Herbs for Separation Anxiety in Canines

by Maura Wolf
    A dog's separation anxiety is comparable to a person's panic attack.

    A dog's separation anxiety is comparable to a person's panic attack.

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    Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety. Because this condition can intensify over time, early intervention is essential. If you suspect that separation anxiety is at the root of your dog's distress, consult a veterinarian. She will observe and examine your dog to rule out other potential causes and to determine if a diagnosis of separation anxiety is appropriate. Some veterinary health practitioners might recommend trying an herbal remedy to gently relieve your dog’s discomfort.

    Dogs who always need to be very close to their people or whose greetings are frantic, no matter how briefly their humans are out of their sight, might be among the 14 percent of dogs in the U.S. who experience separation anxiety. Panting, drooling, trembling or whining are symptomatic behaviors triggered whenever anxious dogs sense that they might be left alone, even before the separation actually occurs. Abandoned, neglected or traumatized dogs are at greater risk for developing separation anxiety, despite being rescued and adopted into loving families.

    Herbal, behavioral and pharmaceutical remedies, or a combination of treatments, can ease your dog’s discomfort and might prevent the anxiety from progressing. Veterinarians, animal caregivers and staff at shelters or rescue organizations, are in a good position to observe dogs, detect blatant or subtle signs of separation anxiety and begin treating dogs in their care. The earlier symptoms are recognized and dealt with, the better. Untreated, separation anxiety can be a lifelong condition. Not only will a dog remain emotionally upset and unstable, her physical health can be compromised. Unfortunately, affected dogs whose condition is undiagnosed might end up being mistreated or returned to shelters, perpetuating the cycle of separation anxiety.

    Every dog’s separation anxiety is unique. Dogs who exhibit low levels of anxiety might find comfort from nonpharmaceutical natural or botanical remedies. Always seek the support of a veterinary specialist before giving your dog any kind of supplement. You might have to find an integrative or holistic veterinarian to advise you about herbal remedies. Calmative herbs, such as valerian, skullcap, passionflower, chamomile and oat flowers, can minimize the intensity of panic attacks brought on by separation anxiety. Herbs that have been recommended by a veterinarian who specializes in natural and herbal remedies are advantageous for some dogs of because they can promote relaxation and take the edge off anxiety, without causing impaired mental or physical performance, according to “Herbs for Pets” author, Gregory Tilford, in the Whole Dog Journal.

    Herbs that are helpful for some dogs might not benefit others, so an herbal remedy that calms down one dog might have a very different effect on another dog. The number of herbal products made specifically for anxious dogs has increased as people learn about treating their dogs with natural, nonpharmaceutical medicines. Herbal remedies are available in various forms, including pills, capsules, liquid extracts, sprays and as ingredients in chewy dog treats. Certain scents and essential oils used in aromatherapy have anxiolytic, or antianxiety, properties. Some, such as lavender, have a soothing effect on the central nervous system. Other calmative herbs, such as juniper, basil, bergamot, frankincense, orange, lemon and chamomile, might help to relax, calm and reduce the stress dogs feel when experiencing separation anxiety.

    People who use herbal remedies for their dogs might do so because they believe natural equals safe. Unfortunately, some herbal medicines can pose risks on their own or might interact with prescription drugs or conflict with an untreated medical condition. Dogs who are given herbs, oils and other natural remedies by well-meaning but nonexpert guardians can experience unexpected or dangerous side effects or toxic reactions. Always talk with a knowledgeable veterinarian or an expert in the field of veterinary herbal medicine before trying a remedy that might not be appropriate for dogs or for the condition you are trying to treat.

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    About the Author

    Maura Wolf's published online articles focus on women, children, parenting, pets and mental health. A licensed psychotherapist, Wolf counsels individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, body image, parenting and LGBTQ issues. Wolf has two Master of Arts degrees: in English, from San Francisco State University and in Clinical Psychology, from New College.

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