5 Nutrients To Support Your Anxious Dog

Sadly anxiety is as common in dogs as it is in humans.  Anxiety is one of the body’s normal responses to stress; the problem is that our stress response hasn’t evolved with modern life and both us and our dogs can often feel overwhelmed.

Alongside behavioural support for our anxious dog, we can look to support their stress response system from a nutritional standpoint.

Let’s take a look at 5 of our top nutrients to support anxious dogs.

1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3’s, in particular DHA, play critical neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory roles in the brain. Supplementation of omega-3 has been seen to:

– Improve cognitive function

Findings here

– Reduce anxious symptoms

Findings here

– Reduce aggressive behaviours

Findings here

– Reduced stress-related hormone production

Findings here

What’s also super interesting is that omega-3 levels are regularly noted as being low in aggressive dogs.  This isn’t indicating causation, simply an observation worth noting.

Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids:

2. Magnesium

Often noted as the ultimate chill pill, magnesium is an essential nutrient that many are deficient in.  Its low levels are regularly established in cases of depression in humans, so it is clear it plays a role in mood modulation and the stress response.

Magnesium affects a number of neurotransmitter systems.  Firstly, it inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters. Excessive excitation can lead to the death of brain cells, which affects the overall structure and functioning of the brain. Magnesium also acts as a cofactor in the serotonergic system. As we know serotonin is the happy chemical, and low levels of magnesium are regularly linked to low serotonin levels.

Not only that, but magnesium excretion is increased during times of stress. Catecholamines and corticosteroids enhance the shift of magnesium from inside the cell to outside of the cell leading to increased urinary excretion. In turn, low magnesium levels increase the release of stress-associated hormones. This unfortunately creates a cycle of a reduced resistance to stress.
Magnesium is found in leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. The ones packing the highest punch are spinach and pumpkin seeds.

3. Skullcap

An herb used for insomnia in humans, it has a similar mechanism of action to Valerian.  Skullcap is thought to be GABAergic.  But it is also thought to influence serotonin receptors, which is why it has reported sedative and relaxing effects.

A small, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study of 43 human participants demonstrated that skullcap reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in some individuals without causing an observable reduction in energy or cognition.

In both cats and dogs, skullcap has been effective in general nervousness and excitability and in any condition where there is oversensitivity in the nervous system.

4. B-Vitamins

Many of the B-Vitamins are involved in functions which directly impact the brain and nervous system. To single them out specifically, B12 and folate are reportedly low in cases of mood disorders in humans.

B-vitamins can become depleted during times of stress, the more the body requires them for tasks the more they need replenishing. Stress also affects the lining in the stomach and compromises its function. Intrinsic factor is essential in B12 absorption but lack of production due to compromised function can significantly affect B12 levels.

B-Vitamins can be found in eggs, liver, kidneys, chicken, red meat, tuna, mackerel, salmon, shellfish and dark green vegetables like spinach and kale.

5. Zinc

In human literature, zinc is a trait marker of a mood disorder. Zinc deficiency is regularly associated with depression and anxiety, and supplementation often improves mood and cognitive function.

We know zinc plays a role in mood because we find zinc enriched neurons in parts of the brain associated with emotions. Before we knew better, in rat studies, we found that increasing zinc levels reduced rat-fighting behaviour and when supplemented alongside antidepressant medication, rats developed improved resilience.
Great source of zinc:
Oysters, beef, chicken, pork, hemp seeds, shiitake mushrooms and red meat.

We would always advocate a food first approach in supporting your dog, but there may be occasions where supplements will be beneficial.  If you would like any support with your dog’s health, please check out our services to see how we can help.

Thanks for reading,

MPN Team ‍

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