Have you ever seen an ad for anxiety spray for dogs and wondered if it really works?
The short answer is an incredibly vague, “it depends!”
Quite a few things, actually, ranging from the type of spray to the extent of your dog’s anxiety.
Today, we’ll cover everything to consider before clicking the “buy” button.
Type of Anxiety Spray for Dogs
While the brand names differ, most anxiety sprays for dogs fall under one of two categories: pheromone-based sprays and essential oil sprays.
Each one works differently because they have significantly different ingredients and properties from each other.
Let’s take a closer look.
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The most popular anxiety sprays for dogs are those made with
synthetic pheromones designed to mimic the hormones produced by new mama dogs
to help their puppies feel calm and secure.
You may see it go by other names, like DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) or apasine, and some brands combine it with other ingredients, like essential oils.
Although DAP is a synthetic ingredient created in a lab, it’s been extensively tested and found safe when used correctly.
It works by spraying it on your dog’s bedding, your furniture, or other places around the home and NOT on the dog directly.
Also, keep in mind that most sprays have an alcohol preservative in them, so you’ll want to let it sit for a moment before your dog comes into contact with it.
Top pick for the best anxiety spray for dogs
If you want to give it a try, I recommend Adaptil Calming Travel Dog Spray. Adaptil was one of the first (if not THE first) DAP products on the market, and they have a great track record.
Adaptil Travel Calming Spray for Dogs (60 mL) | Calming & Comfort During Travel
- VET RECOMMENDED: Adaptil is the #1 Vet Recommended solution to help dogs adjust to challenging situations and curb stress related unwanted behaviors
- DRUG FREE SOLUTION: The spray disperses an odorless pheromone that provides a strong signal of comfort and security to dogs
- REDUCES TRAVEL ANXIETY: Clinically proven to help reduce signs of travel stress including panting, shaking, vomiting and restlessness
- USE UP TO 50 TIMES: Each application lasts 4 to 5 hours. May be sprayed in the car, on collars, leashes, bandanas, blankets, crates, beds or plush toys
- 100 percent SATISFACTION GUARANTEE: All dogs are unique, results may vary. (Note: packaging may differ slightly.)
Essential Oils Spray
Essential oil anxiety sprays for dogs rely on all-natural
plant extracts- such as lavender and chamomile- that are well-known for their
Unlike pheromone-based sprays, many essential oil sprays are designed for topical use, meaning you can theoretically apply them directly to your dog.
That said, it’s safer to spray it around them rather than on them.
On the topic of safety, since essential oils aren’t really recognized for their medicinal uses in the US, it’s more of a challenge to find hard evidence relating to their safety.
Also, essential oils that are harmless to humans can be downright deadly to dogs. The video below gives a good overview of which ones to avoid.
Still, companies that manufacture pet products would go out of business pretty fast if they sold dangerous goods, so they do quite a bit of in-house testing to make sure they’re safe.
Top pick for essential oil anxiety spray for dogs
If you prefer to go with an essential oil spray for your dogs, give Gerrard Larriett Aromatherapy De-stress spray a try.
Along with calming oils like lavender and chamomile, it also has aloe, lanolin and other coat-friendly ingredients.
Lavender & Chamomile Aromatherapy Freshening & Shining Spray for Pets, Dog Grooming Spray & Pet Odor Eliminator – 8 fl oz (236 ml)
- Dog-Safe Fresh Scent: Customers who care about their best friends say they enjoy how our essential oil spray for dogs takes the edge off doggy anxiety without any heavy cologne or harsh chemicals that aggravate allergies and irritate sensitive pet noses
- Vet Approved Pet Calming Spray: Pet parents say this is the best investment for their pup’s anxiety (and their own sanity); Veterinarians say our soothing blend helps calm barking & chewing – just spray, brush, and enjoy a clean coat & more peaceful pup
- Gentle Dog Deodorant Spray: 100% dog-safe ingredients neutralize bad odors, without the chemicals or cheap air-freshener odors found in import brands; While no substitute for good grooming, customers say our spray cancels kennel smells from doggy-daycare
- Travel-Size Coat Softener & Pet Detangler Spray: A few sprays makes coats soft, shiny, and easier to brush (without sticky residues): Plus, our 8 oz & 2 oz TSA-approved travel sizes let you take your finishing spray with you for easy grooming on the go
- USA-Made Skin Soother: Our dog freshening sprays are crafted by hard-working Americans to freshen and rehydrate; each spa-quality scent features Lanolin, Vitamin E Oil, Oats, & Chamomile (no dyes or parabens) to soothe sensitive skin and stop itchy eczema
Now that we know about the different types of anxiety spray
for dogs, let’s find out which- if any- work the best.
Do Anxiety Sprays Really Work for Dogs?
When evaluating the effectiveness of pretty much any
product, including anxiety sprays for dogs, it’s good to look at both
scientific and anecdotal evidence.
What does science say about anxiety sprays?
One study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal found that DAP “could decrease separation-induced anxiety, distress, and fear” in hospitalized dogs.
While that study focused primarily on pheromone diffusers, it’s a promising result for all DAP products.
On the other hand, a study on the effectiveness of DAP collars on dogs housed in long-term kennels found no difference between the collared and uncollared dogs.
The UK recently banned an advertisement for Adaptil because they felt it made claims without sufficient evidence to back it up.
Adaptil itself claims that the effectiveness of their products has been proven in 10+ journals, however they do not provide the names of any of those journals, so it’s difficult to verify the claim.
As for essential oils, Applied Animal Behavior Science published a study in 2005 that discussed the effectiveness of five types of “olfactory stimulation” in rescue dogs housed in shelters.
They found that dogs “spent more time resting and less time moving” when exposed to lavender and chamomile.
Another study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association found that lavender aromatherapy helped dogs with travel-induced anxiety stay calmer and more still during their trip.
Again, neither of these studies focused specifically on
anxiety sprays for dogs, but they do offer some insight regarding the overall
potential effectiveness of the sprays.
What do other users say?
If you look through reviews of anxiety sprays for dogs, you’ll notice that they seem to be fairly split down the middle.
Half of the dog owners say that it totally changed their dogs’ lives, the other half say that it was a complete waste of money.
This applies to both pheromone-based spray and essential oil blends.
Why the great divide? Mainly because different pet owners buy the spray for different reasons.
Those who had great results managed their expectations and likely used it for milder anxiety issues.
On the other hand, those who felt it was a waste of money may have bought it for all the wrong reasons or had too-high expectations.
What types of anxiety do the sprays help relieve?
Just like there’s no one cure for human anxiety, there is no panacea for dog anxiety.
For the most part, sprays tend to be more effective at reducing mild anxiety than major issues.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Dogs who are scared of thunderstorms and fireworks may find some relief when their owners use the spray in conjunction with other soothing measures.
For example, combining the spray with a Thundershirt or a white noise machine that helps block out some of the noise.
You may want to check out: Does the Thundershirt really help alleviate anxiety in dogs for more details.
Mild separation anxiety
As we saw in the first pheromone-based study, DAP works well at soothing hospitalized dogs with mild separation anxiety.
That means it may also help dogs who get just a little freaked out when their people leave their sight.
A naturally high baseline anxiety
Some dogs have naturally high baseline anxiety levels, which means they’re very easily stressed out over minor things that may seem silly to us.
These dogs also tend to be “high-energy,” meaning they never seem to settle down.
While science doesn’t back up the use of anxiety spray for these dogs, there’s enough anecdotal evidence to make it worth trying.
What types of anxiety are sprays unlikely to relieve?
All dogs respond to both pheromones and aromatherapy in different ways, but as we’ve seen, sprays are more likely to work for mild cases of anxiety.
They’re not likely to work well for severe issues, such as the following examples.
Major separation anxiety
While sprays can help with mild cases of separation anxiety, if your dog has a meltdown every time you leave her sight, a spray is not likely to ease her fears.
How do you know the difference between major and minor separation anxiety?
Basically, if Fido just whines a bit, paces around while you get ready, and barks for a few moments after you leave, a spray may help.
On the other hand, if you’re coming home to noise complaints or an apartment full of chewed-up furniture and shoes, Fido needs more than just a spray to help him get over his fears.
Fears stemming from abuse
An abused dog is going to need a lot more than a spray to get over the trauma.
In this case sprays, anxiety shirts, and other external aids can complement a trainer-recommended regimen, but they’re likely not going to be enough on their own.
Deeply ingrained anxiety issues
Like abuse-related fear, anxiety issues stemming from puppyhood trauma or neglect often require more intense therapy than a spray can provide.
For example, a rescue dog that spent his puppy months in a tiny cage with ten other dogs and never got enough to eat might develop food insecurities after adoption.
In other words, he’ll steal anything he can get his paws on, and a spray is highly unlikely to change that.
Although some customers had great results using anxiety sprays to calm high-energy dogs who play a bit rough, it’s unlikely to help calm true aggression.
Dogs who growl, snap, or bite need professional help.
Going it alone with home remedies can be dangerous to everyone in the house, including the aggressive dog himself.
Safety first: how to use anxiety sprays without harming your dog
Anxiety sprays fall under the category of “it can’t hurt to try,” but only if you’re using them correctly.
Misuse of both pheromone and essential oil sprays can result in illness or even death.
Safe use includes:
- Talking to your vet first to rule out medical
conditions masquerading as simple anxiety.
- Applying it around the dog rather than on the
dog. This goes for sprays that claim to be safe for topical application, too.
- Opting for sprays that list all of the
ingredients so you can cross-check them for safety. A quick “is X safe for
dogs” can provide a lot of information.
- Following the “less is more” rule. Start off
with a tiny bit of the spray and watch for signs of an allergic reaction. While
it’s a good rule to follow for both types of spray, it’s especially important
for those made with essential oils.
Remember, it’s important to manage your expectations before buying anxiety sprays for dogs.
While they can (and do) work for mild cases of anxiety, they’re not going to turn a fearful, abused rescue dog into a jolly happy canine overnight.
Even in cases of mild anxiety, it’s best to consult your vet and an animal behaviorist to determine the best course of action.
In most cases, sprays complement other therapies rather than act as a standalone treatment.
Have you tried any anxiety sprays for dogs? Did they work? Share your experiences below!
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