Treating Mild Anxiety in Cats and Dogs

Written by: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM

Many dogs, and even some cats, become fearful and anxious during thunderstorms, car rides, trips to the vet or when visitors come to the house, and could use a little help calming down. There are many remedies available, and choosing the proper one for your companion may take some trial and error. Flower Essences, Homeopathy, Herbal Remedies, Dietary Supplements, or Nutraceuticals, and Essential Oils can all be helpful in easing anxiety for our companions. Each animal’s problem and personality are very individual, so it is difficult to know which remedy will be best without experimenting. Here I will discuss a variety of remedies available that can be helpful for those situations or occasions when our companions need some assistance in relieving their fear and apprehension.

One of first remedies I reach for in treating mild emotional upsets is Flower Essences. There are a variety of formulations available and some are more effective than others.  It is important to buy Flower Essences from a reliable source to insure the “stock” essences (the original bottles of essences from which blends are created) are of good quality and the formulations are well thought out. Cats seem to be especially responsive to Flower Essences, and their ease of administration makes them simple to use.  Flower Essences are quite safe as there is truly no possibility of giving too much or even a problem in choosing the wrong remedy. If the remedy is incorrect there will be no reaction, either positive or negative, but there is truly no possibility of side effects. 

Flower Essences can be given orally, dropped in the drinking water or rubbed into the skin at the ears and paws. For chronic issues such as a cat or dog having difficulty adjusting to a new member of the household, they can be given 4 times per day. For acute situations such as a trip to the vet, thunderstorms, or fireworks, they can be given every 10 – 15 minutes until some relief is noticed, then give every 30 minutes until the upset has passed. There are a variety of formulations available for a multitude of emotional difficulties, so it is best to read through the descriptions of each essence to get a sense of which seems to match your companion’s issues best.

Please check out the wide selection ofFlower Essences stress & anxiety products offered at Only Natural Pet Store.

Homeopathic remedies are another very safe method of easing emotional upsets. Like Flower Essences, they are very safe and seldom have any side effects. One customer who’s companion was quite fearful of thunderstorms and fireworks used the HomeoPet Anxiety for the first time when she noticed a thunderstorm building and her dog began to pant and show signs of distress. The results absolutely amazed her as she watched her dog breathe a big sigh of relief after one dose and then curl up and go to sleep for the duration of the thunderstorm. Not every animal will respond so dramatically, but when the right remedy is found, it can seem like “a miracle.” For my own companion who is fearful during storms, I use both homeopathic remedies and flower essences, alternating each dose, to help ease some of his tension. He does not curl up and go to sleep, but his anxiety is noticeably less acute when I use the remedies.

Please see the wide selection ofHomeopathic stress & anxiety products we have to offer at Only Natural Pet Store.

Constitutional homeopathy, which is a single remedy prescribed by a trained homeopathic veterinarian, can be very useful in treating more severe anxiety and emotional issues such as severe separation anxiety. For a list of veterinarians trained in homeopathy, see the link to the AHVMA on the Resources page of the website. 

Herbal formulas are another good option for treating mild to moderate anxiety issues. Herbs will generally take longer to build in an animal’s system, so they are more suited to situations that you can plan ahead for (like a car ride, trip to the vet or the arrival of visitors) or for chronically anxious pets. 

Some other types of products to consider are:

One final supplement I would like to mention is Melatonin. For dogs with more severe fear and anxiety, Melatonin can be quite helpful. This is what I use for my two dogs that have quite a hard time during the Fourth of July celebrations in our area. It will make the dog sleepy, so it is not something I generally recommend for daily use except in special circumstances.

A final note here about separation anxiety. Separation anxiety and other more severe, chronic anxiety issues are best addressed by a team approach that includes you, a behaviorist or trainer, and a holistically trained veterinarian. There are remedies such as constitutional homeopathy and some Chinese herbs that can be helpful, but they are always best used in conjunction with appropriate behavior modification techniques.