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The Role of Calming Supplements for Dogs

The Role of Calming Supplements for Dogs

Calming supplements are a gentle, natural way to take the edge off for dogs who have a little too much going on in their brain. While dogs with severe behavioural concerns may benefit from pharmaceutical intervention, there are loads of dogs with less dramatic presentations who can be supported naturally.


Puppies and young dogs

Puppies are just like human children – they have bursts of manic energy, then they crash and sleep, only to wake up and repeat the cycle. This is normal puppy behaviour. However, sometimes there can be issues that can pose challenges for their human companions. For example, puppies learn best when they are fresh and alert, but sometimes that boundless energy can make focusing hard for them. So instead, their human counterpart might try to get some of their energy out before trying to practice training, but this can also backfire as a tired puppy can’t concentrate and, again just like human children, can sometimes throw a tantrum. Tasty chews with calming active ingredients may be the perfect way to balance their energy and help them centre on the task at hand.  


Dogs with anxiety

Supplementation with natural herbal extracts, including ashwagandha, can be a safe way to help reduce signs of fear and anxiety (Kaur, Seshadri, Golla, & Sampara, 2022). This can be useful for dogs with day to day issues, as well as preventing and treating situational anxiety. For example, to promote rest and relaxation on a day to day basis, chamomile may be beneficial (Graham, Wells, & Hepper, 2005), while the amino acid analogue L-theanine and extracts of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense have been shown to improve signs of fear in dogs afraid of unfamiliar people or noise phobias like thunderstorms (Araujo et al., 2010; DePorter, Landsberg, Araujo, Ethier, & Bledsoe, 2012; Pike, Horwitz, & Lobprise, 2015). 


Working and performance dogs

Although working and competing may be very rewarding for dogs, the demands placed on them from the environments to the activities themselves can be very stressful – both physically and psychologically. This can manifest as reduced performance and even gastrointestinal effects such as stress colitis and gastric ulceration (Cannas et al., 2021; Davis et al., 2003). Supplementation with amino acids tryptophan and L-theanine, as well as natural herbal extracts such as ashwagandha, can be a safe way to help mitigate physiological signs of stress, ameliorate abnormal behaviour, reduce serum cortisol levels and improve fecal consistency (Anzola et al., 2013; Cannas et al., 2021; Kaur et al., 2022; Templeman et al., 2020). 



Canine cognitive dysfunction is a common condition affecting many older dogs. It shares many characteristics with human Alzheimer’s disease, and can manifest as behavioural changes, including increased anxiety (Singh & Ramassamy, 2017). As such, dietary antioxidants may be beneficial, and indeed ashwagandha has been identified for potential benefit not only to mitigate clinical signs but also slow disease progression for dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction (Singh & Ramassamy, 2017).  


Multi-dog households

Although everyone might get along most of the time, multi-dog households can sometimes be a stressor for dogs as they work out the dominance structure and territory. This is especially true when adding new members to the family. Dietary supplementation with the amino acid tryptophan can be beneficial for dogs with dominance and territorial issues and help to keep the social structure smooth (DeNapoli, Dodman, Shuster, Rand, & Gross, 2000). 


Unlike pharmaceutical agents, with their potential for side effects, nutraceuticals calming supplements can be a safe, gentle and natural way to promote and support calm behaviour for dogs. If your dog has a particular challenge, always discuss with your veterinarian what strategies there are to help them thrive.  



Anzola, B., Ibáñez, M., Morillas, S., Benedetti, R., Pérez, J., & Farias, D. (2013). The use of tryptophan in shelter dogs to treat stress-related anxiety disorders. Revista Cientifica-Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias, 23(1), 26-32. 

Araujo, J., de Rivera, C., Ethier, J., Landsberg, G., Denenberg, S., Arnold, S., & Milgram, N. (2010). ANXITANE tablets reduce fear of human beings in a laboratory model of anxiety-related behavior. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 5, 268-275. 

Cannas, S., Tonini, B., Belà, B., Di Prinzio, R., Pgnataro, G., Di Simone, D., & Gramenzi, A. (2021). Effect of a novel nutraceutical supplement (Relaxigen Pet dog) on the fecal microbiome and stress-related behaviors in dogs: A pilot study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 42, 37-47. 

Davis, M., Willard, M., Nelson, S., Mandsager, R., McKiernan, B., Mansell, J., & Lehenbauer, T. (2003). Prevalence of gastric lesions in racing Alaskan sled dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 17, 311-314. 

DeNapoli, J., Dodman, N., Shuster, L., Rand, W., & Gross, K. (2000). Effect of dietary protein content and tryptophan supplementation on dominance aggression, territorial aggression, and hyperactivity in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 217, 504-508. 

DePorter, T., Landsberg, G., Araujo, J., Ethier, J., & Bledsoe, D. (2012). Harmonease Chewable Tablets reduces noise-induced fear and anxiety in a laboratory canine thunderstorm simulation: A blinded and placebo-controlled study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 7, 225-232. 

Graham, L., Wells, D., & Hepper, P. (2005). The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 91, 143-153. 

Kaur, J., Seshadri, S., Golla, K., & Sampara, P. (2022). Efficacy and safety of standardized Ashwagandha (Wtihania somnifera) root extract on reducing stress and anxiety in domestic dogs: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 51, 8-15. 

Pike, A., Horwitz, D., & Lobprise, H. (2015). An open-label prospective study of the use of L-theanine (Anxitane) in storm-sensitive client-owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 10, 324-331. 

Singh, M., & Ramassamy, C. (2017). In vitro screening of neuroprotective activity of Indian medicinal plant Withania somnifera. Journal of Nutritional Science, 6(e54). doi:10.1017/jns.2017.48

Templeman, J., Thornton, E., Cargo-Froom, C., Squires, E., Swanson, K., & Shoveller, A. (2020). Effects of incremental exercise and dietary tryptophan supplementation on the amino acid metabolism, serotonin status, stool quality, fecal metabolites, and body composition of mid-distance training sled dogs. Journal of Animal Science, 98(5). doi:10.1093/jas/skaa128

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