Surprising Ways To Calm A Dog With Severe Anxiety

A constant struggle for a lot of dog parents is how to calm a dog with a panic attack. I’ve battled this issue almost since I adopted my dog, Henry. He generally is fairly calm, but there are times when he will go full-on into an anxiety attack. In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned in my journey to help Henry with his anxiety.

help calm a dog with anxiety with easy tricks that save you money
disclaimer note

*Updated: June 24, 2024

Budget tip:
Helping your dog with anxiety is good for your dog and your pocketbook. A dog that is very stressed can hurt themselves or others. That means you could get hit with an unexpected vet bill. Worse is your dog escaping and becoming lost. Thus, providing your dog with aids and help to overcome anxiety is a win-win for your dog and your wallet!

Note: Always talk to your vet before giving your dog a new supplement or change his diet.

If you don’t have a vet you feel is a good fit, then this article will walk you through the process of finding a great one!

What does anxiety in dogs look like?

Anxiety in dogs can look different for different dogs. However, as I’ve stared into Henry’s eyes the only thing I can think of is he’s having what in human terms would be called a panic attack. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing a panic attack, then you’ll relate to your dog even better.

I mentioned to my veterinarian that Henry’s stress was basically a panic attack and he agreed that’s the human analogy. That’s horrible! I’ve experienced two of these attacks and I can tell you if I could’ve somehow crawled out of my skin to escape it, I would’ve done it. There’s certainly nothing fun or logical about a panic attack.

In a dog, the physical appearance of high stress, anxiety, or a full-on panic attack, can include:

  • panting
  • pacing
  • shaking
  • pawing
  • drooling
  • excessive barking
  • aggression
  • destruction of items
  • peeing or pooing, excessively and especially in the house
  • compulsive, or repetitive behavior

None of that sounds fun from the dog’s perspective and you probably already know none of it’s fun from the dog parent’s perspective.

In this article, I discuss aggression in dogs. 

What causes a panic attack in dogs?

Stress, panic, or anxiety in dogs can be triggered by many different factors. And again, this can be very unique to each dog and their experiences. However, there are certain triggers that seem to be universal for most dogs, such as fireworks, thunder, and sirens to name a few.

Some dogs have traumas and we don’t realize how deep they go or what’s involved. For example, Henry is a rescue. He spent four months in foster care. I later learned, that his foster mom didn’t like him. Additionally, I discovered his original family was an elderly couple. When they died, he was thrown out with the trash. He definitely came to me with some trauma. Initially, Henry’s panic triggers included:

  • loud noises, such as fireworks or thunder
  • wind
  • rain
  • snow
  • being left alone
  • windshield wipers
  • fire of any type

Specifically, the triggers will change depending on the dog’s trauma. For example, Henry has a puppy friend who’s also adopted. She runs and hides at the sight of men and especially men with any facial hair. I had a childhood dog with anxiety.  She had a similar trigger to Henry’s friend and would shake and pee herself at the sight of men with long hair. 

Each dog has their own traumas. Our job as dog parents is to recognize the traumas and help them cope as best as we can.

In this article, I talk about how I adopted Henry as a foster dog.

Is there anything that will help a stressed dog?

Once again, every dog is different. Additionally, the level of anxiety and trauma will be different. Henry’s journey has been a long and winding one. I spoke with his veterinarian many times about different things to try. I’ve always been willing to try just about anything as long as the cure doesn’t hurt or make things worse. On this long road to find some relief, we’ve tried a multitude of remedies, including:

1. Calming shirts 

While they work well for some dogs, they made no dent in Henry’s anxiety. However, Henry’s best doggy friend loves her and it definitely helps her anxiety.

Here’s where you can get a calming shirt.

2. Calming Spray collars 

These are supposed to spray a calming spray (mostly chamomile) to get your dog to a zen state. While it’s a fabulous theory, it had no effect on Henry.

3. Various herbal remedies 

Some herbal remedies work fabulously for dogs with anxiety, but sadly not for Henry. I think I’ve tried every type, but not every brand.

4. Ear massage

This did help a bit with Henry’s anxiety, but it didn’t eliminate a panic attack completely. It basically knocked his anxiety down a few degrees, but that wasn’t good enough for me. 

5. CBD/Hemp oil

This seems to work like a charm for some dogs. I have to admit at times, if Henry wasn’t having a really bad attack, it would help somewhat. But it still wasn’t good enough.

6. Calming supplements

There are many pet-calming supplements on the market. Some are in the form of pills that you must administer. Others are in powder form. But my favorite, and my dog’s favorite, are dog treat form. Currently, Real Mushroom calm treats work great for Henry.

7. Calming Rx 

I had to think hard about giving Henry an actual prescription. But when I would see him pacing and panting in a full-on attack, I knew my choice. This did help. However, the problem was that it made him loopy for a few days. That’s no good!

8. Heartbeat pet toys

I was uncertain about heartbeat dog toys until Henry received one. It works amazingly well for him.

Here’s a heartbeat stuffed dog very similar to the one Henry uses.

One more note on Henry’s trauma. About 1.5 years after I adopted Henry, he was brutally attacked through a friend’s backyard fence. He nearly lost his eye and his life. Since then his anxiety has gone up a few notches. I think mine has gone up about 20 notches.

Want to learn more about heartbeat toys for your dog? This article breaks it all down.

9. Cuddler bed

A cuddle bed can give your dog security. Henry loves his!

This bed is just like Henry’s cuddler.

10. Safe space

Giving your dog a space is critical for anxiety. It can help more than you would even think possible. Henry has several space spaces and uses them according to how he feels or his anxiety level. However, if he’s very stressed, then he’ll go to his crate, I’ll put a cover over it, and sit next to him.

Want to learn how you can create a space space for your dog for free? In this article, I walk you through the process.

11. OTC calming medications

My vet actually recommended an OTC calming medication called Zylkene by Vetoquinol. While it worked for several months it doesn’t help much. However, it may help your dog. It was very effective for months. However, these are capsules. So, I broke the pills open and mixed it with pumpkin to encourage Henry to eat it all. That was a good trick.

If your dog is great at spitting out or simply not taking medications, then you’ll find help in this very detailed article on giving stubborn dogs medicine.

You can buy Zylkene here.

What helps with calming my dog’s anxiety?

While you will most likely have to do a trial an error process as I did with Henry, I have found a combination of products that work for him Currently, when Henry gets scared by fireworks or some other environmental issue, I move his crate near me, cover it, place his heartbeat toy either inside or on top, and give him a calming mushroom treat. This recipe worked like a gem during our last fireworks experience. To be honest, the noise bothered me more than it did Henry.

How do I save money when I calm my dog with anxiety?

You may think that your dog is just stressed out. But a dog in a panic attack will escape or even hurt themselves trying to get someplace that he thinks is safe. This can mean your dog is lost or you’re left with a large emergency vet bill. Or you could even have your couch shredded. As such, consider the following possible expenses.

Emergency vet visit$15 – 3,000
Destroyed furniture or property$150 – 40,000
Lost dogHeartbreaking!!!

Related articles:

From a stressed-out dog to ways to calm a dog

I couldn’t be more impressed and surprised with the results I’ve seen in Henry with his safe space, calm Real Mushroom treat, and heartbeat toy.

Dog anxiety is a difficult issue to solve. Some dogs will respond to calming shirts. While others it won’t matter. The bottom line is to keep trying different remedies or even combinations of remedies until you find what works best for your canine companion. That’s what I did for Henry and I’m glad I didn’t give up (as is he).

How to calm a dog even a husky isn't that difficult and this cute husky is glad for it. And her hu-mom is glad she's calm and her wallet is happy!

What have you tried to calm down your dog with stress attacks? What will you try now?

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About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

18 thoughts on “Surprising Ways To Calm A Dog With Severe Anxiety”

  1. This is valuable information. We have been working through anxiety with our newest pup Lucifer since adopting him. He came to us feeling REALLY anxious anytime a man gets close to him. Dealing with this has involved both addressing his anxiety in the moment as well as helping him to learn that not all men are bad. He is getting far better but strange men are still a big trigger for the poor little guy.

    Reply
    • I’m glad you found this useful. It has been a long haul with Henry. I’m really happy to have relief for him. I hope poor little Lucifer can overcome his anxiety too. Thanks for sharing his story.

      Reply
  2. Fantastic information as Layla is having panic attacks with age and have tried different products on her, what I have found that is helping really well is Calm by Justoodfordogs as I try not to give her medications where possible. This product has made my life easier in so many ways also.

    Reply
    • I’m happy you found this information useful. I’m also really happy to hear that Layla is getting relief from her anxiety. It’s just the worse to see them in an anxiety attack and not be able to do anything. I’m glad you have something that is helping her. Thank you for sharing her story.

      Reply
  3. I always feel horrible for stressed-out dogs. As an anxiety sufferer myself, I know how terrible that is. I believe we ought to do anything we can to help them calm.

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    • I couldn’t agree more. It’s just awful to see an innocent creature in an anxiety attack and not be able to help, especially when you know how horrible anxiety feels. Thank you for sharing your story.

      Reply
  4. Poor Henry! Wow. I can understand why Henry has such anxiety with everything he has been through. I am glad you found many options to explore to relieve his anxiety. It looks like you found a winner with Zylkene.

    Reply
    • Thank you! I’m definitely relieved as well. I know Henry must be relieved to not be feeling the anxiety like he was just a few months ago.

      Reply
  5. Thank goodness there are ways for us to combat canine anxiety. It is something that would make life very hard for owners. I like the idea of the comforting jacket, for a dog this sounds such a good idea!

    Reply
    • I’m definitely glad there are remedies. And not even so much for me, but for Henry. It’s so awful to see him so distraught and not being able to help him. A thunder shirt does help some dogs very well. It even helps cats as does the heartbeat toy. Great things they come up with to help our fur kids.

      Reply
  6. Thanks for the great post as always, and the mushroom calming supplement was the best for Layla to the end, it relaxed her every evening and she slept through the night. I am so happy it is working with Henry as I feel if I have helped another anxious dog by sharing information I am happy. Henry is so blessed to have you as his Mom, you are amazing

    Reply
    • I’m so grateful you shared those Mushrooms with me and they work so well for Henry. I was surprised again at how well they worked over the 4th. The combo of the calm Mushroom treats, heartbeat toy, and covered condo with me near by does definitely help Henry. Thank you!

      Reply
  7. I love the idea of the heartbeat toy! Our pup Francis is scared of car rides so we are starting to see what will help him when we travel

    Reply
    • Oh my! I’ve never thought of using his heartbeat toy in the car. That’s a fabulous idea! I’m definitely going to try that idea. Henry is generally fairly calm in the car unless he’s just excited because he thinks we’re going some place fun. That toy may help. Thanks, Tiffany!

      Reply
  8. Great Post! My beloved Phoebe was terrified of men & boys when we rescued her, just like Henry’s friend. It took her a couple of years not to be afraid of my husband! Very helpful tips.

    Reply
    • That’s just heartbreaking that people instill such fear into animals. Absolutely horrible! Shameful! I’m so glad your Phoebe found her way to you and your husband won her heart over. I know she couldn’t have found a better home.

      Reply
  9. Having had a Husky with anxiety since he was little (Wolfie), this is an excellent article filled with so many helpful tips! I did have an Rx for meds for him, but only in extreme situations. He was on a daily dose of supplements and CBD, and I l love calming collars and pheromone sprays. If I had known about the heart toy, wow, I surely would have purchased one for him! Seemed most times, he was just content on sleeping in my bed (or hogging the whole bed! LOL)…it’s heartbreaking when dogs suffer from anxiety, but you have some wonderful tips here to help them. Awesome post! I’m definitely sharing and Pinning to help other pet parents!

    Reply
    • It truly is heartbreaking to see your fur kid so upset and feel like there’s nothing you can do to help ease their anxiety. It makes me want to throw up. Every time I’ve seen Henry shake so bad I thought he’d shake his skin off, I always ask for that anxiety to be given to me and let him be comfortable. I think I’ve finally found a reasonable solution. Thank goodness and I’m hopeful for the future to be relatively anxiety-free. I bet your Wolfie would’ve love a heartbeat toy. I’m still surprised at how much it has helped Henry and he doesn’t like toys. Thank you, Dorothy for your continued support and encouragement!

      Reply

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