Top 11 Foods for Reducing Your Dog's Anxiety
Updated: Jun 14
Have you been noticing your dog becoming more anxious lately? Maybe everyone is feeling more anxious being locked up inside and with all the changes that have been happening in the world. When times are uncertain, stress levels can increase.
Stress is the body's method of reacting to a condition such as a threat, challenge or physical and psychological barrier. Stress is a normal part of life and is necessary to help us grow and learn. However, when stress continues and is not dealt with appropriately, it can lead to anxiety. Anxiety is the feeling caused by stress, fear or apprehension. Chronic stress and anxiety can lead to physical diseases, like gastrointestinal disease, inflammation and even cancer.
What are common symptoms of stress in our pets?
Our pets can show signs of stress in subtle or very obvious ways. Here are a few anxiety signs in dogs:
Panting excessively when at rest
Whimpering or crying
Destroying furniture, curtains, etc
Appears more irritable
Low body posture
Have you ever seen a child holding or cuddling a dog and the dog refuses to look at them? This is the first sign of stress that dog is displaying. When we miss these subtle signals that our pets are telling us, adverse things can occur, like a bite that could've been avoided.
There are many holistic ways, along with behavior modification, that we can use to help our pet's anxiety naturally. Here are the top 11 foods that you can add into your dog's diet if they are on a kibble diet (or add in if they are on a home-cooked or raw diet):
1) Raw goat's milk
Full of trace minerals, vitamins, electrolytes, trace elements, enzymes, protein and fatty acids, unpasteurized goat’s milk is incredibly easy for our dogs to digest and utilize. Many of the dogs suffering from anxiety have a leaky gut (check out our previous blog post on leaky gut here). Raw goat's milk can help heal the digestive lining while helping our dog's break down their food better. Goat’s milk carries significantly higher amounts of calcium, vitamin B-6, vitamin A, potassium, niacin and the anti-oxidant selenium, than cow’s milk all while being far easier to digest.
Turkey is a great source of L-tryptophan amino acid. Tryptophan increases the production of serotonin in the body which is important for feelings of happiness and feeling good. Ever had a turkey hang-over at Thanksgiving? Yup, that was the tryptophan helping you feel more relaxed and calm.
3) Organic, grass-fed beef liver
Liver is naturally high in zinc, amongst high levels of vitamin A. Because the liver processes all the toxins in the body, you want to make sure you are only using organic, grass-fed liver or you could be putting extra toxins into your pet's body. Also, this is a food you only want to feed a few times a week versus every day, because of the higher levels of vitamin A present. If you're pet has any health conditions, make sure you are working with a veterinarian. Liver has higher concentrations of phosphorus, so if you need a low phosphorus diet for your dog, this may not be a good option.
Spinach is a great addition to your dog's diet because of the higher concentration of magnesium, along with numerous other minerals and vitamins. Magnesium is utilized by over 300 enzymatic processes in the body and is essential for optimal function. It also balances neurotransmitters, like GABA upregulation, that help reduce anxiety. Make sure you are only using organic spinach, because they may be heavily sprayed with pesticides, which definitely does not help with anxiety levels.
These small but mighty fruits are bursting with antioxidants and vitamin C. Anxiety is thought to be related to a lower antioxidant state, which can occur especially if your dog is on a kibble only diet. Make sure you throw a handful of fresh or frozen organic blueberries into your pet's food every day or a few times a week if you can.
Essential fatty acids are essential for the optimal functioning of our bodies, including our pets. Our cell membranes are made up of lipids, which are fats. Without these, we cannot live! Omega-3's also help to keep cortisol from spiking. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is ramped up when the body stays in the sympathetic nervous system (the "fight or flight" state). When cortisol is chronically elevated, physical diseases can occur in the body like cancer over time.
Salmon is also extra special, because it also contains L-tryptophan which has been shown to reduce anxiety levels and stress.
Asparagus is not only good for us, but it's a great veggie to add into your dog's diet. It is packed with antioxidants, which have been shown to help prevent and reduce anxiety. This veggie is also packed with folate and high in fiber. Asparagus acts as a prebiotic in the GI tract. Prebiotics are excellent food sources for healthy bacteria that coat the digestive tract. These bacteria are essential to nutrient absorption and reduction of leaky gut, which can be a source of anxiety for your dog.
Is avocado ok or not for dogs to eat? The flesh of the avocado is actually very nutritious, and contains B-vitamins, which are beneficial in helping anxiety. Though avocado is generally safe for dogs, it does contain a toxin called persin which can be dangerous for dogs and cats in very large amounts. Persin is present in higher concentration in the pit and skin, which is never recommended to give to your dogs. A small amount of this incredible fruit a few times a week can help your dog with his coat, GI tract, and calming down anxiety.
Eggs are one of the few complete food sources. They have everything in them! It is one of the most complete sources of amino acids, the building blocks for protein. Eggs are also higher in zinc, which helps the immune system and reduce anxiety. Some dogs have sensitivities to eggs, so if you feel like they are reacting (loose stool, itchy skin), then limit this food and work with a holistic veterinarian to figure out why your pet is having a reaction.
10) Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a powerhouse food, packed full of vitamins and minerals. They also offer complex carbohydrates which help regulate blood sugar levels. Fluctuations of blood sugar can occur with kibble based diets, which can make your dog feel anxious. These mighty veggies are also a great source of fiber, which helps maintain a healthy GI tract, which is necessary for optimal health and reducing anxiety.
11) REAL FOOD BALANCED DIET
This last point is the most important one of all, because kibble based diets are ok if that's all you are able to do for your pet. If you are not able to do a home-cooked balanced diet or a balanced raw diet, then make sure you are adding in the above real foods at least 3 times a week to the kibble to add in extra vitamins and minerals to help your dog. Our dogs need real food to help them thrive and live a long and healthy life, but the diet must be balanced or we can cause more issues. Make sure you are working with a nutritionist or holistic veterinarian to figure out the optimal diet your pet needs that works for you and your beloved dog.
Make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates when new blog posts are posted to stay up to date on how to help your pet thrive naturally - click here!
*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Dr. Katie Woodley cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.