When our pets get anxious and worried, it is our natural instinct to calm them down and try to make everything OK again. In stressful situations, this can often be easier said than done.
Sedatives are the immediate solution that comes to mind, but this raises all sorts of questions about how to sedate a dog? How should we go about doing this and what are the safest methods?
For some a small dosage of a standard OTC drug will do, especially in an emergency, for others the only way forward is with natural tranquilizers for dogs. So which is right?
In this guide to sedation for dogs we will look at a number of topics that should help you to learn more about the different options that are out there and ultimately find the best approach for your dog’s problem.
It is important to remember straight away here that every dog is different and responds differently – and the same can be said for owners.
The first section of this guide will look at some of the different reasons for getting dog-friendly tranquilizers. From there we will look at some of the different prescription and over the counter sedatives for dogs and some of the important dos and don’ts about how to drug a dog.
Finally there will be a section on some of the alternative approach to calming dogs in a crisis that don’t involve drugs and rely purely on homemade sedatives and natural tricks.
Table of Contents
Why might dog owners want to turn to these sedation techniques?
There are many different reasons for sedating a dog in order to help them.
The most obvious would be medical procedures where a dog needs to be calmed, or prepped for anesthesia, in order to carry out an operation of some kind.
Sedatives can also be useful in a number of stressful situations such as during thunderstorms and when fireworks displays are happening near-by.
Then there is also the anxiety associated with travel and grooming.
Before looking at some of the best practices and products that you may wish to try, let’s take a closer look at these situations and the different problems that they bring.
The most common need for dog sedation is during a medical procedure at the vets.
Perhaps your pets is little anxious about being in that familiar environment that they associate with bad times; perhaps they are simply having to undergo an uncomfortable procedure and need to be calmed down.
Luckily, these sedatives take the hassle of having to choose the correct approach out of your hands and you can simply place your trust in your vet.
When searching for information on pet sedatives online, one key question always seems to come up to the top of the list.
Is it a good idea to use a dog sedative for grooming and, if so, what should you use?
Dogs get anxious and fidgety at the groomers and when they are having their nails clipped, which can end up being problematic for the dog and groomer as it risks injury and other distress.
There are measures that you can look into to avoid the use of sedatives if you are unsure of them such as choosing a hair clipper with fewer vibrations and less noise, looking into a different style of nail clipper and training from a young age.
This latter tip always helps, especially if you get them used to having their feet touched as a puppy. If this doesn’t work and your dog still show issues with anxiety, you can look into sedatives.
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Another important problem that can lead to the use of sedatives is travel anxiety.
Travelling away from the home can be an issue for some dogs and they become distrustful of getting in the car – perhaps your dog has learnt to associate car journeys with the vet or other places they are less happy.
Some dogs are simply uncomfortable with the sensation of travelling and others find they get a little travel sick.
Either way, it helps to have some sort of dog sedative for travel to help them remain calm throughout the journey.
Finally, a sedative can be a great idea when a dog is exposed to a stressful situation beyond your control, most often those associated with sudden loud noises.
If there is no way of removing the cause and eliminating the perceived threat, the only option is to find a way to calm them down and ensure that they get through the ordeal in the safest way possible.
Two key examples of this are fireworks displays and thunderstorms, the long bangs and rumbles outside are foreign to the sensitive ears of a dog and they have no way of comprehending the situation.
It may be over in a matter of minutes, but those minutes can still be pretty stressful.
A form of sedative or calming solution can be essential to keep stress levels down and ensure that they don’t get sick or injure themselves.
Prescription and OTC drugs for sedating dogs
In some cases, such as small surgical procedures, difficult grooming or long car rides, a pill-form sedative may be required to put your dog into a drowsy, relaxed state or even to put them to sleep entirely for the duration of the ordeal.
There are many questions that are asked about the safety of these dog tranquilizers, the best types to use and the correct procedures to follow.
As you will see, there are options that are best left to the vets and others that can be easily given to your pet straight from the store. It is all about being responsible with the dosage and putting their well-being first.
OTC options vs prescription medication
There is a difficult choice to make when looking for the best dog tranquilizer.
A prescription tranquilizer from the vet is the professional option that has been chosen with a clear, medical opinion on the precise problem, but it can often seem like a drastic step, especially for a little noise anxiety every now and then.
Buying a dog tranquilizer over the counter is definitely the option that is most convenient for pet owners, but there is the concern about self-administering the drugs and making sure that it is the right option for the situation.
Most animal-focused products should have clear directions on the method of use, dosage and other precautions to watch out for. If in doubt, it is best to talk to your vet.
Finding a safe sedative for dogs: what are the potential side effects?
The biggest concern when choosing a dog tranquilizer pill is that it will comes with a number of unwanted side-effect that might counterbalance the positive effects that are seen.
Common side effects that can be seen with these drugs may cause include nausea, insomnia, constipation, weight gain and increased appetite.
This all sounds pretty familiar to owners that have had to take sedatives for a while and insomnia and anxiety sufferers will quickly point out that there are no guarantees of a simple ride.
The questions is, are these minor problems worth the risk in order to carry out that quick procedure at the vets, allow the dog to be groomed properly or get them through a difficult car ride?
The bigger concerns are when an animal becomes dehydrated while under sedation and then gets groggy and disoriented when the drugs wear off. It is all about weighing up those pros and cons.
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What are the best forms of dog tranquilizer to use in the situations mentioned above?
There are a number of different drugs out there, some OTC dog sedatives and some via prescription, that can have a significant impact on the mood and behaviour of your pet.
Not only do they vary in terms of their formula and purpose, their effects and dosage are different too.
When looking for the ideal dog sedative for nail trimming, you may want to consider Diazepam.
Diazepam is a sedative with strong muscle relaxant properties, which is what allows it to aid with restlessness and tension, and it also has anti-convulsive properties.
If your dog is preparing for a potentially stressful situation and you have time to give them a dose before hand, this drug can make a big difference. It can be effective for car rides and while at the groomers.
Acepromazine, meanwhile, is a great dog sedative for car travel.
Acepromazine is often used to calm more aggressive animals in difficult problems, but the calming effect helps in other situations too.
The anti-emetic properties that help to prevent vomiting are what make it particularly good for dogs in car rides.
Can you use human drugs as dog sedatives?
When you are desperate to calm an anxious pet and don’t have any prescription dog sedatives in the house, human options seem like the next best idea if there is a chance they they will help.
The logic being that a little of a helpful human drug is better than seeing them in fear, anxiety and pain.
The idea of using dog sedative Benadryl is one that comes up quite often. The medication may be great at putting humans to sleep and relaxing us, but it is a slightly different story with our pet dogs.
Some dog owners advise that you use the more straight-forward option of Diphenhydramine, which is the active substance for Benadryl. It is best to use the pill or capsule form here and to watch the dosage. The liquid version can be dangerous because it contains too much alcohol.
What is the best way to administer a tranquilizer for dogs?
It really is crucial to watch out for the dosage that you are giving to your pet to make sure that they are not being given too much.
The list of potential side effects above highlights the danger there. Once you are sure of the correct amount, you need to figure out how to give it to the dog.
The helpful thing about tranquilizers at the vets is that they are no-nonsense injection that are over in an instant. Liquids, capsules and pills are much more tricky. Some resort to squirting liquids down throats in desperate situations.
The ideal option is to hide either of the three in food, although dogs can sniff them out. It is also important to give them the pills in enough time as most drugs take time to work.
As soon as the medication has been taken, you must keep an eye on your dog to watch out for drowsiness and ill-health.
Make sure to contact your vet about any health problems and concerns
The benefits of going for a prescription drug over the OTC options is the medical opinion that comes with it. It is always a good idea to consult a vet to learn more about your options when choosing tranquilizers for dogs and the best approaches.
When your dog shows signs of distress and you are unsure of the best measure to keep them calm and safe, your vet can listen to your concerns and offer advice. They will either prescribe you something for an immediate problem or recommend products that they think would be ideal for the specific situation.
This is also a great idea when dealing with the issue of puppy sedatives. Puppies require a lot more thought and consideration when it comes to the methods used to keep them calm and a dosage for an adult dog is not going to help them.
Discuss the anxiety issues and potential behavioral problems with the vet, look at the treatment options and tread carefully. In this delicate situation, some of the following natural options may be better suited.
Choosing a natural dog sedative
It is understandable if you don’t want to give these drugs to your pet unless it is completely necessary.
The idea of giving OTC drugs or harsh tranquilizers during surgery or other procedures is fine when it is in the best interests of the pet, but some understandably question whether it is a good idea for a simple trip to the groomers or a quick fireworks display.
Where possible, it is always preferable to substitute the harsh chemicals for something softer and more natural, or perhaps to forego any form of supplementation all-together.
An all-natural dog tranquilizer could be the answer. The following natural approaches have been tested by dog owners to help relieve anxiety in different situations.
1- Hormones and pheromones as natural sedatives for dogs
Supplementation can be a great way of administering helpful nutrients into a dog’s diet and the same can be said for some of the helpful hormones that are used to treat health, anxiety and other conditions.
Melatonin supplements have become popular in recent years as a human treatment option for sleep disorders. Our bodies struggle to regulate this hormone in the modern electronic world and this can lead to insomnia and increased anxiety.
It is thought that by giving some of this hormone to our dogs in a non-human form, they two can enjoy the positive effects. We just have to be careful with the dosage and seek advice from professionals before administering it.
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An interesting alternative here lies in the use of pheromone via collars, sprays or diffusers.
These products are a popular idea among dog owners that favor natural treatment options because there are no harmful chemicals to deal with and nothing needs to be ingested.
The pheromones in the collar or spray stimulate primal feelings of comfort and relaxation in dogs that associate the smell with their parents.
A quick sniff could be enough to help them during a thunderstorm or car ride. Just clip it on, or plug it in, and let it work. This option is a great approach for sedating puppies when you don’t want to have to use OTC drugs at such a young age.
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2- Herbal sedatives for dogs
A similar approach to the use of pheromones is aromatherapy. Again, this is seen as a very human approach to stress relief because we have become accustomed to essential oils and diffusers in the home.
The effect that they have on us can also be seen in dogs, to an extent, and a bit of lavender oil could go further than you may think.
A lavender scented bath is less likely to go down well with your pet, but a couple of drops of oil on the fur or in a dog bed could release these relaxing herbal cents and help them to relax.
Herbal remedies are a must for many of us that want to treat our own stress and anxiety with natural resources, and it makes sense in the minds of pet owners to adopt this approach where possible when looking after our pets.
The problem here is in the administration of the solutions. We can sit down with a cup of herbal tea and make the time to relax with the tastes and scents, but it is a different story with our pets. It all comes down to making the dog used to the taste and scents and finding clever ways of adding them to a meal.
Some even use these canine dog sedative teas as a form of spa bath. One option that often comes recommended is Skullcap and Valerian tablets. This is used for the relief of anxiety, restlessness and excitability, which means that it can be great for travel problems, noise phobias and hyperactivity.
3- Toys and companionship as a sedative for dogs
Of course there are other ways to sedate a dog during a stressful situation without having resort to supplements, herbs and other concoctions that they may end up turning their noses up at.
A comfort blanket or a stuffed toy can have a profound effect on the mood and well-being of a child and the same can be said for dogs.
If your dog has a favourite blanket that they feel safe and secure in then bring it with them to the vet, or let them curl up with it in the car. The same goes for toys. The psychological effect and associations could be a great help in bringing that gap between their comfortable, familiar home and the uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation.
Finally, you should never underestimate the importance of your love, support and companionship during these situations. If you can be there by your dog’s side to reassure them and make a fuss of them, they won’t feel so anxious about the situation they find themselves in.
Giving them a sedative and hoping it does the trick is not always enough, especially when there is that waiting period between administering it and it taking effect.
Distract them from what is going on by giving them lots of attention and playing with them. Once their mind is set on a ball game or a quick tug of war, the loud noises outside won’t be such a concern.
Will these natural approaches really work?
There is no guarantee that these options will have the desired effect on your pet, and they certainly won’t be strong enough to put them to sleep for long periods, but they could prove to be helpful when taking the edge off of a situation and providing a little calm during stressful periods.
They are simplistic – many more so than you may have expected – but there is the chance that they will help to at as a form of relaxant and comfort when your dog requires it the most.
Soothing herbal remedies and pheromones may provide just enough relief from the physical effects of anxiety and the simple presence of a toy, or your own company, can provide the comfort and distraction that they seek.
How to sedate a dog: be sure to choose the safest, most appropriate approach for the situation
As this guide has shown there is a lot to consider when discussing the idea of how to sedate a dog.
It is not just the question of the best methods of administering the drugs for the ideal results, it is also about choosing the ideal methods and understanding the different situations where this range of solutions may be appropriate.
There are more options out there than the standard canine tranquilizers and there are different options that may appear to be better suited to the situation.
Popping an over the counter dog sedative into their food to calm them in stormy weather, or to keep them quiet during a grooming session may seem like the easy option, but ask yourself what the best option is. Read up on the different drugs, consider a natural sedative for dogs and remember to consult your vet.