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Calming Dog Treats: How They Work and Vet Recommendations

Posted by Dr. Roth on August 04, 2022

Stress & Anxiety
Dogs Stress and Anxiety Blog Featured Image A Vet's Guide To Calming Dog Treats

Like people, pets sometimes suffer from mild stress and anxiety associated with environmental factors such as changes in their living conditions, loud noises, or meeting new people and pets. In these instances, dog parents may choose to use calming treats to reduce their pet's stress levels. While calming treats may not affect animals with high energy or severe anxiety levels, they can significantly reduce some of the symptoms of mild stress and anxiety, especially when pets also have healthy outlets such as proper exercise or a safe home environment.

This article will provide pet parents with the information necessary to understand how calming treats work and what veterinarians suggest when shopping for calming chews for dogs. 

How Calming Dog Treats Work

Dog calming treats provide short-term benefits for dogs experiencing mild anxiety symptoms. They are often conveniently sold as soft chews, ensuring that dogs want to eat them, even when they're experiencing bouts of anxiety. 

Calming treats work to curb symptoms of anxiety and other more subtle signs mild stress, such as:

  • Pacing

  • Panting

  • Whining or barking

  • Shaking

  • Hypersalivation

  • Stress yawning

  • Paw licking

  • Destructive behavior

  • Unusually bad behavior like running away, lack of recall, or biting

Calming treats are made with active ingredients such as hemp extract, amino acids, and other natural ingredients that lower stress levels and promote calmness. Some calming treats have mild sedative effects and encourage muscle relaxation depending on the active ingredients. 

Give Stressed Dogs a Calming Chew in Advance of a Stressful Event

Pet parents can best utilize calming aids for their dogs by learning what stressful events trigger their anxiety and administering calming treats in anticipation of these events. 

Many pets experience heightened stress levels on holidays like the Fourth of July when fireworks create consistent loud noises and flashing lights. Other dogs have anxiety associated with more routine events such as riding in cars, going to the vet, or being left alone. Some pets also have anxiety with storms, which can pose a real issue, especially if living in areas where weather events are common. 

For pet parents aware of their dog's triggers, offering calming chews is an excellent way to curb the adverse side effects of these stressful events. 

Reduces Fight, Flight, and Freeze Behaviors for Around 8-10 Hours

When experiencing fear, dogs tend to have one of three reactions: fight, flight, or freeze. Dogs often display one of these three fearful behaviors to common triggers, such as cars or bicycles. 

For example, pets who respond negatively to motor vehicles on walks may benefit from a calming treat administered half an hour before walks. The treatment may significantly reduce typical fear responses, resulting in a more relaxing experience for the dog.

Pet parents wondering how long calming treats take to work will be comforted to know that most calming treats get to work within 30 minutes of giving them to their pet. The form with which they are administered (pill, chew, liquid, etc.) will likely impact the rate at which the treatment may take effect as well.

Depending on the calming treat, relief from fear and anxiety can last roughly eight hours. However, some calming treats only deliver benefits for a few hours, so pet parents will want to be sure to read the directions and administer a second dosage after four hours for prolonged exposure to stressful events. 

Vet Recommendations for Calming Treats

To select the correct type of calming treat for their pet, vets recommend assessing the severity of their dog's anxiety levels and selecting treats, supplements, or medications with active ingredients known to reduce anxiety symptoms while also being safe for the pet. 

Ensure the Dog's Anxiety Levels Are Mild and Not Severe

While calming treats can be effective for dogs experiencing mild symptoms of fear and anxiety, some pets may have more severe problems, such as separation anxiety, that result in self-harm

In these instances, more restrictive measures may need to be implemented for the dog's well-being. If the pet parent is unsure if a dog’s anxiety or stress is mild or severe, they may benefit from chatting with a Fuzzy vet.

While some dogs may benefit from taking prescription medication for severe anxiety, there are always healthy ways pet parents can help reduce the dog's anxiety levels, such as:

  • Going for a walk

  • Offering stimulating activities such as puzzle feeders

  • Throwing a tennis ball

  • Offering chew toys like Kongs filled with peanut butter

To lower a dog's stress levels, pet parents can always turn to the pet's favorite physically and mentally stimulating activities.

Check for Active Ingredients That Combat Anxiety in Dogs

Pet parents who want to try giving their dogs calming treats should be sure to check for active ingredients that are known to combat pet anxiety, such as:

  • Hemp extract CBD

  • Chamomile

  • Valerian root

  • Melatonin

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1)

  • L-theanine 

  • L-tryptophan

CBD treats for dogs are one of the most common calming solutions for pets pet parents searched for in the first half of 2022. While there is still little longterm scientific evidence to support a direct anti-anxiety response in dogs given hemp treats, many pet parents report lower anxiety levels after giving CBD calming dog treats.

Natural ingredients such as chamomile and valerian root calm a dog's physiology through mild muscle relaxation and sedation. These ingredients can help a dog relax and may promote sleep. 

Amino acids like L-theanine and L-tryptophan work to regulate dogs' hormone levels, promoting feelings of calm and happiness through elevated levels of dopamine and serotonin and reducing feelings of stress and anxiety through lowered cortisol levels

Make Sure Treats Include Probiotics for Digestive Health

Many calming treats include ingredients such as ginger to help settle sensitive stomachs that may be acting up from stress. But there is evidence to support that probiotic use in calming treats can go well beyond treating this symptom. 

According to the Cornell Margaret and Richard Riney Canine Health Center, probiotics can regulate a dog's gastrointestinal system, directly impacting the brain's ability to regulate emotions, resulting in lowered anxiety levels. 

By selecting calming treats with probiotics, pet parents may also be able to ensure their dog experiences reduced gastrointestinal upset and lower anxiety levels.

Invest in Vet-Recommended Products for Pet Anxiety Relief

Pet parents can turn to Fuzzy when their canine friend is experiencing stress or anxiety. Consider utilizing Fuzzy's 24/7 Live Vet Chat to better interpret pet body language and triggers and discuss possible treatments or home adjustments that can be made.

Dog parents may also benefit from investing in vet-recommended dog calming treats.

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