Five Steps To Reducing Your Dog’s Anxiety Naturally!


So you have a dog that has been diagnosed with ANXIETY and you don’t like the idea of those anti-anxiety medications that your vet wants you to try, but you really don’t know what else to do to help bring your dog some stress relief!! No one likes to see their dog suffering from stress symptoms – just seeing this is enough to make you worried and anxious too!

Anxiety in its many forms (including separation anxiety, fear, aggression, obsessive compulsive behaviour and depression) is sadly becoming increasingly more common in our dogs. But don’t worry, help is at hand so you and your dog can relax! Let’s look at five natural steps to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety in your dog without needing to rely on those anti-anxiety medications that are only a temporary fix and come with a whole bunch of nasty side effects.

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From a Naturopathic perspective, it is important to not only focus on the anxiety issue but to look at the whole health or your dog. Just relying on anti-anxiety medications such as Clomicalm, Endep and Prozac (just to name a few) doesn’t get to the root cause of your dog’s anxiety and as I said, these all come with many side effects.

1.The first step towards reducing anxiety symptoms is getting your dog’s diet right. Dogs are carnivores and therefore are designed to eat a diet based around meat, fat and bones. Unfortunately though, commercial dog foods are based heavily around grains and starches – all ingredients that your dog is not equipped to digest properly. This can lead to a range of health issues including an increase in anxiety and other mood/behavior symptoms.

This is because of what is known as the ‘gut-brain axis’ (or GBA). Your dogs gut acts as like a second nervous system, functioning through this gut-brain axis. There is now evidence to show that each individual dogs gut bacteria can influence the brain via this GBA. Conditions such as anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders in particular are being linked to the types of bacteria within the gut.

Therefore if you want to reduce anxiety and stress symptoms in your dog, then it’s important to avoid these commercial and grain based foods that negatively affect the gut bacteria and focus on feeding (preferably) a natural raw diet based around foods your dog was designed to eat. This includes raw meat bones, fats and small amounts of plant matter. I have seen this happen regularly with clients who change their dog’s diet from commercial to raw- many anxiety and other related symptoms settle or even disappear!


2.The second step is to avoid toxin exposure- our dogs are being exposed to many chemicals on a daily basis, many of which we are not even aware of. For example did you know that vaccinations  contain heavy metals such as aluminium and mercury that are neurotoxins and are linked to symptoms of anxiety, depression and aggression. Other chemicals to watch out for are those found in conventional flea, tick and worming products as these contain insecticides having a similar action.

Here are some tips to reduce that chemical load

  • Start feeding a raw (organic if possible) diet
  • Offer filtered water
  • Change to natural flea, tick and worming products including Garlic and other herbs, Diatomaceous earth, Essential oils etc
  • Swap chemical household cleaning products for more natural options like cleaning vinegar and bicarbonate soda- this is better for you too!!
  • Avoid unnecessary vaccinations- reduce to three yearly or talk to your vet about a titre test that can check your dog’s current immunity level for all vaccinatable diseases


3. Thirdly, it’s important to rule out THYROID disease. Did you know that hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) can lead to behavioural changes including anxiety symptoms? According to thyroid expert Dr Jean Dodds, typical clinical signs include unprovoked aggression, moodiness, hyperactivity, depression, fearfulness and phobias, anxiety and irritability. Sadly, this is often overlooked and has lead to dogs being rehomed or even euthanased because the cause of their stress symptoms is never identified. Often these symptoms can develop quite quickly so having proper thyroid testing done through your vet is important to rule out any potential problems before they become ingrained.

4. The fourth step is to take a look at what is we do as humans to create stress symptoms in our pets. “I love my dog – I’d never do anything to make them stressed!!” I hear you say!. But what many of us don't realise the extent to which we dog owners can create stress in our dog. Some of the ways we can anxiety and stress in our dogs include:

  • Telling your dog that ‘everything will be ok”, “don’t worry, I’m here” etc in situations where your dog may already be experiencing stress (for example, in new environments). While we may think this is calming, it is actually making things worse and reinforcing the behaviour.
  • Hugging, picking up, constant kissing or fussing – just the action of holding them like you would a frightened child can tends to increase stress levels and can be confusing for them
  • Pulling on their leash- one of the best things you can do when walking your dog is let them ‘STOP and sniff the roses’. Did you know that when a dog gets their nose to the ground and starts to smell and sniff this has a calming effect and actually lowers cortisol levels that are responsible for many anxiety symptoms.

Always allow your dog to be a dog!!

5. Finally, there are a range of very safe and effective natural remedies that can provide stress relief for your dog without the side effects of those anti-anxiety medications. Magnesium, GABA, tryptophan, B complex vitamins, omega-3 oils are all fantastic supplements that provide stress relief for your dog. In addition, I love to use a combination of herbs, essential oils and flower essences with clients to get even better results.

Herbs for anxiety and stress relief fall under two main categories:

Nervine herbs such as Chamomile, Oats, Scullcap and Passionflower work to strengthen and balance the nervous system.

Adaptagen herbs including Ginseng, Withania, Liquorice and Rhodiola help the body adapt to STRESS and work to lower and rebalance Cortisol

When used at correct doses these provide effective relief from the symptoms of anxiety without nasty side effects and can be taken over a period of time to slowly rebalance and strengthen the nervous and endocrine systems, thus helping bring stress relief. I tend to use these in tincture (liquid) form as I find they work quicker and are absorbed more rapidly into the system.

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Just following these five steps will see you being well on your way to bringing your dog stress relief naturally without the need to reach for those anti-anxiety medications. And not only can these steps significantly reduce anxiety and other symptoms for your dog, but they will also improve your dogs overall health. Overtime (for most dogs this is around 1-3 months), if you implement these steps you will find that your dog will become calmer, happier and better able to cope with their environments. The key is to make changes at a pace that suits you and your dog and give them time to take effect!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post on Five Steps To Reducing Your Dog’s Anxiety Naturally!
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