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Dog Calming Products to Help Ease Dog Anxiety

There is a wide array of products marketed to alleviate fear and anxiety and offer general calming effects in dogs, which might leave pet owners feeling overwhelmed by the options available.

While some pet owners swear by specific dog calming products and find them helpful for dogs experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, few products have undergone scientific research to validate their effectiveness in reducing anxiety in pets. Moreover, many of the studies conducted lack rigorous methodology.

If you decide to use one or more of these products, it’s important to understand that the placebo effect can influence pet owners’ perceptions of effectiveness. This may lead them to believe in benefits that the treatments may not actually provide, potentially delaying the use of more effective treatments. Here are the facts about some popular dog calming products that may assist in alleviating your dog’s anxiety.

Studies on Dog Calming Products

When reviewing research on specific dog calming products, it’s essential to recognize that some studies might have focused on the active ingredient within a product rather than the product itself. Additionally, research may have been conducted on rodents like rats and mice, rather than on dogs and cats directly.

While there’s a growing body of scientific literature on non-pharmaceutical calming products for dogs, there remains a lack of comprehensive data regarding the quality, safety, and efficacy of most products.

Moreover, unlike the rigorous testing conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration for human supplements, there’s no standardized monitoring system for pet behavioral supplements. Consequently, variations in ingredients, purity, quality, and effectiveness may exist among manufacturers and even within batches.

This underscores the importance of consulting with your veterinarian before starting any supplement regimen, even those available over the counter, for your pet.

Common Ingredients in Behavioral Supplements for Dog Anxiety

Behavioral supplements designed to alleviate dog anxiety encompass various forms such as calming treats, herbal supplements, dietary supplements, and calming diets. These products contain several common ingredients, each with varying degrees of scientific research regarding their efficacy in reducing anxiety in dogs.


One such ingredient is alpha-casozepine, a lactose-free derivative derived from a protein in cows’ milk. Studies have suggested that alpha-casozepine may help alleviate anxiety in dogs by interacting with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for inducing a calming effect.

Research indicates that alpha-casozepine has the potential to reduce anxiety and fear of strangers in dogs. Although it is sometimes administered to address situational stress, such as during fireworks or vet visits, there is insufficient evidence to support its short-term effectiveness.

Alpha-casozepine is commonly found in Zylkene, a product manufactured by Vetoquinol, and serves as a key ingredient in certain veterinary calming diets. Zylkene is available in capsule form, which can be administered whole or opened and mixed with your dog’s food.


Melatonin, a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain, regulates the body’s natural wake/sleep cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. It is secreted at higher levels during the night and lower levels during the day.

In humans, there is some evidence suggesting that melatonin may help reduce anxiety and induce sedation before medical procedures. However, potential side effects in humans include sleepiness, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset.

Melatonin supplements have been utilized in dogs to alleviate situational fear and anxiety, such as during veterinary visits, thunderstorms, and fireworks. Additionally, they may aid in promoting sleep for restless dogs overnight. Despite these applications, scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of melatonin in dogs remains scarce.

Melatonin is available in various formulations including tablets, capsules, and flavored chewables. It’s crucial to ensure that any melatonin product does not contain xylitol, a sweetener highly toxic to dogs. Melatonin is generally considered safe for combination with other medications or supplements.


L-Theanine, an amino acid sourced from the tea plant, is believed to diminish anxiety and enhance mental function by modulating neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. Additionally, it inhibits glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain.

Several veterinary studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of L-theanine in dogs, including the reduction of fear related to strangers, noise phobia, and storm phobia.

L-theanine can be found in various products such as Solliquin (Nutramax) chews, Composure (Vetriscience) chews, and Anxitane (Virbac) tablets. These supplements containing L-theanine are designed for daily use and may require 4-6 weeks to manifest therapeutic effects.


L-Tryptophan, an amino acid, serves as a precursor for the formation of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a crucial role in regulating various behavioral processes such as emotion, mood, aggression, and anxiety. Research suggests that the metabolism of L-tryptophan may be linked to fear in dogs.

L-tryptophan is included in some veterinary calming diets. One study indicated that a particular diet containing L-tryptophan alongside alpha-casozepine helped dogs manage stress more effectively. However, another study reported no significant effect on the anxiety levels of the dogs.

L-tryptophan can be found in select veterinary calming diets, where its potential benefits for anxiety management in dogs have been explored.


Valerian, a plant known for its potential to promote nighttime sleep and alleviate anxiety in pets, lacks controlled research studies to support its effectiveness.

Valerian is a component of the Pet Remedy diffuser, which according to one study, pet owners reported to have reduced the intensity (though not the frequency) of anxiety-related behaviors in their pets. Similar to other products, it may take several weeks before pet owners observe any therapeutic effects.

Magnolia Officinalis and Phellodendron Amurense

Magnolia officinalis, a flowering herb, demonstrates anti-anxiety effects in mice, while Phellodendron amurense, a bark extract, safeguards the brain from stress-induced effects and helps prevent mood disorders. Studies indicate that both magnolia and phellodendron can alleviate fear-related signs during thunderstorms.

A combination of magnolia and phellodendron extracts is present in Solliquin (Nutramax) chews, offering potential relief from anxiety and stress-related symptoms in pets.


Probiotics play a significant role in influencing the gut microbiome, comprising various intestinal bacteria populations, which have been linked to several behavioral issues in dogs, including fear and anxiety-related disorders.

In a blinded, placebo-controlled study conducted at the Purina Pet Care Center, the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum BL999 demonstrated effectiveness in reducing anxious behaviors like excessive vocalization, jumping, pacing, and spinning in a small group of Labrador Retrievers.

Bifidobacterium longum BL999 is available in Purina Pro Plan Calming Care, provided in individual packets of flavorful powder to be mixed with your dog’s daily food. It may take up to 6 weeks for the effects to become noticeable.

Dog Pheromones

Dog pheromones are chemical signals detected by the vomeronasal organ, a specialized organ in dogs. These chemicals influence parts of the brain, triggering changes in behavioral and emotional responses. For instance, when female dogs nurse their puppies, they release dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) from their mammary glands, which has a calming effect on the puppies.

Scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of DAP in reducing fear and anxiety in dogs. Research indicates that DAP may help alleviate anxiety in various situations such as changes in the household, car travel, boarding, veterinary visits, moving to a new home, introducing a new puppy to the household, separation-related disorders, and noise phobias like thunderstorms and fireworks. However, the quality of some studies is limited, and in certain cases, other treatments such as behavior modification were concurrently implemented alongside DAP. While this doesn’t negate the potential benefits of pheromone therapy, further research is needed to fully understand its advantages.

Synthetic DAP is available in collars, sprays, or diffusers. Pheromones are species-specific, meaning they only affect members of the same species. Adaptil (Ceva) spray can be applied to crates, kennels, or vehicles. The spray contains an alcohol base with an odor dogs may not appreciate, so it’s advisable to wait at least 15 minutes after spraying before introducing your dog to the area, allowing the odor to dissipate. The effects of the spray last approximately 4-5 hours.

Adaptil plug-in diffusers disperse the pheromone over an area of up to 700 square feet, while Adaptil and Sentry’s Calming Collars release the pheromone through evaporation. Both the diffusers and collars provide efficacy for about 30 days.

Dog Anxiety Vests

Dog anxiety vests, also known as pressure vests or jackets, utilize pressure points to alleviate fear or phobias in dogs, particularly during events like thunderstorms or fireworks. They offer a comforting sensation akin to a hug for dogs.

Similar to many other calming products, scientific research on the efficacy of these vests is limited and inconclusive. While a few studies have suggested potential benefits for thunderstorm phobias and separation anxiety in dogs, the quality of these studies varies.

Subjectively, many pet owners participating in these studies believed that pressure vests had a positive impact on their dogs’ anxiety levels.

Although these products may yield small but beneficial effects on canine anxiety, they are worth considering. However, it’s essential to recognize that for some pets, wearing an anxiety vest may induce fear or discomfort. It’s crucial not to force your dog to wear a vest if they seem uncomfortable.

Pressure vests should fit snugly but not be restrictive. To ensure proper fit, you should be able to comfortably slip two fingers underneath the vest. Pets should always be supervised while wearing a vest, jacket, or cape. One popular dog anxiety vest among pet owners, as per reviews, is the ThunderShirt, available in various sizes to suit different dogs.

Food and Puzzle Toys

Food toys and puzzles serve as effective distractions for dogs during stressful situations, encouraging soothing behaviors such as foraging and licking. Essentially, they offer dogs an alternative focus, diverting their attention from worries.

These toys are most beneficial when used to address specific triggers for anxiety, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or visitors. It’s ideal to introduce food toys in a quiet, safe space away from stressors. Offering them just before the onset of stressful events can redirect your dog’s attention from the trigger, preventing anxiety escalation.

Repeatedly pairing positive experiences, like engaging with food toys, with negative triggers can help dogs form positive associations over time. However, if a dog’s anxiety is too severe, they may not show interest in food.

Various food toys and puzzles are available, with optimal options taking at least 15 minutes for dogs to complete and not being overly challenging to avoid frustration. Some recommended choices include lick mats, stuffed KONG or Zogoflex toys, snuffle mats for sniffing and foraging, slow feeders, and problem-solving puzzles. Freezing food in these toys prolongs their use. It’s advisable to keep several toys in the freezer to prepare for predictable stressful events like fireworks or storms.

For puppies, a stuffed toy with a heartbeat and heat pack may offer calming effects when they are left alone.

Make a Plan With Your Vet to Manage Your Dog’s Anxiety

Work closely with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist to develop a comprehensive plan for managing your dog’s anxiety. This collaborative approach ensures that you select treatments that are both safe and beneficial for your pet’s well-being.

Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough evaluation to assess whether there are any underlying medical issues that may be triggering or exacerbating your dog’s anxiety. It’s essential to address any physical problems first, as calming products may not be effective if there’s an underlying medical condition.

Engaging in discussions with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist enables you to explore various treatment options tailored to your dog’s specific needs and circumstances. This proactive approach ensures that you provide the best possible care and support for your furry companion’s anxiety management.

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