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Easing Anxiety in Pets: A Holistic Approach for a Happier, Calmer Companion

Easing Anxiety in Pets: A Holistic Approach for a Happier, Calmer Companion


One meal can change and impact the makeup of our pet's gut flora. Feeding your dog or cat the correct food is important as is ensuring they have the appropriate gut support to help them digest their food as they sage from puppyhood into old age.

In addition exercise helps our pets feel their best, burn off excess physical and mental energy. Making it an important component of their day.

Probiotics and prebiotics bring in and feed the healthy beneficial git bacteria which helps them better digest food, better assimilate nutrients. Healthy gut flora has been linked to better sleep, improved mood, less anxiety, reduced inflammation.

Our pet’s guts are not static! When our pets take certain prebiotics and probiotic strains the populations of the microbes GROW and when we eat processed foods the healthy populations of microbes can die off.

Probiotics bring in healthy beneficial bacterial which helps us better digest our food, better assimilate nutrients. Healthy gut flora has been linked to better sleep, improved mood, less anxiety, reduced inflammation. Prebiotics support probiotics by active as fertilizer to grass, growing the good microbes and starving out the bad bacteria.

When working together optimally giving prebiotics and probiotics to our pawed pals has many benefits such as improve gut health, producing essential vitamins and and nutrients which support the immune system and also improving their mood and decreasing anxiety levels.

Below are three tips you can use with prebiotics and probiotics to help your pawed pal relax and feel their best!

Tip #1: Feed Your Pet a Diet High in Polyphenols and Omega 3’s

A study done last year in dogs found that when fed a diet higher in polyphenols and omega 3 fatty acids dogs expressed less of a variety of metabolites associated with anxiety including the well-known metabolite 4-EPS which is correlated positively with anxiety. The suggestion here would be to include natural forms of omega 3s ideally in wholefood form (rather than an oil or extract) in order to improve your pets temperament if they are anxious. Foods suggested include the following:

  • Omega 3s:

    • High quality wild-caught fish

    • Chia seeds

    • Hemp seeds

    • Ground flax seeds

  • Foods High in Polyphenols:

    • Raspberries & Blueberries

    • Chlorella

    • Wheat Grass

    • Fresh Catnip

    • Red & Purple vegetables such as bell peppers and purple potatoes

    • Organic whole grains* such as oats and barley

*Please note: Fresh human grade grains have less of a potential for mycotoxin contamination which is a common issue with processed grain foods, as it is not the grains themselves but the mold spores that many dogs have linked to anxiety and other health issues

Tip #2: Ensure your Pawed Pal is Getting Enough Physical and Mental Stimulation

While many of us know that dogs and cats need physical exercise such as walking, playtime and socialization with other furry friends, we can forget they also need mental stimulation. A great way to do this is to play recreational games with your pet such as hide-and-seek, treasure hunt (great for cats) or puzzle play. We loves this site which lists some fun games for cats (

We also love all of Nina Ottonson’s games for pets which you can find here on here website ( or on Amazon.

Certain dogs, such as Aussie Shepards, Border Collies, Kelpies and Cattle Dogs may need more physical and mental stimulation simultaneously. This is where agility, fly-ball and sheep and cattle herding (many areas in the offer this as a sport for pets such as this place in our hometown of San Diego ( may come into play. For other dogs such as huskies or bully breeds pulling weight, playing ball in the park or ruff housing with their dog friends may be appropriate. And for the working dogs such as German Shepherds nose games may be best or for the Labs and Retrievers search and rescue and swimming may be the most fun.

It’s important to note that cats also need physical and mental stimulation. In this article ( about feline environmental enrichment the authors found that cats whose owners took the time to play with their feline family members in regular intervals were much more happy and this happiness also was passed along to their human companions.

Remember, the types of exercises and games can depend greatly on your pet’s breed, temperament and age. So experiment a bit to see which games may suit them best!

Tip # 3 Support your Pawed pal with a High Quality Probiotic Supplement

Probiotics are good for the gut but some studies have found that certain probiotics are more positively associated with changes in the gut microbiome positively associated with the reduction of anxiety in dogs and cats. Below are a few examples of strains to look for in a Probiotic:

Lactobacillus plantarum

The Lactobacillus plantarum strain of probiotics has been studied greatly for its ability to not only reduce anxiety in pets but also aggression. Dogs expressing anxiety and aggression often have a greater amount of turnover of the neurotransmitter serotonin and therefore greater levels of 5-HTT which is associated with serotonin transfer meaning that the dog is left with lower levels of serotonin in their body resulting in issues such as barking, separation anxiety, aggression and destructive behavior. Since most serotonin is found in the gut of both humans and animals, it is important that this issue is addressed by supporting the microbiome. It has been found that “Lactiplantibacillus plantarum (previously classified as Lactobacillus plantarum has shown to increase the brain serotonin level through gut-brain axis and improve anxiety-like behaviors…”. This study found that a certain strain of LP was able to improve conditions in dogs expressing these behaviors, concluding that the consistent inclusion of this probiotic in the diet of anxious dogs could be highly beneficial in adjusting their serotonin levels to improve the signaling between the gut-brain-axis.

In addition to consuming probiotics that assist with changing the gut microbiome environment by boosting certain neurotransmitter activity, other probiotic strains can help your pet improve their gut and mood due to competitive activity which means that these positive probiotic bacterial strains compete for space in the gut, crowding our bad bacteria which can produce metabolites that lead to harmful neurological changes such as anxiety and aggression. A helpful probiotic strain known for competing (lining the gut wall or epithelium to crowd out bad bacteria) is the Bacillus subtilis strain.

In conclusion, understanding and addressing anxiety in our beloved pets is crucial for their overall well-being and happiness. We've explored several key factors that can significantly contribute to reducing anxiety and enhancing their quality of life.

  1. Nutrition Matters: The importance of proper nutrition cannot be overstated. A diet rich in polyphenols and Omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce anxiety in dogs, helping them maintain a balanced temperament. Natural sources of these nutrients, such as high-quality wild-caught fish and polyphenol-rich foods like berries and fresh catnip, should be included in their diet.
  2. Exercise for Body and Mind: Physical exercise is essential, but don't forget about mental stimulation. Engaging your pet in recreational games and activities can keep them mentally sharp and emotionally content. Explore various games tailored to your pet's breed, temperament, and age to find what suits them best.
  3. Probiotics for Gut and Mood: Probiotics play a crucial role in supporting your pet's gut health and mood. Certain probiotic strains, like Lactobacillus plantarum, have been linked to reduced anxiety and improved serotonin levels in dogs. Additionally, probiotics with competitive activity, such as Bacillus subtilis, can help maintain a balanced gut microbiome by crowding out harmful bacteria, ultimately promoting a healthier gut-brain connection.

Remember, every pet is unique, so it's essential to tailor your approach to their specific needs and preferences. By implementing these strategies and paying close attention to their overall well-being, you can help your furry friend enjoy a happier, more relaxed life. A content and anxiety-free pet is a cherished companion that brings joy to your life every day.


Sources of Omega-3 for Dogs

Antioxidants from whole foods for dogs and cats

A Diet Supplemented with Polyphenols, Prebiotics and Omega-3 Fatty Acids Modulates the Intestinal Microbiota and Improves the Profile of Metabolites Linked with Anxiety in Dogs

Brain Games for Cats

Relationships between owner and household characteristics and enrichment and cat behaviour

Canine Action Sports

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