Dogs get anxious just like people. Because they do not have the same ability to perceive actual threats as humans do, they can mistakenly believe the slightest act will harm them.
For instance, grooming, whether at home or the groomer, can bring on an attack of anxiety for a dog. Although behavior modification can help, for some dogs, sedation becomes necessary for at-home grooming sessions.
When Do Dogs Need Sedation?
Many dogs live their entire lives without needing any sedation, while others are naturally anxious and may require sedation frequently. The following are some of the dog breeds that are more prone to anxiety during grooming.
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
- Cocker Spaniel
- Basset Hound
If a dog is overly anxious, it will not allow its owner to groom it effectively. Your dog may show increasing signs of being under stress.
Many dogs experience short bursts of intense anxiety during grooming, especially when cutting their toenails. You must understand the signs of anxiety so you will know when to sedate your dog.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Anxious?
Whether you groom at home or take your dog to a professional, being able to recognize the signs of anxiety is essential. If you notice any of the following signs, don’t continue with the grooming session. Instead, contact your veterinarian or a dog behavior specialist for advice.
- Your dog’s ears may be pulled back.
- Dogs may attempt to escape. If the dog is in a full-blown panic attack, they may injure themselves in the process.
- The dog may try to crouch or ball up and appear as small as possible.
- Dogs that are anxious or afraid will tuck their tails between their legs.
- If your dog’s eyes are fully open and more white is visible than usual, this means it is under stress.
- Dogs will start to pant uncontrollably when they are anxious.
- Some dogs will start to shake violently while afraid.
- A dog can have a bathroom accident under extreme stress.
- Dogs will sometimes snap, growl, or bite when they are overly afraid.
- Your dog may suddenly begin to bare its teeth as a sign of aggression.
- Often, dogs will tense their muscles tightly when they are anxious or afraid.
Is It Safe to Sedate Your Dog at Home?
Sedating a dog means getting it calm enough to be able to perform grooming tasks at home. Some people mistakenly believe sedation means strictly giving medication. While this is a method many owners use, it is not the only one.
Sedation is safe when used under the direction of a veterinarian. A veterinarian will guide you in ensuring you take the correct measures. Medication sedation should only be used if other methods of behavior modification have failed.
Consider the following steps for calming your dog for grooming at home.
Vigorous playtime can tire your dog and make him more relaxed. Many vets recommend owners to take their dogs for a session of fetch or other fun activities.
Throwing a frisbee or ball to your dog forces it to get plenty of exercises while allowing for a lot of fun. Your dog will love the interaction. Just like humans, dogs are going to get tired after vigorous periods of exercise.
Relaxation during a grooming session is essential. By tiring your dog out with fun play, it will be much calmer when you attempt grooming.
Once you are at home, wait until your dog is ready to relax or go to sleep and then attempt to groom it gently. This calming technique may not work for all dogs and may require consistent work on your part.
Gentle Touch & Massage
Dogs love attention from their owners. They like to be touched. Gently petting your dog helps to soothe its stress levels and make it calmer.
While grooming your dog, make sure to offer gentle touches as frequently as possible. If your dog seems to become upset over the grooming process, take a break and offer it cuddles. Use a soothing voice when talking to your dog as you groom.
Rubbing your dog’s outer ears is a great way to bring calm. Studies have shown rubbing a dog’s ears releases feel-good endorphins throughout their bodies. Your dog will instantly begin to feel much calmer and may even get sleepy. Calming your dog is an essential part of grooming.
Take Your Dog for a Long Walk
Before you start the process of grooming your dog, it needs to be in a relaxed state. You can naturally sedate your dog by taking it on a long walk before grooming.
A long walk causes tiredness in a dog, especially if you walk at a brisk pace. Most dogs like to come home for a nap after a long walk of fun.
If your dog naturally gets tired after a walk, try performing any necessary grooming when you get home. Your dog’s body will be full of endorphins from the exercise, so he is more likely to remain calm while you groom.
Aromatherapy is beneficial for both humans and dogs. Using essential oils that are good for your dog’s skin and known to offer relaxation will allow for a calming atmosphere before and during grooming.
Don’t forget to massage the oils into your dog’s skin. The massaging action will help to further calm your furry friend and get him to relax deeply.
Once you see signs of relaxation, you can gently perform any grooming tasks, such as trimming your dog’s hair or even using dog nail grinders. Lavender is one of the most soothing essential oils for dogs.
Using Medications to Safely Sedate Your Dog
Despite carefully training your dog and using other methods of calming, your dog may remain anxious during at-home grooming sessions. Is medication an option?
Before delving too deeply into this method, it is important you know giving your dog medication without guidance from your vet could be dangerous. Sedatives can be safe for dogs as long as they are given under the direction of a veterinarian. One of the biggest dangers of sedation with medication is overdosing.
The two most popular vet-prescribed dog sedatives are acepromazine and diazepam . These are available to pets by prescription only. Your vet will determine the proper dosage based on your dog’s weight.
If you use sedation medication for grooming your dog at home, do not use more than prescribed by the vet. Using too much could cause adverse reactions in your dog, including breathing difficulties.
Your dog should not be unconscious with medication sedation. The dog should be sleepy but not knocked out entirely.
After your dog has been groomed, it is wise to let him sleep off the medication while safely snuggled in a dog crate.
Your vet will only prescribe a mild dose of dog sedative, and it should only make your pup sleepy for about an hour or two. After administering the sedative, do not take your dog for a walk or expect it to perform in any way. Allowing your dog to sleep peacefully is the safest way to ensure the medication wears off.
Sedating a Dog Is Often a Trial and Error Process
Not all sedation approaches work for all dogs. Often, it is a trial and error process. You should start with non-medication attempts and see how your dog does. Some owners combine multiple methods, such as taking their dog for a walk and then using an aromatherapy massage. The following are some additional tips you will find useful in sedating your dog with medication.
- Veterinarians often recommend a trial run for a sedative. If you plan on using a prescription sedative for grooming, first give the dog the medication and simply monitor how it affects him. If there are any concerns, report them to your veterinarian right away.
- Dogs who have been sedated may have a difficult time maintaining their body temperature. A reduced level of circulation, along with drowsiness, could make your dog more prone to accidents. Allow your furry friend to sleep in one of the most comfortable dog sleeping positions while the medication gets out of its system.
- Do not be alarmed if your dog’s vet recommends combining two dog sedatives. For some dogs, combining two sedatives helps to give a more effective level of sedation without so many side effects. Some drugs are not safe to combine, so always follow your vet’s instructions for dosage.
- Your vet will likely require your dog to undergo a health evaluation before prescribing any sedatives. Some types of anxiety symptoms can be caused by health issues.
The Dos & Don’ts of Sedation for Your Dog
In addition to the information above, there are some dos and don’ts that should always be followed when it comes to sedating your dog. Before giving medication and trimming a dog’s nails, consider the following.
- Never attempt to groom your dog unless it is relaxed. A relaxed state puts your dog in a better place mentally.
- Make sure to use pleasant sounds and a soft voice when speaking to your dog during the grooming session.
- Always use a gentle touch when trying to keep your dog calm, with or without sedation.
- Try to introduce grooming tools as early as possible in a dog’s life. Introducing grooming during the puppy stage will help your dog to better adapt.
- Remain alert and cautious when grooming your dog. Practice all safety steps.
- Make sure to remain patient at all times. Remember, your dog cannot mentally process things the same as you can.
- Don’t attempt to groom your dog without practice. Use practice sessions to get your dog accustomed to the tools and actions.
- Don’t yell at your dog!
- Don’t use scissors around your dog’s eyes or mouth.
- Don’t give treats to your dog while it is sedated, as this can pose a choking risk.
- Don’t rush the grooming process. Give yourself plenty of time.
- Don’t give up if a sedation method does not work right away.
FAQ Questions About Sedating Your Dog for At-Home Grooming
Sedation is a daunting subject for many dog owners. If your dog shows signs of anxiety during grooming, it may be helpful to ask your vet about sedation. The following offers answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about dog sedation.
How much Benadryl can I give my dog to sedate?
Many dog owners use Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) to sedate their dogs for grooming or travel. Benadryl is not a sedative but is used to treat allergies. It does have sedating side effects. Most vets recommend giving a dog 1 mg for every pound of body weight. Check with your vet for the right dose.
How can I safely sedate my dog for grooming?
Most dog owners are concerned about dog sedation because they are worried it is unsafe. If you follow the advice of your vet, sedation is safe. Never mix medications or attempt to give a dog a sedative that has not been discussed with your vet. Monitor your dog, and never leave it alone while it is sedated.
How much Benadryl can I give my dog before grooming?
The amount of Benadryl for dogs will vary according to weight . Most vets recommend 1 mg per pound of body weight. Although Benadryl is an over-the-counter medication, you should never administer it to your dog without a vet’s approval.
Can I give my dog Benadryl to calm him down for grooming?
Giving your dog Benadryl before grooming is generally considered safe, but there are some words of caution. Benadryl, especially when given at too high a dose, can cause dry mouth, lethargy, and even vomiting. Only give this medication with your vet’s approval.
Talk to Your Vet Today
Are you concerned about your dog’s anxiety while trying to groom at home? If so, you are certainly not alone. Talk to your vet today about your dog’s anxiety symptoms. Your vet will likely offer some of the above information to safely sedate your dog while grooming.