Just like people, dogs experience anxiety at some point during their life. These reactions to stressors are beneficial in times of danger, but can be detrimental when this anxiety becomes constant.
What causes anxiety in dogs?
While it is clear why dogs who have suffered abuse or trauma experience anxiety, some dogs who have not had difficult experiences still have issues. Puppies have two distinct “fear imprint periods” in their lives. The first fear imprint period occurs between 8 – 11 weeks, and sometimes this period goes relatively unnoticed. The second fear period is between 6 – 14 months, and owners often notice their dog’s fear seems to come out of nowhere. Things that didn’t bother their puppy before now seem to spook them. It’s important during these two periods to avoid traumatic experiences and use treats to create positive associations to things your dog may find scary. Socialization is very important, as is being mindful of the changes in your dog as she matures. Anxiety can also happen after a sudden changes in environment like moving to a new home, or as your dog ages and her cognitive function declines.
Separation anxiety in dogs is all too common. Some statistics estimate that over 15% of dogs experience some form of separation anxiety. While some dogs will adapt and cope over time, others seem to get worse and their owners have a hard time leaving them home alone. While destructive behavior or excessive barking can be a nuisance to you and your neighbors, the stress it causes on your dog is detrimental to her health.
What are the symptoms of anxiety in dogs?
Different types of anxiety can cause different responses, but the most common are:
- Destructive Behavior
- Urinating or Defecating in the wrong areas
Some more subtle symptoms are:
- Anti-social behavior (tends to withdraw from other dogs or people)
- Lip Licking
- Dilated Pupils
Anxiety Treatments For Dogs
When your dog is exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, it’s important to consult your veterinarian before attempting to treat them. Except for extreme cases, the first line of defense should be behavioral training. A dog behavior specialist can suggest tips and tricks to alleviate your dog’s anxiety and redirect bad behaviors. However, depending on the levels of anxiety and how many triggers your dog has, this may not be enough.
When medical treatment is necessary there are a few different approaches. For short term anxiety triggers your vet may prescribe an as-needed anti-anxiety medication like:
- Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, or Ativan)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (Elavil or Tryptanol)
- SSRIs (ProZac or Paxil)
While these medications can work wonders they do have side effects that can be risky, such as:
- Change in appetite
- Reduced energy levels
- Affected learning, and memory impairment
- More frequent urination
- Stomach Upset
- Increased aggression or anxiety
For dogs with more chronic anxiety issues, these drugs may not be as effective. Some dog owners are turning to a more holistic approach, utilizing CBD oil to treat their dog’s anxiety symptoms.
Can CBD Oil Control Anxiety in Dogs?
CBD (Cannabidiol) has a wide variety of benefits in dogs. While researchers are not sure exactly how CBD works to reduce anxiety, there is promising research to show its benefits and alleviation of symptoms. In a number of studies on humans, mice, and rats, the research shows promising results for treatment of anxiety with CBD oil.
Some scientists believe that CBD oil works similarly to SSRIs, temporarily blocking the absorption of serotonin, and increasing levels in the brain. This boost in serotonin, helps improve mood and feelings of well being, reducing symptoms of anxiety.
Other studies have shown CBD oil can help promote the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. This is beneficial because the hippocampus has a large role in the formation of memories and controlling cognition.
You should always consult a vet before supplementing with CBD oil and to ensure there is not interaction with any other medications your dog may be taking.
CBD oil dosage for dogs with anxiety
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for dosing and start with the lowest dose possible. Improper dosing will commonly result in lethargy and drowsiness, but in more severe cases can cause nausea and/or vomiting. The general rule is to start with one drop per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight (this would be 4 drops of oil if your dog weighs 40 lbs). Administer the oil directly under your dog’s tongue once per day. You should monitor your dog’s health and behavior closely for a week. If there is no clear improvement, up the dose to twice per day. The goal should always be to start low and work your way to a dose where you see improvement.
Where Can I Buy CBD Oil For My Dog?
In the 8 states where marijuana products are legal, you can purchase CBD products at pet specialty stores and cannabis dispensaries. Everywhere else, the best place to buy is online. There are many sources for quality CBD products including: