Doggy anxiety symptoms can be very similar to that of a human’s – shaking, difficulty breathing, restless or destructive behaviour, tail tucking (well, maybe not the last one). Such symptoms are easily spotted, but anxiety can also present itself in more unusual ways – being easily frightened or jumpiness, biting, cowering, itching or yawning, urinating and micro-expressions such as laying ears back or snarling.
The reasoning for this anxiety can be anything from loud noises to lack of routine or mental stimulation, or separation issues from puppy-hood trauma – especially common for our beloved rescue pups. Any dog-lover will testify to how in-tune canines are to their owners, so they may just be anxious because you are! Addressing the root cause is always the best tactic, but if you have an overly-nervous dog or a situation you can’t avoid, there are ways you can help.
Specific herbs are brilliant for calming your nervous dog, providing a natural and safe alternative to pharmaceutical meds and their nasty side effects. Using herbs for dogs is a mild, non-addictive and cost effective way for calming your dog – especially as they don’t require a vet visit and prescription. Unlike pharmaceuticals, calming herbs can be a long-term solution for your dog, working to support the nervous system through nutrition. In fact, many of the herbs for dogs we recommend are also often prescribed for humans! But before you pull out the Rescue Remedy (please don’t!), check out our guide to calming herbs for dogs.
Valerian root: is one of the more popular sedative and anti-anxiety herbs for dogs and humans alike. Since valerian is considered a “warming herb”, it is not recommended for dogs that tend to run hot (for instance, itchy dogs hot to the touch with bright-red tongues). Use it for stressful events or if your dog gets hysterical or over-excitable.
If your dog is due to undergo a stressful event or trip, start administering five drops, three to four times daily of valerian root in tincture form, three days before the event.
Though valerian is generally safe for dogs, large doses may cause digestive upset, and it shouldn't be used in pregnant dogs.
St John’s Wort: Thanks to its anti-depressant properties, St John’s Wort is another one of the fantastic calming herbs for dogs that counteracts anxiety. Studies show that St John’s Wort is as effective as standard anti-depressants like Prozac, but without the unwanted side-effects. You can also use St John’s Wort flower essence to relieve insomnia and nightmares (although it is hard to tell if sleep-running is due to herding sheep or being chased by the council). Use it for separation or fear-based anxiety (i.e. thunderstorms or fireworks). Avoid using St John’s Wort for 48 hours before surgery as it may strengthen the effects of anaesthesia.
Chamomile: Next time you put on a pot of chamomile tea, how about brewing a cuppa for your pupper? We’re not kidding – this versatile herb – commonly known for helping us humans relax – is also one of the more-favourable herbs for dogs.
Chamomile helps to calm dog’s nerves in the same way as it does a human’s and can be easily soaked into a treat or, provided your dog isn’t fussy, drunk directly from its bowl (or favourite mug). Our dry chamomile blend is perfect for making canine-chamomile tea or simply mashing into wet food.
Chamomile is also great for easing nausea – making it perfect for dogs who don’t travel well – as well as helping digestion, easing gas (no more blaming Fido) and is one of the best dog supplements for itching when used topically.
Though chamomile is considered very safe, some animals can be allergic, so we do recommend you start with small amounts.
Check out our Chamomile mix for Dogs
Oat: Oat is another excellent example of nerve-calming herbs for dogs, and it’s very nutritious as well. Everyone knows of rolled oats or steel-cut oats as a breakfast food. However, oat tops (the seed of the plant) or oat straw (the stems/leaves of the plant) are what is used in making nourishing teas. If you aren’t able to get the tea, a simple home remedy is cooked oatmeal which can be added to your dog's food. It can also help with epilepsy, tremors, and twitching.
Recommended dosing is two to four ounces of cooled oat tea daily for dogs. Reduce the amount given if excitability or vomiting occurs.
Check out our Organic Calmer Tonic.
If you’re in need of further advice on how to use herbs for your dog, or are looking for herbal dog supplements, get in touch with us through email, Facebook or simply calling. We’re passionate about providing high-quality herbal remedies for animals, and love to help others that are too.