If you have been anxious about something before, you know how much of a burden anxiety can be. Dogs get anxious too and the feeling is just as bad. Dog anxiety is a burden to both the dog and the pet parent.

In most cases, dog anxiety is temporary and is caused by fear of an unpleasant event. However, anxiety in dogs can be more long-term lasting months or even years on end. Some of the common causes of anxiety in dogs include fear, stress, separation from the owner, and a general decline in mental wellbeing.

The good news is you do not have to watch your dog suffer. There are so many treatments for dog anxiety ranging from simple home remedies to over-the-counter medication.

What are the Signs of Anxiety in Dogs?

dog anxiety signs

Unlike physical illnesses like hip dysplasia and alopecia, anxiety and other mental illnesses are not as obvious. For humans, we can always tell someone if we are not okay mentally but dogs cant do that. At least not with words. The best way to tell if a dog is doing well mentally is through her behavior.

Some of the signs of anxiety in dogs include:

  • Excessive barking, howling, or whining
  • Unusual destructive behavior
  • Excessive licking
  • Poor body posture
  • Pacing
  • Pupil dilation
  • Shaking
  • Drooling 
  • Increased shedding
  • Panting even without physical exercise
  • Compulsive chewing
  • Sudden urination or defecation
  • Avoiding the owner

Some of this behavior is normal in some dogs but will accelerate when a dog gets anxiety. You must therefore understand your dog’s behavior to be able to determine if she has changed.

Why Use Medications for Dog Anxiety?

medications for dog anxiety

Everyone loves a good holistic remedy. No one would want their dog to have to depend on medication to live a normal life. However, sometimes holistic approaches are not enough for a dog to make a complete recovery.

The reasons why a holistic treatment might not work for a dog will vary from dog to dog. In some cases, a dog’s anxiety may be too advanced to be taken away by a holistic approach. In other cases, a dog may reject the natural remedies you have available.

When holistic methods are inadequate, that’s where medications come in. Medications have the advantage of being fast acting especially if compared to natural remedies. Another advantage of modern medication is that it is well-researched meaning that you will know the best dose, how well it works, and potential side effects.

Over the Counter Medications for Dog Anxiety

OTC dog anxiety medication


Benadryl is an antihistamine medication used to relieve signs and symptoms of allergies. Benadryl has another function in both humans and pets and that is anxiety relief. Benadryl is extremely calming and that effect can be beneficial for a dog with anxiety.

Benadryl is a human drug and has not yet been approved for use in dogs but many vets recommend it because of its anxiety-fighting properties. Benadryl is completely safe to use in dogs. It is, however, always best to use Benadryl or any other drug under the guidance of a vet.


Dramamine is another antihistamine medication that can help an anxious dog, especially before or during travel. Dramamine, by acting on the vestibular system can help treat motion sickness in dogs.

Dramamine is safe for use in dogs under the guidance of a trained veterinarian. Dogs with certain health conditions should not be given Dramamine unless recommended by a vet.

Such conditions include hypertension (high blood pressure), antihistamine allergies, urinary obstruction, heart disease, hyperthyroidism. prostate disease, seizures, kidney and liver disease.


Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by vertebrates at night to trigger sleep. Melatonin also has a relaxing effect on the body which can be helpful for an anxious dog.

Melatonin can also be used to improve the well-being of dogs with certain conditions like insomnia, bad mood, separation anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness, hair loss caused by alopecia, and hormonal imbalances caused by Cushing’s syndrome.

Melatonin is safe for use in dogs. You should still consult your vet before giving your dog melatonin to reduce anxiety.

Side Effects of Over-The-Counter Medications

While the above medications are generally considered safe to use on dogs, they can cause some side effects in some dogs. Some of the side effects you may see from using OTC medications for anxiety symptoms include:

  • Digestive discomfort
  • Increased heart rate
  • Itching
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Urinary retention

If you see any of the above signs after giving your dog OTC meds, you should see your vet to determine if you should stop the treatment.

Using a Holistic Approach to Dog Anxiety

dog anxiety holistic approach

Due to the potential side effects of anxiety medications, some pet parents prefer to use a holistic approach to treat their dogs’ anxiety. A holistic approach relies on the power of nature instead of medication to encourage healing and wellness.

When using a holistic approach to dog anxiety, one may choose to use one or more natural remedies for their dog. The beauty of natural remedies is that they rarely cause side effects except for cases of allergies and intolerances. With natural solutions, you also do not have to worry about the long-term effects of medications.

While holistic approaches are generally safe and beneficial to dogs, pet parents should always speak to their vet before starting their dogs on any therapy.

It is also important to note that one should not stop prescription medication in favor of holistic methods unless instructed by a qualified vet.

Holistic Treatment Options


CBD has been praised for its many health benefits but one of the most outstanding is its effect on anxiety. Not only has CBD been shown to help with anxiety but the mechanism through which it works is also becoming more clear by the day.

CBD can help relieve anxiety by acting on serotonin receptors in the brain. If you have not heard of serotonin, it is a very important neurotransmitter that affects mood and general wellbeing. By attaching to serotonin receptors, CBD can have the same effect as the neurotransmitter.

CBD has now been legalized for use at the federal level but still remains illegal in some states. If CBD is legal in your state, consult your vet about using it on your dog if she has anxiety.

You can get CBD as an oil or in the form of gummies and chews.

Calm Vest

You have probably heard that our bodies release endorphins when we hug or embrace each other. While this is true, you can not hug your dog all day to protect her from her anxiety. There is however a way you can trick your dog’s body into thinking you are and it is called a calm vest.

A calm vest has many other names like anxiety wrap, anxiety vest but they all refer to the same thing. A clam vest is a garment you dress your dog in to lightly compress her abdomen to give the feeling of being hugged or embraced.

That feeling is what tricks the body into producing endorphins and oxytocin both of which have a positive effect on general well-being and mood.

Many pet owners swear by calm vests for dog anxiety. It is very important to find a good quality calm vest that holds your dog just enough to make her feel good.

The Honest Paws calm vest is made from a comfortable cotton fabric that is very lightweight yet very durable. It comes with long velcro strips for you to adjust to your dog’s size and liking.

The Honest Paws Calm Vest is also very easy to wash and is available for small, medium, and large dog sizes.

Puzzle Toys

What do we human beings do when we are worried about something? We distract ourselves. The same technique works for dogs. If your dog suffers from anxiety, giving her a distraction might help get her mind off things for a while.

Puzzles make excellent distractions for dogs. If your dog gets separation anxiety as you go to work in the morning, you can give her a puzzle to complete as you take your morning shower. You can also give the puzzle as you leave to distract her from your absence.


Pleasing scents can do wonders for us as human beings. Imagine what scents can do for dogs whose sense of smell is 10,000 times stronger than that of humans.

Aromatherapy has many benefits including reducing inflammation and promoting relaxation. You can give your dog aromatherapy by diffusing some essential oils in the house.

You must be extremely careful while using essential oils as some can be toxic to dogs. Some of the essential oils you can use for your dog include chamomile, lavender, and niaouli.

You must keep the diffuser out of reach of the dog at all times.


A massage is not just relaxing while you have it. The wonderful effects of getting a massage can stay with you even after the session.

If your dog suffers from chronic anxiety, getting a regular massage can be of great help to her. You can take your dog to a pet massage parlor but you can also do it at home. Doing it yourself has the added benefit of strengthening the bond between you and your dog.

Training for Anxious Dogs

Crate Training

A crate serves so many purposes to a dog owner. However, a crate is only of use if a dog can stay in it willingly and comfortably. A crate can be used to house a dog that is still house training but it is more commonly used to transport dogs.

Just like you would hate to be confined to one spot, dogs can also get very antsy and anxious about getting into a cage. To get your dog to stay in her crate, introduce her to the crate slowly by putting her in for short periods.

As they get used to the crate, increase the time until she is comfortable with staying in the crate for a sustained period.

Positive Reinforcement

Instead of reprimanding your dog when she does something wrong, there is a friendlier and more effective approach to teaching your dog good habits. You can encourage good behavior from your dog by rewarding her every time she does something right.

If you want your dog to learn to sit, you can command her to sit before giving her a treat, She will begin to associate sitting with a treat which will make her more likely to sit every time you ask her to.


Socialization is the process of getting a dog comfortable with interactions with other pets and people. It should ideally be done at an early age but it is never too late to teach your dog some new social skills.

Social settings are a major source of anxiety for many dogs. Getting them accustomed to being around other people can be a great way to help them feel less anxious.


Desensitization is an approach used in dog training to reduce the magnitude of a reaction to an unwanted stimulus by repeatedly exposing the dog to that stimulus. The idea is that over time, the dogs should get accustomed to the unwanted experience and react less to it.


Over-the-counter medications are a viable option for treating dog anxiety. Some of the best OTC anti-anxiety medications include Benadryl, Dramamine, and Melatonin.

Many of the OTC medications for anxious dogs are for humans but most of them are safe for use in dogs. You should talk to your vet to help you determine if certain anxiety medications are safe for your dog.

You can pair anxiety medication with holistic remedies like calm vests, CBD, aromatherapy, and massage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What over-the-counter medication can I give my dog for anxiety?

For anxiety, you can give your dog Benadryl, Dramamine, and Melatonin.

What are the best holistic approaches for dog anxiety?

Some of the best holistic remedies for anxious dogs include CBD oil, massage, aromatherapy, calm vest, and puzzle toys.

What is an anxiety vest?

An anxiety vest or calm vest is a garment given to dogs to mimic the feeling of being hugged or embraced to trick their bodies into releasing soothing hormones like oxytocin and endorphins.