Over-the-Counter Anxiety Medication for Dogs

By Geraldine Fischer

When man's best friend needs calming, over- the-counter anxiety medications may lessen a dog's nervousness. Pet supply stores carry a wide variety of different types of non-pharmaceutical, natural medications claiming to minimize negative behaviors associated with negative emotions, particularly when combined with behavioral modification training.


A thunderstorm, a trip to the vet's office or even a walk around the block can be stressful for a dog. A dog's negative emotions can cause a variety of either harmful or irritating behaviors, regardless of the triggers. Excessive salivation, incessant itching, ceaseless barking or whining, destructiveness, uncharacteristic timid or aggressive behaviors and inappropriate urination and defecation can all be a result of emotions that possibly can be alleviated or reduced with over-the-counter anxiety medication.


Pheromone mimics the calming chemical secreted by the mother dog.

mother dog with puppy image by Phaedra Wilkinson from Fotolia.com

Over-the-counter anxiety medications come in a wide array of different treatment styles. Understanding the remedies helps identify which product will provide the best results for the desired calming affect. Medicated dog collars, plug-in or cartridge diffusers, and sprays release the medication for the dog to inhale; while others, such as chewable wafers, liquid drops, pills and gels, are for the dog to ingest.


The listed ingredients on these over-the-counter anxiety products are not traditional pharmaceutical medicines, and their effectiveness in treating anxiety is scientifically unsupported. However, an Austrian study financed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs did conclude that dog collars with pheromone, the active ingredient in the aromatic treatments, aided in calming police dogs during the training process. Findings of the research were published in 2005 in "Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine."

Pheromone, a substance the dog finds familiar and soothing, is a chemical secreted by animals of the same species to aid in influencing a desired response. Manufacturers of pheromone dog products claim it is odorless to humans, nontoxic, does not affect humans and is not a drug or tranquilizer; but it can mimic the element a mother dog releases to calm her puppies.

Some of the homeopathic ingredients found in the ingested, over-the-counter medications, include to differing degrees L-Taurine and L-Tryptophan; herbs, extracts or oils of passion flower; St. John's wort; Oat; melatonin; skullcap; valerian; ginger root; hops and chamomile. The product manufacturers claim these alternative medicines are effective in calming a stressed dog.

Side Effects

Benefits of over-the-counter alternative medications are their convenience and their safety. However, prudent dog owners will have the dog examined by a veterinarian prior to using any medication, and should not administer anxiety medication to a dog with health problems. Warning labels on over-the-counter anxiety medications caution against giving the product to pregnant or nursing dogs. Side effects of the medication on dogs intended for breeding are unknown. Over-the-counter anxiety medications should be used only on adult dogs.

Key to Success

According to veterinarian Diane Frank, whenever possible administer the calming remedy prior to the activity suspected to cause the dog anxiety. Success in overcoming negative behavior associated with negative emotions also requires positive behavior modification training.