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When your pet is overly anxious or riled up, the best calming treats for dogs might be able to help. That said, with anything edible (especially if it's unprescribed and unregulated), you definitely want to proceed with caution. That's why I reached out to Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, veterinary medical advisor for Rover. According to Dr. Greenstein, "calming dog treats should be thought of as a tool in our toolkits" — not a replacement for consistent behavioral training — and when choosing one, you should pay extra-close attention to the ingredients and dosing recommendations.
First off, you should always consult your veterinarian before starting any new supplementation for your pet. Once you've done that, keep an eye out for certain ingredients that have shown scientific evidence as being effective behavioral aids for dogs: namely melatonin, L-theanine, L-tryptophan, and casein-derived ingredients, according to Dr. Greenstein. (While Dr. Greenstein predicts that CBD and "marijuana derivatives will be the next big thing for anxious pets," until peer-reviewed studies are released, "[we] still don’t have enough information about the [safest] and [most] effective dosing," so it's better to be safe than sorry.)
With all of that in mind, here are Dr. Greenstein's recommendations — and if you're not set on a treat, you can also find calming capsules and food options, too.
1. The basic chewable tablets
"Anxitane is a veterinary supplement that contains L-theanine, which reportedly promotes relaxation in nervous animals," Dr. Greenstein writes. These chewables are clinically proven to reduce signs of fear and anxiety without causing drowsiness in most pets, so they can be a good option for grooming, thunderstorms, travel, or changes in environment. They also don't have any known interactions with other pet medications and can therefore be used on a short-term or long-term basis. (These ones are suitable for both cats and dogs under 22 pounds, but there is also a formulation for medium and large dogs.)
One reviewer wrote:"They seem to work with my 8lb Yorkie mut. He gets half a pill at night and in the morning. He loves the taste. Recommend by my vet."
2. The budget-friendly treats
In addition to L-theanine, Dr. Greenstein also recommends certain casein-derived ingredients (such as colostrum) to calm pets. Pet Naturals' calming dog treats contain both of those things, as well as thiamine to help soothe your pet without the use of sedatives. Unlike options from other top-selling brands, this one skips the hemp (which Dr. Greenstein cannot "responsibly endorse" until peer-reviewed studies prove its safety). The chews have a chicken liver flavor, but you can also get it in calming peanut butter form with slightly different active ingredients, which tends to be a better alternative for picky pets.
One reviewer wrote:"Wonderful calming treats! These really WORK! I’ve a rescue Terrier Mix with lots lots of anxiety. She’s having a hard time with noises and such. These treats really do work and I’m very thankful that I’ve found such support for her."
Also great: The calming capsules
If you're willing to use a capsule instead of a treat, Dr. Greenstein recommends this one in particular: "The veterinary nutraceutical Zylkene can be useful in some cases. It contains an ingredient derived from casein, a milk protein, that has calming properties." It's made from natural ingredients that are gentle enough even for sensitive pets without causing drowsiness, according to the brand. It's suitable for dogs (or cats) up to 22 pounds, but it also comes in a higher dosage for large dogs. And most pet owners observed that the taste was subtle enough to wrap in a treat or mix with wet food without issue.
One reviewer wrote: "My dog was a disaster every time I left her home alone. [...] After a few weeks on Zylkene she's much calmer without being in a coma like other supplements I've tried. I give it to her daily in a pill wrap and she takes it without issue."
A helpful alternative: The calming dry dog food
Finally, if anti-anxiety treats aren't cutting it and you're looking for a long-term solution, you can actually replace all of your dog's meals with calming food. "Royal Canin prescription veterinary Calm Diet also contains casein-derived ingredients as well as L-tryptophan to help manage anxious pets," Dr. Greenstein writes. As a result, it helps to relieve anxiety. It also has crude fat, protein, and fiber as well as beneficial cultures for your pet's digestion. You'll need a vet's approval to get it, but you can still buy it on Amazon — you'll just need to provide your veterinarian's information at checkout to verify.
One reviewer wrote: "My father is a veterinarian [and] recommended we try this [for our anxious rescue dog]. It has been a lifesaver! The times that we have run out and used other food, I can clearly see his anxiety rise. It is worth the price!"
Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, Veterinary Medical Advisor for Rover