CBD for Your Dog's Nervousness, Stress & Fear of Separation
One of CBD’s most common uses is for relieving canine stress. Here, we discuss some of the common stressors your dog might encounter, symptoms of stress, and how you CBD products can help reduce their stress. If you would like more general info on CBD and its uses, check out our CBD for Dogs guide.
What Causes My Dog to Be Stressed Out? How Can I Know If Their Behavior Is Due to Stress or Something Else?
Dogs experience stress just as humans do, which means that stress and behavioral responses to stress vary widely and are highly individual. Some dogs may not mind (or even enjoy) being outside all day while you’re at work, while others would find it extremely disconcerting. One dog might be used to a lot of human and animal traffic in their home (e.g. they grew up in a big family and other pets), and another might perceive this as threatening or intimidating. There are an infinite amount of reasons and causes, so be sure to take note of what triggers certain behaviors and when.
Typical stressors your dog might be exposed to are:
• Loud and infrequent noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms
• Fear of separation
• New environments, situations, and/or people
• A new dog in the home
• Vet visits
• Car rides/travel
According to Lynn Buzhardt, DVM at VCA Animal Hospitals, some common indicators that your dog is stressed are:
• Pacing back and forth
• Making more noise than usual (e.g. whining, barking, howling, etc.)
• Excessive shedding
• Hiding or avoidance
• Changes in posture (e.g. cowering, weight shift to rear legs, etc.)
• Excessive licking or chewing
Some dogs may do one or all of these behaviors at some point and time. The distinguishing factor is if they are engaging in these behaviors only when exposed to certain stressors. If you suspect that the stressor is your absence, then pay attention to see if the behaviors only occur while you’re away.
How do I know my dog is suffering from a fear of separation and not another stressor?
Not so lucky for your favorite pair of shoes or your newly renovated backyard, but fortunately for dog parents, there are some specific behaviors that help determine whether or not the stress your dog is experiencing is due to a fear or separation or not.
• Urinating and/or defecating
• Barking and howling
• Chewing, digging, or other destructive behavior
• Coprophagia (consuming all or some of their excrement)
Some dogs may do one or all of these behaviors at some point and time. The distinguishing factor is if they are engaging in these behaviors only when you are away. Pay attention to see if they only occur in your absence. For example, if your dog only howls and pees in the house while you’re gone but otherwise never pees in the house and only during walks, then this could be an indication that the urinating is in response to a fear of separation.
Remember that your furry friend doesn’t quite know the reason for why you leave or why another dog suddenly shows up in their home when your bestie visits; what seem like small differences to us can be world-changing for them. It’s also very important for you to take note of when these behaviors arise because they could indicate a medical, rather than a behavioral, problem. If you suspect your dog has a medical problem, consult your vet.
How Will CBD Help Relieve My Dog's Stress?
The interaction between CBD and the endocannabinoid system (ECS), also known as the “Goldilocks System,” helps our body regulate itself when we are too hot or too cold, overly or under stressed, etc. Because it helps keep everything “just right,” CBD can assist your dog’s endocannabinoid system in managing stress levels.
The endocannabinoid system is comprised of multiple systems, including the central nervous system, the brain, and other organs. One of the ways that CBD works with the endocannabinoid system is by connecting to receptors and stimulating the production of serotonin, which can help minimize unwanted symptoms of stress. CBD is a useful and low risk product because this is something the endocannabinoid system does naturally. In other words, CBD simply helps stimulate a naturally occuring chemical and phenomenon. The only difference in using CBD is that once the body releases these chemicals, CBD accentuates the effects of those naturally occurring chemicals and chemical reactions.
The ECS is still not yet fully understood because it has only recently been discovered. However, what has been studied is CBD’s positive effects on stress.
CBD can be additionally helpful for stress because it affects various parts of the body. You are probably familiar with your heart racing or chest tightening during stressful situations. This is true for dogs too, and CBD can help reduce these unpleasant responses in dogs just as they do for humans.
There are additional behaviors that you can either do or encourage to bolster the effects of CBD:
• Administer CBD products before the onset of an event or stressor. For example, if you know your dog is terrified with fireworks, it may be a good idea to administer CBD at sunset before the fireworks start.
• Break up the dose to reward your dog for certain behaviors. If you are taking your dog on a road trip and she absolutely hates car rides, try giving her a lower CBD dose about half an hour before leaving. Place things like her favorite bed or toy wherever she will be sitting in the car. Once she gets in, praise and reward her with a CBD treat.*
• If you’re not able to anticipate the stressor, remove your dog from the stressful environment as soon as possible.
• Provide a safe and loving environment!
Don’t forget that as helpful as CBD can be, there’s one thing it can’t provide, and that’s the love and security that only you can offer your precious pup. Nor should CBD take the place of other healthy routines and activities such as walks and play time, which all help reduce stress. You may want to check with your vet if your dog doesn’t show improvement from the use of CBD products, as stress and fear of separation can be exacerbated by underlying medical conditions that may be invisible to the naked eye.
*If you are going to give multiple doses or forms of CBD, make sure you are staying within the appropriate dose range for your dog. If you’re not sure what the proper dose is, you can find our dosage chart on the main page of our CBD Guide.
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