Supplements to help
Earlier, I mentioned supplements in my top tips. And in my experience, the development of these supplements has come along leaps and bounds over the last few years!
Usually, most of the ingredients have certain effects, and combining a few of them can really help to calm and chill out your pooch.
I've worked alongside our in-house vet team to pick the best products and supplements for the health and well-being of your pets.
Calm Care has a range of ingredients we have hand-picked for their stress-relieving benefits:
- L-Tryptophan and Green Tea Extract (L-Theanine) - Required for the production of serotonin which promotes a sense of calm, and gives a nice sense of well-being.
- Valerian Root Extract - Known for its sedative qualities. Helps soothe and ease anxiety. It is said to have a similar effect as valium and Xanax (it feels like a giant calming cuddle).
- Magnesium Citrate and Calcium - Supports the nervous system (blocks activity of the more stimulating neurotransmitters resulting in a more peaceful restful state) and muscle function (relaxes the muscles).
- Vitamin B1, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9, Vitamin B12 -Important to regulate mood functions .
Over the years I have consistently given supplements to my own pack of pets. Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe but even vet nurses' pets come with problems!
We have Dexter the Greek rescue who is very sensitive. Who knows what he went through before we added him to our family, but he was a very distressed doggo!
Thunder, earthquakes and even a simple fly swat can send leave him quaking in his furry boots. Panting, trembling, hiding, you name it!
Over the past two years we have been helping him with his anxieties and part of that includes using calming supplements, which really have helped.
Ivy our second rescue dog from Greece comes under the highly strung category! She is very reactive. Which drives us insane in the car if she sees other dogs, goats, sheep, and sometimes even people.
We are constantly working with her to help her through these instances, and our calming supplements work wonders for supporting her too.
The ingredients give them a nice calm sense of well-being to help acclimatise them to certain situations. I know we will get there and she is greatly improved compared to when we rescued her.
Then we have Wingnut! You may have seen him as the star of our Tiktok videos. Wingnut is not a rescue. He is a dachshund we got him as a pup from a responsible breeder.
He has been well-socialised since we got him and introduced to all situations we could, but still... he’s a bit of a wuss! Bless him. He is a mummy’s boy admittedly, but he is a little afraid of strangers and new situations.
But using Calmcare and introducing him to things we know he is a little anxious about, in a positive way, has helped massively.
The supplements are not miracle cures by any stretch of the means, but when you use them alongside other measures, you're sure to see the benefits.
We can’t expect to give them a supplement and then everything to be rosy overnight. That’s not how anything works, unfortunately.
However, it is a great way to help ease the anxiety burden whilst working with them to address the stress.
Ask a Registered Vet Nurse
Got a concern about your pet, need help picking the right product or just looking for expert advice to be the best pet parent ever? Our vet nurses are here to use their decades of experience to help!