I’m a holistic relationship-based dog trainer, so I always cringe a little bit when I hear people are medicating their behaviorally-challenged dogs with drugs like Prozac. Most dogs who have anxiety, are fearful, or fear reactive can be helped with proper training and the right support from their human parents.
Until they can’t.
It can be heartbreaking to see your best buddy stressed out. Sometimes stress in dogs can manifest as separation anxiety, fear of people, places, noises, or objects, reactivity, incessant barking, and even aggression. Training and consistency go a long way when it comes to helping your dog calm down, but it doesn’t always work on its own.
There’s been a big push in recent years to medicate dogs for anxiety and the behavior that it causes, but CBD oil is a much better alternative than many of the drugs being prescribed.
What Causes Behavior Issues Like Anxiety, Aggression, and Reactivity?
Fear and stress are natural biological responses when there is a perceived threat to an animal’s safety and wellness. An example would be if your dog is in your backyard and senses a coyote or other predator on the other side of the fence. He’s going to get nervous about it, which is normal. When the predator leaves, most dogs will go back to whatever they were doing.
Having a healthy sense of anxiety in the wild when it’s necessary is actually a good thing because it keeps a dog safe from harm. (1) The problem is when anxiety becomes chronic or “irrational.”
We think our dogs have it so easy. They get fed regularly, a roof over their head, and lots of love. Dogs appreciate it, but living in a house can cause more anxiety than being out in the wild because our pets are essentially prisoners when they’re in our care.
Think about it. from young age, the only access to fresh water they have is what we provide. The only food they get comes from us. Their health depends on us. Quite often they can’t even go to the bathroom or exercise without an escort.
These conditions can cause an enormous amount of stress for a dog, and can be responsible for separation anxiety, destructive behavior, reactivity, and resource guarding. Many dogs are terrified that they’re going to starve to death when you leave the house.
Another thing that can cause anxiety is trauma. Physical or mental abuse, environmental changes, or a sudden shock can all contribute to a dog’s stress. Most dogs have at least one or two traumas.
Genetics and physical problems can also be responsible for anxiety. Dogs with an illness, pain, food and environmental allergies, medical conditions like thyroid disorders, heart disease, Cushing’s, or cognitive impairment, commonly exhibit symptoms of stress.
A dog who isn’t fully confident in their owner’s ability to take care of problems or doesn’t have a clear job description can have constant anxiety.
How is Anxiety Normally Treated in Dogs?
Vets and behavior specialists should be the first line of defense in helping a dog heal from anxiety. Once their assessment is made and it’s established that training or a health issue isn’t the problem, most vets choose medication as the other option.
If a dog has a specific fear, like thunderstorms or riding in the car, a vet can prescribe a short-term anti-anxiety medication. They’ll also prescribe daily medication for dogs with chronic anxiety.
Common medications prescribed by board certified behaviorists are Prozac, Xanax, Valium, and Elavil, but these drugs were designed specifically for human use, and they can give your dog some awful side-effects. Here are a few:
Lethargy and sleepiness
Memory and learning issues
The problem with giving anxious dogs (especially guardian breeds) a medication that makes them feel impaired, is that it can make the anxiety a lot worse. I have seen this time and again with dogs that I’ve been called in to work with.
There are times when medication is the only option, but I personally feel that some behaviorists rely on it more than they should, and they don’t take the time to properly evaluate the situation at home. Regardless, CBD hemp oil is a much better solution than drugs for a number of different reasons.
What CBD Hemp Oil Is...And What It’s Not
Let’s clear the air of any misconceptions folks often have about CBD hemp oil.
Both hemp and marijuana come from the same family of plants called cannabis. They have very similar healing properties, but with one big difference; one gets you high and one doesn’t.
THC is the psychoactive component in marijuana that causes impairment. Marijuana plants have up to 30% of the heady stuff, while hemp contains less than 0.3%. CBD is the healing compound found in both hemp and marijuana, but in hemp plants it has almost no discernible amounts of THC.
Since hemp CBD doesn’t have THC in it, it won’t make your dog high. It’s also legal in all 50 states in the USA, as well as in most other countries.
While there haven’t been many studies of CBD and anxiety in dogs, it doesn’t matter because a metadata study found that it affects all mammals the same way. (2) That’s because we all have an endocannabinoid system in our body, or ECS, which mediates cannabis in the same way.
Here are a few of the things that the ECS regulates in mammals:
Inflammation (including neuroinflammation)
CBD stimulates the ECS, which creates balance for these specific functions in the body.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure how CBD helps anxiety in any animal, but there have been multiple studies that show that it works.
Here’s How CBD Can Help Anxious Dogs
CBD can boost serotonin levels, help memory, improve mood, and decrease stress. It can also alleviate symptoms of many physical problems like pain that can contribute to reactivity, anxiety, and aggression.
A perfect example of just how powerful CBD oil can be is from my own life.
My wife’s dog Barnaby is 15 years old and starting to go blind. As a result, he’s become very dog reactive to the point that he’s borderline fear aggressive. When he sees another dog, his anxiety kicks in, which causes his prey drive to go over the threshold of what he can handle. Once he is in that state, it’s very difficult to get him to listen.
This is a common issue with elderly dogs, and can often be one of the first signs of canine dementia. It was disheartening to watch him go through this, as well as stressful for the entire household.
I’ve got plenty of tricks up my sleeve to help dogs who are reactive, but nothing worked with him. After finally realizing that he might be in the early stages of dementia, I researched natural alternatives and found that CBD oil might be a viable solution.
Within a week of using it, his excitement control was almost back to normal. Unfortunately, he still had a bad habit of going after other dogs, but the CBD made it much easier to do the training work necessary to get his behavior back on track. An added bonus is that the heart arrythmia he’s had since he was young appears to be gone.
CBD can be used as a regular treatment for dogs who have generalized anxiety, but it can also be used as a one time treatment for a scary situation, like on a holiday where there are loud noises, or when traveling.
Use It in Conjunction with Training for Best Results
If you decide to use CBD for your dog’s fear or anxiety, it’s important to do training or behavior modification along with it. Dogs can develop coping mechanisms when they’re stressed, so the behavior as a result needs to be addressed.
An example is a dog who is terrified of the car and will pull on the leash to try and get away. CBD can calm the fear, but the dog is in the habit of trying to run for it. CBD can be used alongside techniques that can help desensitize the dog to the car, so eventually it won’t be necessary to use it anymore.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to help your anxious dog with his or her behavior, click here.
Greatest Benefits For Shelter Dog Overview
Rescue and shelters struggle with dogs who show aggression and stress usually caused by underplaying medical conditions. CBD might bring a inexpensive solution for treating most of them. What CBD can offer to a shelter dog?
- Reduces the severity of the illness
- Improves the chance of recovery
- Reduces the cost of treatment
- Reduces the length of treatment
- Increases the adoptability of the pet
Medical Conditions That Can Be Treated or Improved And Reducing Behavior Issues.
- Helps with epilepsy and seizures
- Reduces or kills tumors
- Chronic pain reliever with no side effects
- Relieve of arthritis pain
- Remedy for anxiety and depression
- Mediates joint pain caused by sprains, strains, and tears
- Helps treat IBS and associated conditions
- Treats glaucoma
- Cancer retardant and stopper
- Remedy for anorexia helps switch to raw meat diets
- Benefits the heart health and functions
- Supports bone health
- Reduces or delays feeling of nausea
- Protects the brain and nerve cells
- Regulates blood sugar levels in type 1 and type 2 diabetis and insulin sensitivity
- Regulates immune system
- Slows down bacterial infections
- Improves post surgical healing
- Decreases muscle spasm frequency
- Improvement of sleep pattens
- Improvement of blood flow
- Helps treat psoriasis
- Excellent muscle relaxant.
- Powerful antioxidant
What’s the Best Dosage?
Getting the right dosage for your dog can be tricky because there are so many different products out there and the size of the dog needs to be factored in. Most companies will have a dosage chart either included with your purchase or online, but the general rule is two to four drops anywhere from two to four times a day.
Fortunately, CBD with low levels of THC is well-tolerated by dogs, and it’s impossible for them to overdose. If you give your dog too much, it won’t cause harm to anything other than your wallet.
It also depends on whether you’re giving your dog CBD tincture, pills, or treats. When you buy products specifically created for dogs, there are usually guidelines on the bottle.
Avoid Fake and Poor Quality CBD Oil
CBD has become extraordinarily popular for both people and animals because it is an effective, low-cost natural solution to many emotional and physical illnesses. Since it’s not regulated at all, there has been an increase of counterfeit and poor quality CBD flooding the market.
Warning Letters and Test Results for Cannabidiol-Related Products
In January 2018, over 50 people were hospitalized in Utah for vomiting, seizures, and anxiety after taking synthetic CBD that was marketed as authentic. (3) This is becoming a problem in the pet industry as well.
Look for companies that are transparent in where they source their hemp from, make their own products, and do third party testing. I personally use HempWorx for my dogs, and am so happy with the product that I became an affiliate. I’ve had consistent results with their line of products formulated specifically for dogs, and they have thousands of testimonials from happy customers.
Studies related to stress:
Roman Gottfried is an internationally known Holistic Dog Training and Behavior Expert, he is also an energy and crystal healing practitioner, he is an Usui-Reiki Master. He works with dog parents worldwide to help their dogs reach their full potential, by teaching them the holistic philosophy of dog training. He sees clients online and in-person.