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.
First, what is anxiety in dogs? What does it 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 misfortunate 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:
- excessive barking
- 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 perspective.
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, 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
- 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.
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:
While they work well for some dogs, they made no dent in Henry’s anxiety.
Calming Spray collars
These are supposed to spray a calming spray (I think chamomile) to get your dog to a zen state. There had no effect on Henry.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
What else can you do for anxiety in dogs?
I have to say I was getting frustrated trying to find relief for my dog’s anxiety. Then I saw something interesting about dog earplugs. This option really intrigued me. I ordered a pair of CrittEar Dog Earplugs. There’s about a two-week training period. Henry’s currently in the training period. He is doing a great job in learning to wear his CrittEar Dog Earplugs. The other benefit to the CrittEar Dog Earplugs is it helps protect your dog’s hearing.
Stay tuned for an update on Henry’s training with CrittEar Dog Earplugs. I’m excited to share what has been happening.
However, there is that two weeks training period with the dog earplugs. So, what can you do if your dog is in need now of help with panic attacks?
One more consult on how to help my stressed dog
A few months ago, I turned back to Henry’s veterinarian. I asked him if he’d heard of anything new on the market that might fit better with Henry’s panic attack needs. I was expecting him to say I’d hit the end of the rope. But I was wrong. He said he’d tried an OTC medication with a few other high anxiety dogs and had great success. Moreover, he thought I should try it for Henry.
It is called Zylkene by Vetoquinol. I ordered the smallest amount possible hoping for the best, but knowing that I might not get it. Within just a few days of receiving the Zylkene package from Chewy, we got a big wind storm. I read the instructions and mixed up a dose for Henry.
The first try with Zylkene
It says to give it with food. The problem with this is that when Henry is in a panic attack he won’t eat. So, I mixed it with pumpkin. I put one big lump in his mouth and he licked the rest from my palm. Then I waited as Henry panted and hugged the wall.
Results: About 5 minutes later and the panic was over. I had Henry back. Wow!!! This has NEVER happened. And in only 5 minutes.
Second try with Zylkene
In a few days, I had another chance to test Henry. We got a tremendous rainstorm with flooding. I gave Henry another dose in the same manner in pumpkin from my hand.
Result: He calmed right down as if it was a sunny bright day and he even went pee outside. He never ever will go pee when it rains. He’ll hold everything until the weather improves.
Third try with Zylkene:
A few days later and the neighbors were celebrating with fireworks or by shooting guns. I’ve yet to figure that one out and I’m not asking. At any rate, I gave Henry a dose of Zylkene.
Result: About 5-15 minutes later Henry was as chill as a pup could possibly be on a sunny day. However, it was night and noisy.
Fourth try with Zylkene:
One more chance to test Zylkene. I took Henry on a 7-hour car trip. He does very well in the car. However, he will get anxious at certain points for different reasons. So, I thought I would nip his anxiety in the bud and give him a dose of Zylkene before we left.
Result: I was absolutely amazed! He kept his normal nap schedule. And he even saw a few dogs and people when we made pitstops and didn’t go nuts trying to play with them, which is his normal nutty behavior. I’ve been trying to calm his overexcitement for years. Wow!
I’ve now tested Zylkene about 20 times. Each time with amazing results.
Are there any side effects with Zylkene?
There are no side effects listed with this OTC medication. However, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian first before giving your dog anything new like Zylkene.
How long does it take for Zylkene to work?
Some dogs will need to have Zylkene in their system for only 5-20 minutes for it to start taking effect. Other dogs will need longer. Some may need up to an hour.
Does Zylkene come in different strengths?
Yes, there are three strengths. You will need to select the one that best fits your dog. It even is supposed to work with cats. However, again talk with your veterinarian before giving it to your cat.
75mg for small dogs and cats
- both dogs and cats:
- 1 capsule – 10 and under lbs
- 2 capsules – 11 – 22lbs
225mg for medium dogs and cats
- 1 capsule – 22-32lbs
- 2 capsules 33-65lbs
- 1 capsule – up 22lbs
450mg for large dogs (only for dogs)
- 1 capsule – 33-65lbs
- 2 capsules – 66-132lbs
Will Zylkene work for my dog?
There’s no guarantee. Every dog is different. The best I can say is to talk with your veterinarian. If your veterinarian says your dog is a good candidate for Zylkene, which is OTC, then give it a try. I would encourage you to get a small package and then order a larger amount when you find out it works. Currently, I have 60 pills on hand. I don’t want to run out, even though I have high expectations for CrittEar Dog Earplugs.
Having your dog calm is priceless. However, Zylkene, is affordable for most dog parents. I’m so happy that I have a solution for Henry. This is an added value to your life with your dog.
Summary of the journey to help calm a rescue dog with severe panic attacks
I couldn’t be more impressed and surprised with the results I’ve seen in Henry with Zylkene. While I hoped for help in some form, I’m beyond amazed at these results.
If you are a dog parent like me and have tried everything you can think of to help your dog with stress and panic attacks, you probably wonder if you’re at the end of the rope of things to try. Don’t fret. I feel your pain and anguish. Don’t give up. I encourage you to talk to your veterinarian about Zylkene. It helped my dog Henry who hasn’t had much relief from his panic attacks in nearly 4.5 years. It has no side effects and at least for Henry, it works quickly. I’m amazed by the results I’ve seen with Zylkene.