Many pet supplement manufacturers offer formulas that are designed to calm anxious, hyperactive dogs. The nutrients used in these supplements are believed to provide depressant effects. But these supplements are commonly offered in the form of chews or tablets, and these forms contain fillers and have poor absorbability.
Liquid supplements are more easily processed by the body, and studies have shown that the nutrients contained therein are more quickly and effectively absorbed than those contained in conventional supplement forms. Pills can also be a hassle to administer to pets, but liquid supplements can be easily mixed in with a pet’s food or water. But let’s look at specific, potentially efficacious ingredients used in dog calming supplements.
Valerian (Valeriana officiinalis) is an herb, the root of which is used to make various products, including teas, perfumes, and supplements. Valerian has been used medicinally for centuries and possibly millennia; the records of the ancient Greeks and Romans contain clear references to it. Studies have shown that valerian’s constituent chemical compounds offer sedative effects comparable to that of commercial benzodiazepines. Thus, its inclusion in a dog calming supplement seems reasonable.
The female flowers of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus) are generally used in the brewing of beers, where they serve to support the activity of the brewer’s yeast, add a certain desirable bitterness, and provide depressant effects. Thus, it is understandable that they have also been used in natural medicines and supplements designed to relax and sedate.
The passionflower (from which the passion fruit is derived) is another common natural ingredient in quality pet calming supplements. Passionflower was once approved in the U.S. as an over-the-counter sedative and sleep aid, but it has since been taken off the market because no definitive trials have been done on its efficacy. Nevertheless, passionflowers contain chemicals known to have natural sedative effects.
GABA (γ-Aminobutyric acid)
GABA is a neurotransmitter (a chemical that allows nerve cells to communicate with one another) that is naturally synthesized by the brain in most mammals. It is chiefly responsible for making the nervous system less excitable. Clinical trials have yet to unearth strong correlations between the ingestion of GABA supplements and lower stress or anxiety, but GABA’s accepted role as an inhibitory neurotransmitter would seem to imply that it may have some beneficial calming effects when ingested in supplement form.